Aaron Jarvis (Credit: Cayman Compass)
hails from the Cayman Islands tucked in the Caribean Sea - 279 miles south of Cuba, 278 miles west of Jamaica, and 370 miles east of Mexico. It’s a trio of islands with a population of 65,000 and two golf courses.
No one has ever represented the Cayman Islands at The Masters until this year.
How did he get here?
“I’m a grinder,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis earned his spot in the Masters with a victory befitting a grinder in the Latin America Amateur Championship. Things seemed dire for Jarvis after bogeying the eighth hole and making a double bogey on the ninth hole.
A back nine 33 punched Jarvis’ ticket to Augusta National.
Jarvis’ journey starts at North Sound Golf Course, the only 18 hole course in the Cayman Islands. It wasn’t until 2013 when Jarvis watched his brother play in the Caribbean Junior Amateur Championships that he decided to pick up the game.
Nine years later, the UNLV freshman is rubbing shoulders with major winners. Even trying to join up with the most watched man on property: Tiger Woods.
During his press conference on Monday he relayed the story.
“I was turning 9 and I saw Tiger hop out in front of me, and it was me and the U.S. Am champion. You know, there's no better ‘No’ from -- or better rejection from Tiger Woods, right?” Jarvis told the media. “So I thought I would give it a shot. I ran up to him and ran through the woods and asked, ‘Mr. Woods, are you playing by yourself or can we join?’”
Tiger’s response was simple: “I'm just going to play by myself today.”
However, Tiger spoke with Jarvis following the round for ten minutes on the puting green. Tiger offered some personal advice to Jarvis and encouraged him to take it all in.
“He said to enjoy it all. Great guy, welcomed me straight away,” Jarvis said.
The consolation prize after his Tiger rejection was nine holes with the man who has won the most majors over the last decade: Brooks Koepka
The thought of playing in The Masters for most mortals comes through our imagination in a hazy, dreamlike vision. Jarvis helped sharpen the image.
The amateur dinner on Monday included the chairman of the Augusta National, Fred Ridley, along with Presidents of the R&A and USGA, Martin Slumbers and Mike Whan, respectively. Sergio Garcia was also there and spoke to the group and offered some advice. James Piot
spoke on behalf of the six amateurs in attendance.
When the reality set in that he’d be playing in The Masters, Jarvis said he most looked forward to the tee shots on 12, 13, and 18.
“Every shot out there is amazing. The place is unbelievable,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis was surprised by holes four and five and how challenging they were. The seventh hole was another one that stood out, especially because of the narrow fairway.
Over the few practice rounds Jarvis has played so far, he said he’s been struck by how every player focused on finishing holes and then making a point to chip and putt and learn the greens.
“They always score. No matter what they’re trying to get the ball in the whole. Even though it’s a practice round they’re hitting shots. They’re never just going out there and slapping it around and not caring. That’s the biggest thing that I’ll take away.”
The Masters can be an overwhelming event for a young golfer. Jarvis has thirteen family members, including aunts, uncles, cousins, his parents, and his brother down in Augusta. They provide a welcome distraction.
“We’re just so chill here. Takes my mind off the golf,” he said. “We enjoy each other’s company, play cards, get some food, relax,” Jarvis said.
It’s the simple things.
Even with a house full of family, Jarvis wasn’t going to pass up one night in the Crow’s Nest, which is located on the second floor of the Augusta National clubhouse; it an amateur’s rite of passage at The Masters.
“It’s cozy,” he said.
One night was all he needed. He understands that a bit of separation from the golf course is a good thing. It’s a long week.
Jarvis’ brother Andrew, the one that played in the junior event in 2013 that brought stoked Jarvis' interest in golf, will caddie in the par 3 tournament on Wednesday if the weather cooperates. Jarvis beamed when he spoke about the idea of enjoying Wednesday afternoon with his brother. He also can’t wait to watch Andrew hit his shot on the ninth hole, if the weather allows.
“I’m sure he’s going to be nervous,” Jarvis said.
His UNLV coach AJ McInerney will be on the bag for the event.
The experience of playing in The Masters isn’t just about the rounds of golf that start on Thursday. The opportunity to learn and meet so many influential people in the sport is vital for any amateur competing in The Masters.
Jarvis is a sponge, taking as much in as he can, while trying his best to have fun and appreciate the ride. He even seemed to have a pretty good grasp on some historical nuggets.
When he found out he’s playing with Zach Johnson in the opening rounds, he mentioned he wanted to try to pick Johnson’s brain about St. Andrews. Jarvis knows that Johnson won The Open there in 2015 and that the Latin America Amateur victory also punched Jarvis’ ticket to The Open, which is at St. Andrews this July.
Even with the spectacle of The Masters, Jarvis, still a freshman in college, seems to have a great attitude.
“You’re always going to see me with a smile on my face and enjoying the whole round no matter how I’m playing,” Jarvis said.
The whole of the Cayman Islands will be smiling, too, when Jarvis strikes his opening tee shot on Thursday morning at 9:17 and makes history at a course that seems steeped in it.
Aaron was also a guest on our podcast this week!