The 2007 Masters wasn’t the ideal tournament for an amateur to get his first taste of playing with the pros, but for Missouri University senior and low amateur John Kelly, missing the cut by two strokes was a distant second to the experience as a whole.
Kelly carded at 77-77—144, equal to such heavy hitters as Ernie Els, but seemed more interested in talking about sharing in the tradition of golf’s biggest stage rather than missed opportunities.
“I flew into Atlanta, rented a car and made the drive to Augusta,” said Kelly. “The course is a bit set back, but after you get past the clubhouse you are just awestruck.”
Kelly stayed in the Crow’s Nest, a room above the clubhouse made available by Augusta to the five amateurs who gained invitations to the tournament.
Two of his fellow travelers stayed in the Crow’s Nest for the practice rounds, but left once the tournament was under way, leaving Kelly alone in the five bed room, an experience he said was both eerie and interesting.
“To get there you walk in one of the doors near the championship wing of the clubhouse, walk up a flight up steps, then another steeper flight of steps and it’s this room with five beds,” he said. “It’s neat because you think of all the famous people that have stayed there when they were amateurs; it’s a piece of history.”
On the course Kelly was solid on the front nine both days, but was sunk by the cutthroat conditions on the back nine.
“What made it tough wasn’t how fast and firm the greens were, it was getting it close, once the ball landed you had no control of it,” he said.
Playing partner Davis Love III was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with some encouraging words.
“I told John you can't judge the quality of your golf here," Love said. “Everybody that played in the afternoon had it the same. Until you get out here and play, you have no idea how difficult it is. People can't even fathom it. He will do well. He's a good, solid player, and he's a great kid.”
Missing the cut allowed Kelly to take in the final two days as a spectator, where he found himself rooting for eventual champion Zach Johnson not only because of their shared Midwest background, but because of similar golfing backgrounds.
“I liked to see Zach win it, he’s one of those hard-working, under-the-radar pros who has steadily improved since he made the tour,” said Kelly, who earned his invitation to the Masters with a runner-up at the US Amateur on his sixth try making the field. “It’s kind of like my story, I wasn’t the best golfer in high school, but I just wanted to work hard and steadily improve.”