Amateurs deal with reality of Masters dream

Friday, April 08, 2011
By Nathan Dominitz
Morris News Service

Any pressure Lion Kim felt Thursday as an amateur in his first Masters Tournament was all relative.

Back Photo: 1 of 2 Next

Hideki Matsuyama reacts to a putt. He learned on the course about the powerful aftershock that shook northeast Japan.

(Michael Holahan/Staff)

The University of Michigan senior, due to graduate in about six weeks, has a lot of work waiting for him back in Ann Arbor.

"I'm missing about three exams and three papers," said Kim, 22. "It's going to be a terrible week once I get back."

As the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, Kim knew well in advance he would be spending this week in Augusta and told his four professors.

"Every professor knew what Masters is about except one," he said. "She didn't really have a clue what Masters was. I said it's like the Super Bowl of golf. She's like, 'OK, great.' "

The class subject: American culture.

"It's a shocker she didn't know anything about it," Kim said.

David Chung tees off on No. 8. The U.S. Amateur runner-up, who shot even-par 72, called the size of the galleries "surreal."

(Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

While the even-keeled Kim was not pleased with his 4-over-par 76, he had no complaints. He got his "Masters moment" over in a hurry.

"The first birdie on the first hole," said Kim, a native of Seoul, South Korea, raised in Lake Mary, Fla. "It doesn't get any better. It's the best start you can ask for, for an amateur."

For David Chung, a junior at Stanford, the moment took a bit longer to occur during his round of 72.

"I think it struck me when I hit my drive a little bit right on 7 and it kicked down into the fairway, but I had 230 yards to the hole on 7, and that green is very shallow," said the 21-year-old U.S. Amateur runner-up.

Chung said he looked toward the flag and thought, "Where among those 5,000 people behind the green should I aim?"

"You couldn't see anything but the people," he said. "The flag was pretty much hidden as well."

He used a hybrid to get the ball from 240 yards (his Stanford coach Conrad Ray's estimate) to about 15 feet and made par.

"It was surreal out there," said Chung, from Fayetteville, N.C. "I've never played in front of a crowd this big.

"It's very different from playing a college tournament where the only one following you is a college coach," he added.

British Amateur champion Jin Jeong (73), U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith (75) and U.S. Amateur champion and Oklahoma State junior Peter Uihlein (72) also had to handle first-time nerves. However, another rookie was dealing with a distraction of a far more serious nature.

Hideki Matsuyama already was coping with emotions following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in his native Japan, including destruction at the freshman's university. The 19-year-old learned of Thursday's powerful aftershock in Japan while at the course but couldn't contact relatives.

"The only thing I can do is do my best here, and I want to show myself to the people of Japan so that will encourage them as I play," Matsuyama, who shot 72, said through interpreter Masaki Chiba.

Matsuyama, who said his family had been OK since the March 11 quake, wore a patch with the Japanese flag on his university shirt. He thanked all of those back home for their support.

"I tried to concentrate on playing golf," he said. "The only thing I could do is do my best, and that's all I thought about."