Jovan Rebula (Auburn Athletics/Twitter photo)
By Garrett Johnston
Reigning British Amateur champ Jovan Rebula will play The Masters this week by virtue of his 3-and-2 victory at Royal Aberdeen last summer.
The 21-year-old snuck in his second round at Augusta on Sunday afternoon. He played his first ever round there in mid-March.
“As an amateur, you’re blessed to be able to do something like this,” Rebula said Sunday near the practice green. “To make sure I enjoy the week is the biggest thing on my mind.”
For any amateur, playing the Masters for the first time figures to bring nerves, anticipation and a whole range of emotions. So what does the University of Auburn standout expect from himself this week?
“Obviously I’m a big competitor, that’s my nature,” Rebula said. “Everywhere you tee it up you want to have the thought of winning the golf tournament. But to be able to enjoy the experience is something I want to do because this is an amazing opportunity.”
Rebula’s uncle Ernie Els has offered advice and tips about playing the course.
“My uncle has been a great help. He has played here a bunch and had some good results,” Rebula said.
Indeed, Els’ two solo runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2004 bookended an impressive five-year stretch during which he finished in the top 6 every year.
“To pick his brain about this golf course has been pretty cool. To be able to talk to him about where I should be hitting my second shots has been key.”
Rebula practiced with fellow South African and 2011 Masters champ Charl Schwartzel on Sunday at the range, and the two planned to play a nine-hole practice round together on Monday.
What has been the impact of winning the British Amateur for the celebrated amateur?
“Definitely your life changes after something like that, you get a little more exposure because you’re able to play in some of these major events,” Rebula said.
“Obviously on the confidence side, it’s good to know that I can do something special. Hopefully this week will be one where I can put that confidence into play.”
The Auburn golf star joined his golf teammates for some barbecue at coach Nick Clinard’s house on Saturday and to watch the Auburn men’s basketball team play in its Final Four game.
“We had a good bit of team bonding, and man the basketball team has done some really special stuff this year,” Rebula said. “To be able to make the Final Four for the first time really got the whole town excited.
“I had the privilege to be in Auburn last weekend when they beat Kentucky and UNC. To be there in Auburn and to see that place absolutely erupt was just crazy.”
Angus Elis-Cole, Jovan’s good friend from their days playing junior golf in South Africa, is caddying for him in the par-3 contest on Wednesday.
“Well it’s incredible to be able to do this, it’s just so special,” said Angus.
Jovan knew how much this would mean to his friend and he chuckled Sunday when he saw Angus take his first look at the enormous and steep 10th fairway from the practice green.
“He’s like a kid in the candy store,” Rebula said.
Garrett Johnston has covered golf for 10 years and reported from 25 majors. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnstonGarrett