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Amateurs play through nerves

Friday, April 10, 2009
By Billy Byler
Staff Writer

All five amateurs in the Masters Tournament field earned their spot with a gritty performance at some point over the past year. The experience of winning elsewhere, though, doesn't necessarily translate into nerves of steel the night before teeing it up at Augusta National Golf Club.

Back Photo: 1 of 2 Next

U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee tees off at No. 8. He would par that hole and 14 others and birdie the 17th en route to a 74.

(Kendrick Brinson/Special)

"I think I saw every hour of the clock," British Amateur champion Reinier Saxton said of a restless night Wednesday. "I had some sleep. I'm not tired, though."

Saxton and U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee and runner-up Drew Kittleson stuck with Augusta National tradition Wednesday night by staying in the Crow's Nest. Saxton said the three golfers watched a movie to keep their minds off the pending pressure.

"You just want to relax," he said. "You watch a movie with the guys upstairs there and don't want to think about the next day."

Jack Newman, the reigning U.S. Amateur Public Links Champion, stayed in the Crow's Nest earlier in the week but thought his nerves would fare better if he stayed closer to family and friends.

"They keep me more relaxed," he said.

Newman kept his composure long enough through a six-bogey, six-birdie, six-par day to still finish the first round as the low amateur.

The Michigan State junior bogeyed the first hole and stayed above par the entire round until his final putt. After sitting at 4-over par on the 14th tee, he recorded four birdies in the final five holes. The 21-year-old made the walk up the 18th fairway at 1-over par with his ball off the green, but a putt from just off the fringe found the cup, producing an 18th-hole roar from patrons and a round of even-par 72.

"Man, that was pretty good," Newman said. "I was trying to just die it out there into the green. It came out with some steam on it, and it would have been in the front, maybe in the middle (of the green had it missed)."

Perhaps the most pressure fell on the shoulders of Lee, who played in front of large groups of patrons all day because of a first-day grouping with defending Masters champion Trevor Immelman.

Though Lee admitted Tuesday that such extra attention has made him nervous, the 18-year-old matched the reigning champ on the front nine at 2-over. He double-bogeyed the ninth, lost another stroke on the 10th but got it back with a birdie on 17 to finish at 2-over par.

U.S. Amateur runner-up Drew Kittleson smiles after making a long bogey putt on No. 16. Kittleson opened with 6-over-par 78.

(Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

Lee said the nerves became a nonfactor as the day went on.

"They fade away after three or four holes," he said. "It makes me relax (when I'm out there)."

The amateurs acknowledged that the course played easier Thursday than at any time this week, but Newman hinted that he had already learned to respect the course and the club.

"It played pretty easy," he said. "But I don't want to say anything because then the guys upstairs might do a little something to those greens."

Saxton, the first of the amateurs to hit the course Thursday, with an 8:44 a.m. tee time, finished with 3-over-par 75.

Kittleson shot 6-over-par 78, and U.S. Mid-Amateur champ Steve Wilson came in at 7-over-par 79.

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

Danny Lee -1st Round

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Out

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

In

T

Par

4

5

4

3

4

3

4

5

4

36

4

4

3

5

4

5

3

4

4

36

72

Rnd

4

5

4

3

4

3

4

5

6

38

5

4

3

5

4

5

3

3

4

36

74

Tot.

2

2

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

-->

Drew Kittleson - 1st Round

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Out

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

In

T

Par

4

5

4

3

4

3

4

5

4

36

4

4

3

5

4

5

3

4

4

36

72

Rnd

5

4

4

3

4

3

4

5

4

36

6

5

5

4

5

4

4

4

5

42

78

Tot.

1

2

3

5

4

5

4

5

5

6

6

6

-->

Reinier Saxton - 1st Round

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Out

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

In

T

Par

4

5

4

3

4

3

4

5

4

36

4

4

3

5

4

5

3

4

4

36

72

Rnd

5

4

4

4

4

3

4

5

4

37

4

6

4

4

3

5

3

4

5

38

75

Tot.

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

4

3

2

2

2

2

3

3

3

-->

Jack Newman - 1st Round

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Out

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

In

T

Par

4

5

4

3

4

3

4

5

4

36

4

4

3

5

4

5

3

4

4

36

72

Rnd

5

5

4

4

3

3

5

5

5

39

5

3

4

5

3

4

2

4

3

33

72

Tot.

1

1

1

2

1

1

2

2

3

3

4

3

4

4

3

2

1

1

E

-->

In this StoryTrevor Immelman (Stats | Bio | Photos)

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