Patrick Reed’s victory in the 82nd Masters Tournament is expected to raise the profile of the Augusta University men’s golf program, which plans to honor its former All-American who now owns a green jacket.
Reed, who helped lead the Jaguars to NCAA Division I national championships in 2010 and 2011 when the school was known as Augusta State, won the Masters on Sunday by one shot over Rickie Fowler.
“It’s a tiny program producing a major champion,” said men’s assistant golf coach JP van der Walt, who was at the team’s practice facility, the J. Fleming Norvell Golf House, on Monday. “The biggest thing is to get the right name out there now - Augusta University. There was worldwide coverage on it. That was huge.”
Augusta University athletic director Clint Bryant said “I can’t tell you how many times” it was mentioned on television coverage that Reed played his sophomore and junior years of college golf at Augusta University, which is located 3 miles from Augusta National Golf Club. Reed left with a year’s eligibility remaining to turn pro.
“Even the low amateur (Doug Ghim, of the University of Texas) said he was going back to win his school a national championship like Patrick Reed did,” said Bryant, who still keeps in contact with Reed by exchanging text messages.
“It was pretty cool to hear them talking about our school that much,” said Alex Shead, a freshman on the Augusta University golf team who was practicing on the team’s putting green. “We’re kind of considered a small school. To see him win coming from here is really cool. It was cool to see an Augusta guy win it.”
Reed carried a three-shot lead into the final round after being the only player to shoot in the 60s the first three days (69-66-67). He closed with 1-under-par 71, keeping his game together as Fowler (67) and Jordan Spieth (64 to finish two behind Reed) were making strong charges. Spieth, with a birdie on the 16th hole, had tied Reed for the lead. But Reed played his final seven holes in 2-under to hold off Spieth and Fowler, who birdied the 72nd hole after Spieth bogeyed it.
“Yesterday I was so proud at how he handled the tremendous stress,” Bryant said of Reed. “That golf course has brought some very powerful people to their knees on Sunday. This is probably not his only one. He’s only 27 years old. He’s always had the game.”
Bryant doesn’t know how the university will honor Reed, but is sure it will. He said he is curious to find out how other schools have honored former players who have won the Masters or a major championship.
“I think we will get together and talk to all the people involved,” Bryant said. “It’s all new - we’ve never had a Masters champion at Augusta University. We’re just very proud. ”
Over at Forest Hills Golf Club, former club champion Todd Mercer, who played a few times with Reed at the Jaguars’ home course, recalled the champion’s laser focus.
“His mindset was to play on the PGA Tour and he wasn’t going to stop until he got there,” Mercer said. “When he gets his mind set on something, he doesn’t mind stepping on people’s toes to get there.”
Mercer said he played 18 holes once with Reed before Reed had even started at Augusta State.
Other times, “we’d catch up with him out on the course somewhere when it’s backed up and just join in with him and play the last few holes or so. He was very friendly. I remember one time when he and Derek Chang and somebody else were playing and I let through on No. 3 and caught up with them on No. 16. He was very jovial, said, ‘come on and play the last three holes with us.’ He asked, ‘How are you playing today?’ I said I was 1 under. This was back when I played the back tees. He said, ‘well, I am too.’ I bowed my chest out a little bit and then he said, ‘but we’re just playing with irons.’”
Mercer, who was sitting in the pro shop watching an interview with Reed on TV on Monday afternoon, said Reed “just cut off all contact with people he knew here” when he left.
That “kind of put a damper on things around here. With everything that’s gone on, the attitude around here, you would have felt it would be more celebratory and in a different situation it might have been. I think he brought a lot of that on himself.”