|Austin Greaser Continues To Improve Following Masters Appearance|
|- By Sean Melia, Contributing Writer|
For any amateur competing in The Masters, the test is stern, and it doesn’t start with the opening tee shot on Thursday. Austin Greaser spent plenty of time in the lead-up to The Masters playing Augusta National and learning as much as he could about the greens, tee shots, and how to manage the tricky terrain.
However, as Greaser reflected on his week at Augusta National, the golf wasn’t all that different from any other event. It’s the same small golf ball and set of clubs.
Of course, the first tee jitters were a bit different and they proved to be the most memorable part of his experience.
“I realized that I’m now standing on the first tee at Augusta, playing in The Masters. This is what The Masters nerves feel like, this is what The Masters first tee feels like with all the people, and this is what the atmosphere feels like,” Greaser said.
“That was the number one highlight, taking a deep breath there and walking down and trying to soak it in before getting into the competitive mindset and understanding all the late nights and early mornings and extra work made it all worth it. That was a highlight, to fulfill one of my highest goals of being a golfer.”
To experience The Masters as an amateur is extremely rare, six amateurs across the world earned a spot in the 2022 Masters, and Greaser was one of them. He didn’t take that lightly - from the amateur dinner with Sergio Garcia and Augusta and USGA board members and executives to staying in the Crow’s Nest to playing with major winners in his practice rounds and in the actual event, it’s a steep learning curve while also finding moments to be grateful and reflective on everything it took to reach this massive goal he’s had since childhood.
The biggest moments of learning for Greaser happened when he wasn’t on the golf course. In some cases, he felt he spent a little too much time on some of the smaller stuff that in the long run didn’t really matter to his performance on the course.
“It was a lot to swallow leading up The Masters. Being twenty-one and trying to juggle college, golf, school, and also trying to prepare for The Masters was quite a bit. Trying to get all the details ironed out. I really learned a lot in terms of how to delegate things to other people,” Greaser said. “Sometimes you have to say “no.” You only have so much time in the day. It was a tough lesson to learn.”
This experience will make future challenges easier, and Greaser understands that.
“It was good for me to learn now and I’m glad I learned it while I still have a year and a half before I turn pro and I still have the U.S. Open (in June) left where I can carry it into that week.”
Lou Stagner, a golf statistician, has been working with Greaser on his course management since 2020, sees Greaser as a young man who is always trying to improve.
“His biggest strength is his openness and willingness to want to learn more. He doesn’t pretend to think that everything he knows and does is one hundred percent the way it should be done,” Stagner said. “He wants to hear other perspectives. He’s always looking to learn and he’s got this incredible drive to improve and get better.”
For many, playing in The Masters is a once in a lifetime achievement. That can put undue pressure on a competitor who wants to experience as much as possible and make the experience as perfect as possible.
In June, Greaser will travel to Boston for the U.S. Open, a place steeped in amateur golf history, and he’s already thinking about what he can do to improve.
“I need to focus a little bit more on me before the U.S. Open. Let the details be ironed out by somebody else, just focus on golf. Everyone else will take care of the little things and I’m the only person that can go play,’ Greaser said. “I’m the only person that has a tee time. I need to focus on the golf side of things and have some of the closest people around me focus on the rest.”
Greaser’s performance on the golf course was rather impressive. None of the six amateurs made the cut, however, Greaser’s two-day score of seven-over par was the best among his peers, tying him with Keita Nakajima, the no. 1 amateur in the world.
While he did miss the cut by three shots, Greaser played well enough to make the turn on Friday afternoon with a chance to qualify for the weekend. Unfortunately, Amen Corner gobbled him up like it has to so many over the decades of The Masters. The one shot that Greaser said he would have liked back was a wedge shot he hit into the eleventh hole that missed the green. He went on to make a double bogey.
“It is hard, you don’t really know anything while you’re on the course. The big white scoreboards are the only information you have. No one has a phone to tell you where the cut line might be.”
Another learning experience.
“I did get quite nervous on the back nine, I knew I was close, especially coming off nine. I went birdie-birdie on eight and nine. I really tried not to focus on the cut, but I think my mind wandered a little bit,” Greaser said. “Not only with four or five holes to go, but when I made the turn. I was thinking about what it (the cut) could be instead of focusing on what I need to focus on and hit golf shots and control what I can control. The cut line is going to fall where it falls.”
The entire week is also a masterclass of sorts for amateurs. They are not only on a world-famous golf course, but they are also surrounded by the best golfers in the world. Practice rounds with the likes of Will Zalatoris, Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Harold Varner III, and Brian Harmon allowed Greaser to watch pros do work, and it allowed Greaser to also realize he has the game to belong among this crew.
“I learned that I feel like I belong. My game stacks up, there are some areas physically and mentally I need to sharpen up. I don’t feel like I’m extremely far off and I think I’ve set myself up in a good spot for the next couple years,” Greaser said.
It was a statement of confidence and self-assurance, not arrogance. And it was buoyed by some advice Padraig Harrington gave him during their two rounds together.
“Harrington told me that a big part of making it on the circuit is players believing that they belong. He told me, ‘Every guy is going to shoot between 65 and 75. Regardless of the day you have, do you still have the confidence in yourself that you belong out here.’ That hit home with me and I’m going to get my brain wrapped around that mindset.”
Through all the excitement, Greaser had his family there to help ground him.
“It was special to have them all there with me. So many of them have been coming out and watching me play when no one cared who I was,” Greaser said. “There were definitely a few happy tears shed during the week.”
As a relative newbie to the Greaser team, Stagner spoke highly of both AJ Reilly, Greaser’s swing coach of 14 years and Greaser’s family.
“I can’t say enough about the family. They are just spectacular, everything you would want out of a family. The absolute nicest people,” Stagner said. “Even though Austin is there playing in the best golf tournament in the world at the best golf course in the world, his family is so concerned about everybody else’s well-being. What you see from Austin is how his family is. They’re phenomenal people.”
The junior from North Carolina has come a long way from Vandalia, Ohio with the support of his family, friends, and coaches; it certainly seems like he’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.
After rubbing elbows with some of the best players in the world and learning as much as possible, Greaser is primed and ready to chase a National Championship with his UNC Tar Heel teammates and then get a crack at a second major in June at the U.S. Open.
|Sean Melia is a regular contributor to Miami Valley Golf and podcaster and writer for AmateurGolf.com. He played competitively in college and still tries his hand at competing every now and then, but he is usually snapping pictures of interesting holes he's playing instead of worrying too much about his score. He is currently on a quest to play all 350 golf courses in his home state of Massachusetts and chronicling it on Instagram BayState_Golf and his website.|