Cameron Young (Wake Forest Athletics/Twitter)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta National is like Disney World for golfers, which makes it fitting that Wake Forest’s men will follow their Augusta/Haskins Award Invitational win with a day on the grounds there. Head coach Jerry Haas doesn’t care where they go or what they do on Monday’s Masters practice round – just as long as they’re back to the team van by 3 p.m.
The Demon Deacons’ win across town on Sunday was the team’s fourth in five starts. At 36 under, which was only three better than runner-up South Carolina, Wake Forest set a new 54-hole scoring record.
As a perk of the tournament, all players get a ticket to Augusta National for Monday.
“I thought we would play pretty well here,” Haas said. “…When I’ve seen the course a bunch of times, I can put out a pretty good roadmap on how to play it. These guys, they’re good enough where they can hit it where they need to hit it.”
Haas pays most attention to that down the stretch. Win or lose, Haas wants to see quality shots. Wake Forest needed them, too, what with two other teams within five shots.
Cameron Young hit them. An opening 63 at Forest Hills Golf Club put him ahead of the pack. He had gotten to 18 under by the time he reached No. 12 in the final round and was untouchable. He played his last three holes in 1 under for a final-round 69 and a 19-under total that’s the second-lowest in program history.
Young, a New Yorker whose dad is the head professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club, has won four times in nearly four years at Wake Forest. He won twice as a first-semester freshman, but it has been a long road back there. The Augusta title is his second of the spring, following the General Hackler Championship.
“Some of it was mindset, some golf swing, some mechanics,” said Young.
Before this week, Young had spent time on the course with Haas. It’s not unusual for Haas to go out and play with his men. It helps him get to know their games on a deeper level and understand their distances and mindset.
“He picks up little stuff here and there,” Young said of that experience.
It’s with that kind of thinking, perhaps, that Haas likes to spend his day at Augusta National at the range, looking at golf swings. He'll meet his uncle Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters champion, under the famous oak tree beside No. 1 to start the day.
Wake Forest freshman Alex Fitzpatrick has a similar personal connection at the Masters. His older brother Matthew Fitzpatrick, a five-time European Tour winner, is in the field. Matthew was at Forest Hills on Saturday watching his brother. He was also at the Valspar Championship last month, which Wake Forest won. Before that, it had been months since the brothers had connected.
Alex Fitzpatrick entered college off a quarterfinal run at the U.S. Amateur. His freshman season has been a steep learning curve, mostly when it comes to playing off of different types of grass in the U.S. He finished T-16 on Sunday, but spent part of the day inside the top 10.
“So many different scenarios you have to adjust to,” he said.
There are a lot of backgrounds on the Wake Forest squad, not to mention personalities. Fitzpatrick calls himself the social one.
“As a team, we enjoy each other’s (company). There’s a good environment throughout the team,” he said.
Sometimes that’s a difference maker for success, and perhaps it has been for Wake Forest. The team hasn’t finished outside the top 4 this season and has won four times. Last month’s Valspar win came in a field that also included top-ranked Oklahoma State.
Wake Forest is No. 3 in the Golfweek
/Sagarin College Rankings.
In Augusta, it has been a good week for Wake Forest in general. While the men were playing a 36-hole Saturday at Forest Hills, senior Jennifer Kupcho was winning the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“I’m proud of her as a friend,” Fitzpatrick said.
Haas’ feelings were more parental.
“I’ve seen Jennifer when she first got there, extremely raw but could really hit it,” he said. “She’s competitive and she’s long and she’s a good frontrunner. She’s not afraid to win.”
ABOUT THE Augusta Invitational
Founded in 1979, The Augusta Haskins Award
Invitational presented by Valspar carries on the rich
tradition of golf in Augusta, Georgia. The winner
receives an automatic exemption into the PGA
Some of the best golf teams in the country have
competed in the event's history,
several touring pros such as Davis Love III, Phil
Mickelson (1989), Brad Faxon, Justin Leonard
Vaughn Taylor (1998), Oliver Wilson (2001, 2003),
Chris Kirk (2005), Scott Brown (2006), Dustin
Johnson (2007), Henrik Norlander (2010), Jordan
Spieth, Patrick Reed, and Beau Hossler (2016).
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