09 Apr 2024 | Professional golf |

The Masters: Stubbs in his element at Augusta

by Martin Blake

Jasper Stubbs Augusta image
Jasper Stubbs samples the Augusta National bunkering on Monday. Image: The Masters

Rising Australian amateur Jasper Stubbs is experiencing Masters week for the first time, and nothing has disappointed him yet.

Victorian Stubbs, 22, is in the field this week as the Asia-Pacific champion from 2023, and he is soaking up the atmosphere at what will be his first professional major.

“I think, coming to Augusta, it's obviously always spoken highly about how perfect it is, and I think it definitely lives up to that expectation,” he told media today in a pre-tournament press conference.

“Magnolia Lane with the flowers out is an amazing sight. I think the crowds is the thing that's going to be the biggest eye opener for me that's going to be different to any other week that I've ever experience.’’

Stubbs visited Augusta National in February, playing three days in a row to scope out the course.

But he knows this week is a different beast, with the crowds, with family in tow, and the nerves and expectations.

Since learning last December that he would play the 2024 Masters he has done his best to find places to practise which mimic the amazing slopes of Augusta, “basically finding the biggest slope as you can find on any golf course you go to because it comes close, but it doesn't compare to here”.

Part of that was at the Australian Golf Centre in Melbourne. “At the Australian Golf Centre, which is the home of the Golf Australia High Performance Program down in Melbourne -- we have a driving range, and it's got lots of slopes that you can just hit range balls off, which was awesome for this week, obviously being one of the slopiest weeks of the year.

“I was practising all kind of different slopes, as big as I could find them. Then, yeah, just trying to hit different shots off that, which was a pretty cool experience to be able to do that at home.”

Augusta National will present a challenge for him but there is a familiarity in it as well, with the hard, fast greens and the Alister MacKenzie stamp being comparable to Royal Melbourne and other Melbourne sandbelt courses.

“Once you're on the greens, Royal Melbourne and Augusta are pretty close in how fast you can get a downhill putt and how much they break,” said Stubbs.

“So it's pretty good to have played a lot of golf there, and I've got a bit of knowledge, I guess, from playing there.”

Stubbs practised with Cam Davis on Monday and hopes to join Cameron Smith for a round before Thursday’s opening round.

It is quite the experience for a young man who grew up in Gippsland in Victoria’s east, moving to Melbourne and joining Peninsula Kingswood Country Club, breaking into Golf Australia’s HP programs.

Today he was asked by the media about the arrival of his invitation from Augusta National, and it is a story worth retelling.

“It was a very special moment,” he said. “I opened it -- I waited for my parents to get home from work, and we opened it all together as a family. There were five of us in the room at the time. We were FaceTiming my brother, who was out of the house at the time. “We all shared that family moment together, and it was a lot of screaming and cheering that it was finally here. And that's when it sunk in. And, yeah, we didn't do too much of a celebration that night, but obviously the next couple of weeks was the holidays, so, yeah, we celebrated pretty heavily.”

This week his first task is to make the cut. Beyond that, it’s about competing.

“I wouldn't say it's an expectation, but it's definitely something that I'm striving towards to do,” he said. “I'm not here to make up the numbers. I think Dad's been telling me, everyone in the field this week's got a chance to win, so I'm keeping that in the back of my mind at all times.”

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