10 Apr 2014
Oliver Goss smiles at Augusta ahead of tomorrow's first round. Photo: Getty
Oliver Goss is ready.
Or more correctly, as ready you can be to play in the Masters as a 19-year-old amateur surrounded by the best players in the world and legends of the game at one of its most famous theatres.
"It's been amazing,'' he told golf.org.au from Augusta today. "Absolutely amazing. It's incredible, you can't describe it too much. On Monday you walk out on the practice green and you see Gary Player and say hello. On Saturday I met Ben Crenshaw. You meet all these significant names who've done so much for the game and it's just 'wow'. You meet so many amazing people.''
Goss knows he will be nervous tonight Australian time when the tournament begins; even in the practice rounds he was jittery. The Perth teenager has never played in front of so many people, thousands along every fairway and around each putting surface.
He noticed the nerves it on the 16th hole in Tuesday's practice round, the par-three where huge crowds gather to watch players deliberately skip their golf balls across the pond and on to the green. "There are some shots out there it's hard to get comfortable with, like on 16 yesterday when they're all shouting at you and booing you,'' he said. "There's probably 10,000 people just on that hole. It's about getting comfortable at this point.''
Ritchie Smith, his coach of the past four years, says Goss just has to ride out the butterflies in his belly. "We know he's going to get nervous,'' said Smith. "He was nervous in the practice round. when you've got between two and 10,000 people watching you all day, you're going to get nervous. We've just told him to slow it down and tick off everything.
"He's been meticulous with that and he's achieved everything he has to do with his preparation, so it's a matter of keeping nice and calm and remembering it's just a game of golf. He has to be really wary of his eye control, make sure his eyes stay on the target and not spend too much time on the galleries in preparation for each shot. It's not hard to do, but it's really hard to do if that makes sense.''
Goss is a wunderkind, a tier one member of Golf Australia's elite national squad. Playing out of Royal Fremantle Golf Club, he won the WA amateur title (in 2012), the same year he gave notice of his talent by winning the WA Open amongst the professionals at Royal Perth.
It was his effort in reaching the final of the US Amateur championship last year that won a berth for him at Augusta this week.
His advantage is length. "He's extremely long,''' said Smith. "He'd be almost the longest out there (this week), I'd think. But he's got fantastic touch.''
As a scholarship-holder at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville he has won twice in collegiate competition, and he has a start in the US Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina later this year, also as a result of his US Amateur performance.
After that, he needs to consider his future. Plainly he will turn professional at some point; it is a matter of when, or whether he will remain at university. "In the end we can recommend a course of action but it's got to be his decision as to whether he turns pro or not,'' said Smith.
On Wednesday morning Goss went off to play the par-three competition, as well as some practice on the tournament course, with his parents and grandparents along for the ride. He is becoming familiar with the venue, having driven down from Tennessee to play the course twice -- last February and again in March this year.
By the time he tees it up with Canada's Graeme DeLaet and South Africa's Trevor Immelman at 12.31pm tomorrow (2.31am Friday, AEST), he will have played about seven full rounds at Augusta National. "I know the course. I've got a good game plan, it's just getting comfortable out there.''
The course is famously good for right-to-left hitters, which suits Goss. But he can see that left-to-right shots are required as well. "It's advantageous to play it both ways, to be honest. There's obviously a couple of holes that demand a high draw, which is great, but there's a couple of holes where a high fade is better, just to get into the correct part of the fairway.
"It's all about the second shot. Once you hit on to the green, if you're not in the right place, it's scary. It's almost a guaranteed three-putt in some places. You have to leave yourself under the hole no matter what, even if it's 30 foot under the hole instead of 10 foot above the hole.''
Goss is not about winning this week. It is about the experience. He turns 20 on Saturday, and hopes to have some golf to play that day. "I'd just like to have as much fun as I can, take it all in and enjoy the two days,'' he said. "I don't what it to go by too fast and I forget everything. I want to enjoy it, hopefully get to the weekend and be low amateur.''