05 Apr 2024 | Tournaments | Amateur golf | Golf Australia |

Linden’s Aussie first at Augusta

by Jimmy Emanuel

Jesse Linden will represent Australia at the Drive, Chip and Putt.

Jesse Linden is a talented young golfer from the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, and after all his success winning junior events he will experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and Australian first, this week at Augusta National.

He’ll be contesting the final of the Drive, Chip and Putt on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National Golf Club this Sunday.

Jesse qualified late last year to become the first Australian to ever compete in the final the day before it is officially Masters week.

By claiming the Boys 12-13 Regional Qualifier at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, Linden was even afforded the opportunity to meet major champion Steve Elkington, as well as late 1956 Masters champion Jackie Burke Jnr.

“We hung out for about two hours with him, so that was a very good experience,” Jesse said of meeting 1995 U.S. PGA Championship winner Elkington, who presented him his trophy.

Founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, USGA (United States Golf Association) and PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt is a free program aimed at growing the game around America, with boys and girls from 7-15 competing in age bracketed skills challenges across the parts of the game the event is named for.

Despite its American focus however, the event, and a chance to be on the ground as players prepare for a green jacket tilt, inspired Jesse who has had a spot at Augusta firmly in his sights for some time.

“I've set this goal for a couple of years now,” he said.

“Very excited. It's going to be one off thing for me … so excited.”

A member of The Vintage Golf Club in New South Wales, Jesse is coached by Gavin Sutherland at Magenta Shores Golf & Country Club and believes there is one area of his game that will perhaps be the standout at Augusta on Sunday.

“Definitely driving. I'm hitting it long enough and straight enough,” he said.

That driving was on display when Jesse made a play-off for the junior title earlier this year at the Webex Players Series Hunter Valley, while just like every adult visitor to the home of the first men’s major each year, Jesse has the merchandise shop firmly in his sights.

“It's going to be very exciting. Buy a lot of stuff from it, get to go in the clubhouse. It's going to be a great experience,” the 12-year-old said.

Already looking forward to heading down to the famous par-3 12th having watched The Masters on TV for as long as he can remember, Jesse will be joined on the trip by father Clint, who paid tribute to the unique event.

“Golf's definitely evolving at the moment. And in the US, The Masters, USGA and PGA of America put this together,” the elder Linden said.

“They cover the costs of all these kids together and stuff. No different to how the Australian PGA do the event (Webex Players Series) here, giving young juniors and amateurs the opportunity to play high level stuff. It's just really inspiring the next generation of juniors in golfers to come through.

“It's a bucket list just to go watch people. The fact that we be driven in Magnolia Lane and get to go in the clubhouse to do a champion's dinner on a Saturday night with all some of the past champions and stuff as well. It's going to be one of those things I don't think we'll ever at the top or forget.”

Jesse will do something no Australian has done before this weekend, an experience most can only dream of in terms of even setting foot on the property at Augusta National, let alone hitting shots.

However, his love of the game, and reasons for that passion, will resonate with all other Australian golfers, who will be up early all next week to see who wins the green jacket.

“Competition. Love playing with my friends, love the competition and just love playing golf. It's a great sport,” Jesse said.

The Masters is live on Fox Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo, as well as Nine and 9Now.

*Image via Instagram

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