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Amateurs exit early, with great memories

Saturday, April 11, 2009
By Billy Byler
Staff Writer

Drew Kittleson was asked about his experience as an amateur at the Masters Tournament. He stumbled over his answer but nailed it at the same time.

Jack Newman hits from the sand on No. 13. None of the five amateurs survived the cut Friday. Newman, the U.S. Public Links champion, shot 4-over-par 76 in the second round.

(Chris Thelen/Staff)

"Unforgivable," he said, before quickly correcting himself. "Unforgettable."

Of the five amateurs competing in the 2009 Masters, none posted a sub-par round through the first two days and all missed the cut. The closest, reigning British Amateur champion Reinier Saxton, shot 3-over for the tournament after an even-par round Friday. He flirted with making the cut thanks to a birdie at No. 13 that put him at 1-over, but three bogeys over the next four holes ended his week early.

Saxton did manage to birdie the 18th to edge out 2008 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Jack Newman for low amateur.

"I made a couple of bogeys in, so it was nice to finish with a birdie," Saxton said. "I told myself, 'Well, it was a good way to finish.' "

Kittleson, who qualified for the Masters as U.S. Amateur runner-up, and Newman also recorded rounds of 72 this week to mark the lowest by an amateur for the tournament. Kittleson endured the wildest ride when he birdied both par-5s on the front nine, added a pair of eagles at Nos. 11 and 15 and threw in a triple bogey on the par-3 12th.

"Yeah, it was pretty up and down," Kittleson said. "Amen Corner got me -- I guess, part of Amen Corner."

Kittleson's eagle on No. 11, only the sixth in Masters Tournament history, came with a 6-iron from 193 yards out. He used the 6-iron again on his approach at No. 15 to gain another two strokes.

Any player who records an eagle in tournament play receives a pair of crystal goblets from Augusta National Golf Club. Kittleson knew of the tradition and said he had the crystal in the back of his mind even on the course.

"In the first round I hit it to about eight feet on 2 for eagle and missed. I was thinking crystal the whole time," he said. "Today on 8 I had 12 or 15 feet up the hill and missed that for eagle, too, so I was 0-for-2 on my crystal chances. Then I came through."

Though the other amateurs won't return home with crystal, they said the memories were enough. Newman said he has been a fan of Fred Couples for years, and the opportunity to play with him and Rocco Mediate the last two days was a thrill.

"Yeah, he's a great guy," Newman said.

"He was just really laid back and relaxed, so that helped me, too. And Rocco loves to talk. He's pretty outgoing, so that's good."

As the amateurs wrapped up their day, some of them couldn't get off the course without already fielding questions about when they'll turn pro. Saxton said it will be sometime this summer.

"I'm going to try to qualify for the U.S. Open. I'm playing the sectional after the Memorial (Tournament June 4-7)," he said. "And so probably somewhere after that."

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

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