Masters: Memorable performances by amateurs in the last 40 years
08 Apr 2024
by Sean Melia of AmateurGolf.com

see also: The Masters Tournament, Augusta National Golf Club, Stewart Hagestad Rankings

Sam Bennett won low amateur in 2023 (Masters/Chris Trotman Photo)
Sam Bennett won low amateur in 2023 (Masters/Chris Trotman Photo)

Amateur golf has always been a pivotal piece of The Masters. Bobby Jones, considered the greatest amateur golfer in history, helped create Augusta National and The Masters. He partnered with Alister MacKenzie to build the course and launch the tournament. 90 years after the first playing of the Masters, amateur golfers are celebrated each year. They have a dinner special dinner on Monday night of Masters week. They have the option to sleep in the Crow's Nest, the top floor of the Augusta National clubhouse. 

The tight quarters of the Crow's Nest might not be amenable to the likes of Amateur Champion Christo Lamprecht, who stands 6'8".

Over the last 40 years, amateurs have made headlines and provided a touch of drama in the season's first major. While no one has finished runner-up like Frank Stranahan (1947), Ken Venturi (1956), ), and Charlie Coe (1961), there have been plenty of notable performances since 1984. 

Here are ten memorable amateur performances in The Masters in the last 40 years.  

Sam Bennett in 2023

Sam Bennett came into 2023 very much under the radar. Most amateurs are under the radar at the season’s first major, but given the attention granted by Gordon Sargent, Bennett was the forgotten U.S. Amateur champion. He played in the 2022 U.S. Open and made the cut, so a solid performance was possibly given the first major jitters were out of the way. However, Bennett captured everyone’s imagination with back-to-back 68s in the opening rounds. He found himself in the final group with Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka because the weather required threesomes on the weekend. Bennett shot 76 in a rainy third round and finished T16 with a 74 in the final round.

The Masters: A week Sam Bennett will never forget

Stewart Hagestad in 2017

The day before he turned 26, Hagestad finished his first appearance in The Masters with a T36 finish. The U.S. Mid-Amateur champion wasn’t in the hunt and didn’t break par with rounds of 74-73-74-73. However, in a game that continues to get younger, Hagestad’s debut in a professional major is notable and impressive. He will play in this third Masters this year; he missed the cut in 2022.

Hagestad is currently ranked No. 3 in the AmateurGolf.com Mid-Amateur Rankings.

U.S. Mid-Amateur: Stewart Hagestad enters rarified air with third USGA victory

Bryson Dechambeau in 2016

Long before Dechambeau said that Augusta National is a “par 67,” he arrived at Augusta National as the skinny, reigning U.S. Amateur champion. He acquitted himself nicely, shooting three rounds of 72 and a round of 77 in the third round. 

Guan Tianlang in 2013

Tianlang, a 14-year-old, was the only amateur to make the cut in 2013. The Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, therefore earned low amateur and joined Adam Scott in Butler Cabin to receive his medal. Tianlang shot 73-75-77-75 and finished 58th.

Ryan Moore in 2005

The reigning U.S. Amateur champion from 2004 left Augusta National on Friday evening in 2005 in a tie for sixth place with Phil Mickelson - the event’s defending champion. Moore shot 71-71 to sit close to the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend. He shot 75-70 over the weekend and finished T13.  

Casey Wittenberg in 2004

Wittenberg was a can’t-miss amateur back in the early 2000s. The Oklahoma State Cowboy was the top ranked amateur in the world and earned his spot at Augusta National due to a runner-up finish in the U.S. Amateur. It didn’t look like he’d see the weekend after an opening 76. He played well enough on Friday with a 72 to make the cut on the number. A 71 on Saturday was a precursor to a stunning Sunday perfomance. A second nine 31 in the final round is the lowest score by any amateur on Sunday on that side of the course. His T13 finish was the highest in 41 years.

Ricky Barnes in 2003

While Barnes finished 21st and earned low amateur honors in 2003, his opening two rounds had him firmly in the mix heading into the weekend. He shot 69 on Thursday and was T2 with Sergio Garcia. He entered the weekend T3 after a 74 on a challenging Friday. Rounds of 75-73 moved him down the leaderboard, but his performance had people asking the question - *can an amateur win The Masters?*

Matt Kuchar in 1998

Kuchar earned his spot in The Masters after winning the 1997 U.S. Amateur. He shot 72-76-68-72. That four-under par weekend helped Kuchar climb the leaderboard. Saturday’s 68 was the second-lowest score of the day. The T21 finish helped Kuchar earn an invite back for the 1999 Masters because the Top 24 received an invite back in those days.

Phil Mickelson in 1991

Sure, his T46 in 1991 wasn’t stunning, it earned him low amateur honors. His opening round is what stands out from Mickelson’s first appearance in The Masters. A 69 had him on a leaderboard with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Jose Maria Olazabal. He finished with scores of 73-74-74, but the fresh-faced amateur certainly seemed comfortable and would go on to win 13 years later.

Sam Randolph in 1985

In 1985 and 1986, Sam Randolph won low amateur in The Masters. He earned his spot each year because he reached the U.S. Amateur finals. He was runner-up in 1984 and then won the U.S. Amateur in 1985. Randolph shot 70 in the opening round in 1985; he was two shots off the lead. Another amateur, John Inman, also shot 70 that day. Randolph held steady throughout the week and shot 75-72-73 in the remaining three rounds to finish T18.

ABOUT THE The Masters

One of Golf's four professional majors traditionally invites amateurs who have reached the finals of the US Amateur, or won the British Amateur or the US Mid Amateur. Also included are the winners of the relatively new Asia Pacific Amateur and Latin American Amateur.

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