23 Apr 2024 | Professional golf |

Feature: Back to reality for Stubbs post-Masters

by Martin Blake

Jasper Stubbs Masters image
Jasper Stubbs soaked up the atmosphere at the Masters. Photo: Getty

One hour of golf. That’s all it took to unravel Jasper Stubbs’ dreams at the Masters tournament a week ago.

But the Melbourne amateur is not bitter. Far from it. He’s vowed to take the learnings he has from his first major and return full circle to the famous Georgia golf tournament.

For the 22-year-old Stubbs, it is now time for reflection upon his missed cut, and for getting back to work.

As the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, he knew from December that he was entitled to his spot in the Masters, and his whole family made the trip to the US for the occasion.

Stubbs had endured his first practice round in front of a full house, an awe-inspiring experience on the Monday. “I was probably more nervous teeing off Monday in my first practice round because that was the first time everyone was there, and it was 50,000 people. By the time Thursday came around, I’d done it before so I wasn’t as nervous. A different kind of nerves.”

On Tuesday, he took on the traditional ball-skipping punch shot across the pond at the 16th and almost holed it. Another huge crowd response ensued, and plenty of “Go Stubbsy” shouts given the presence of half a dozen of his fellow-members from Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club.

On the Wednesday, he played the par-3 contest and had his brother Fletcher caddie for him in the famous white overalls. His sister Piper flew in from the US, where she is on a college scholarship.

The fun was only beginning for Fletcher Stubbs. “I was never going to finish out the par-3,” said Jasper. “I was always letting my brother hit one. So he hit for me on nine.”

Augusta National was everything he expected and more. “With the wind and heat it was tough to keep it perfect, but you tee off first-thing Thursday, they’d had rain overnight and it was millimeter-perfect, every blade grass and those greens were rolling as good as anything you’ve ever played on.

"As soon as a divot’s taken it’s sanded back in straight away by someone. You never see a weed. One of the cool things is when you play 12, it’s all divos but by the next day, it’s all replaced with new grass ready to go.”

Then the tournament. Stubbs was just 2-over through 14 holes in round one and playing nicely with former winner Zach Johnson and Canadian Corey Conners. A strong drive on the par-5 15th left him 198 metres to the flag over the pond. Stubbs hit 5-iron straight at the flag, but it landed, backed up off the ridge in the green, and rolled into the water.

“It was probably a metre and a half from looking like a three. I thought I hit a good shot. To walk away with seven was pretty annoying,” he said.

At the par-3 16th he hit a bad shot, pulling his short iron tee ball into the pond left, for second consecutive double bogey. Half an hour on he was licking his wounds having given back six shots to par in the final four holes for an 80.

“I went out there and played 14 pretty good holes of golf on Thursday and then it just unravelled a bit. A couple of small margins on those last few holes that I missed, they went the wrong way and it cost me big time.”

Friday dawned and while the weather was difficult to say the least, with strong winds, Stubbs backed up with courage, shooting a 76 that sat comfortable with almost anyone in the field.

He birdied the first, and hit his highlight shot of the week – a lasered iron shot to the front-right pin at the par-3 16th that led to a birdie. “To shoot 4-over in that second round was pretty much the average score on that second day,” he said. “I played quite well. I didn’t even feel like in either the first or second round that I played that badly. I just had that one hour of bad golf and it cost me for the week.”

Stubbs has a big year ahead: the Golf Australia Interstate Series for Victoria on the Gold Coast early next month, a trip to the UK to play The Amateur, the St Andrews Links Trophy, the European Amateur and the Open Championship (another bonus of his Asia-Pacific victory).

He will go with a whole new set of knowledge.

“There’s always learnings and when you go to an event that might be a little out of your reach, that’s when you can learn the most. Because I’ve just played with the best players in the world, the top 85 in the world basically, and I felt like if I take out a couple of holes then I was pretty much on par with how they can play.

“It’s nice to know that but also that hour of golf is still in there, so my biggest learning is going to be how do I get that out of there and how I push to where Scottie Scheffler is pushing his golf.”

Stubbs has a plan for his future, and it’s not that surprising what it entails. He wants to get back to Augusta one day as a pro, and the journey starts now.

“It’s an amazing week,” he said. “I’m not even really worried about the score I had. It was just a week I’ll remember forever. It’s given me more motivation to get back there. That’s the big take-away for me.”

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