Tyler Strafaci, Ollie Osborne, Joe Long (USGA, R&A photos)
The Masters Tournament, like the host venue Augusta National, was the vision of the game's most accomplished amateur ever, Bobby Jones. Amateur participation has long been seen by the men in green jackets as an essential component of the competition, consistent with the traditions of the club and its founder.
But this year, amateur participation in the Masters will be the lowest in the tournament's history, matching the low of three that previously occurred during World War II (1942), the last year the tournament was played before skipping three years because of the war.
The culprit, not surprisingly, is COVID-19, which has disrupted the amateur calendar over the past year and has removed opportunities for amateurs to realize their Masters dreams.
In a normal year, we would expect to see six amateurs in the field. The U.S. Mid-Amateur
champion traditionally receives an invitation, but that championship was cancelled last year as the USGA reduced its slate of national championships from 14 down to 4
(the two Opens and the two Amateurs).
The result is that, perhaps for the first time in Masters history (historians will have to check), there will not be a mid-amateur in the field.
Since 2018, the Asia-Pacific Amateur
champion has received a Masters invite, but with the cancellation of the championship
originally scheduled for Royal Melbourne in Australia, that invitation has gone unsent.
Hopes were high that the Latin America Amateur
could go off as scheduled in January in Lima, Peru, but ultimately that tournament was cancelled as well. The championship was created in 2015 by the Masters, R&A and USGA in hopes of growing the game in Latin America, and the winner receives a Masters invitation.
But COVID didn't wipe out everything, as the USGA and R&A were able to conduct their biggest amateur championships despite the pandemic in 2020, and because of that three lucky amateurs will tee it up this week.
Here they are, with bios as they appear on Masters.com
Tyler Strafaci, 22, had a magical summer on the amateur circuit in 2020, winning the North South Amateur
and Palmetto Amateur
before bagging the big one: the U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes
. By claiming the historic Havemeyer Trophy, he secured an invitation to his first Masters Tournament and a spot on the U.S. Walker Cup
team that will compete at Seminole Golf Club in May. Golf runs in the Strafaci family: His grandfather Frank Strafaci Sr. won the U.S. Amateur Public Links title in 1935.
Charles Osborne, a junior at SMU, will play his first Masters Tournament after finishing runner-up
to Tyler Strafaci at the 2020 U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes. Osborne, from Reno, Nev., advanced to the final as the No. 463-ranked amateur in the world. He started the week with a 77 in stroke-play qualifying but came back the next day with a 64. Osborne, who goes by Ollie, ate a brownie with ice cream after that 77, and after the turnaround he continued to order the dessert all week. The 21-year-old has two college titles and qualified for the 2019 Barracuda Championship at his home course in Reno.
Englishman Joe Long is playing in his first Masters Tournament after winning the 2020 British Amateur
at age 23. Long defeated his friend and countryman Joe Harvey
in the 36-hole final at Royal Birkdale after cruising through his early-week matches. Before his British Amateur victory, Long reached the quarterfinals at the English Men's Amateur. He plays a worldwide schedule and earned top-10 finishes in 2020 in the South American Amateur and both the African and South African Amateur Stroke Play championships.
MASTERS AMATEUR STATS
Best finish: Frank Stranahan (tie for second), 1947; Ken Venturi (second), 1956; Charlie Coe (tie for second), 1961
Last top-10 finish by an amateur: Charlie Coe, T9 in 1962.
Last top-15 finishes by an amateur: Casey Wittenberg, T13 in 2004; Ryan Moore, T13 in 2005.
Amateur participants who later won the Masters as professionals: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia, Ben Crenshaw, Craig Stadler, Trevor Immelman, Mark O'Meara, Charles Coody, Tommy Aaron and Cary Middlecoff.
Low 18-hole score – 66 Ken Venturi (1956)
Low 36-hole score – 135 Ken Venturi (1956, 66-69)
Low 54-hole score – 210 Ken Venturi (1956, 66-69-75)
Low 72-hole score – 281 Charlie Coe (1961, 72-71-69-69)
Most starts: Dick Chapman, 19 (1939-62); Charlie Coe, 19 (1949-71)
Most starters, tournament: 26 in 1966
Fewest starters, tournament: 3 in 1942, 2021