What John Augenstein learned from making Masters cut as amateur
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Earned spot at Augusta with runner-up finish at 2019 U.S. Amateur, now eyeing TOUR card via Korn Ferry Tour
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
John Augenstein could barely get on the tee.
As he prepared for the opening tee shot of his Masters debut in November 2020, Augenstein had a simple thought: “I needed something up in the air.”
Augenstein got the ball airborne, made par, and proceeded to make the cut as an amateur en route to a T55 finish.
Not many amateurs get to compete at Augusta National, let alone make the cut; Augenstein earned his Masters invitation as runner-up at the 2019 U.S. Amateur. It’s a moment he cherishes as he strives to earn his first PGA TOUR card via the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour season-long standings.
Even if those opening-tee jitters at Augusta were a bit unnerving.
“That’s the most nervous I’ve ever been on the first tee ball, for sure,” Augenstein reflected last week. “It’s probably not a driver, but I was hitting driver; I needed something up in the air. I actually hit a really good one way up there and got off to the races.
“It’s a wild thing to think about when you’re playing as an amateur; there are only five or six in modern history that get to play every year, so it’s a small group of us who have been amateurs who get to play, and an even smaller number that have made cuts, so it’s very special to say that I did that.”
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 14: (L-R) Amateur John Augenstein of the United States, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Bernhard Langer of Germany walk on the eighth hole during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on November 14, 2020 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Augenstein isn’t teeing it up at Augusta this year, but his eye is laser focused on an eventual return. He intends for the Korn Ferry Tour to provide a building block toward that end. The Vanderbilt alum has made four of six cuts in his second Korn Ferry Tour season, highlighted by a T7 at the Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard in February. He stands No. 56 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List; the top 30 at season’s end will earn 2024 PGA TOUR membership.
After entering the season with conditional status, Augenstein’s top-10 in Bogota goes a long way toward improving his position on the Priority Ranking and building his schedule through the spring. The Kentucky native finished outside the top 100 on last year’s standings, recording just one top-25 in 24 starts, but his non-member FedExCup points – on the strength of a T6 at the Fortinet Championship in fall 2021 – were enough to earn a spot in a conditional category that gained access to early-season Korn Ferry Tour events.
The 25-year-old needed to take advantage early, and he did. The next step is applying his starts effectively.
“Ball striking and wedge play are big strengths of mine, and I’ve done those two things very well this year,” Augenstein said. “I’ve generated a ton of opportunities … I’m certainly not holing enough putts right now to contend on a regular basis, but I’m hitting it well enough to do so. Still working toward that, see some more putts drop and start contending a little bit.”
As he readies for the resumption of the Korn Ferry Tour schedule, he’ll look to draw on energy from his week at Augusta in November 2020. Augenstein opened in 3-under 69, making birdies at Nos. 8 and 9 to turn in 2-under 34, then rebounding from a bogey at 11 with an eagle at the par-5 13th. He was just four off the lead after Round 1, and he followed with a second-round 72 to make the cut with three strokes to spare and remain on the precipice of contention.
Augenstein wasn’t able to work his way up the board on the weekend, closing in 75-75, but that didn’t damper the magic of the week. Far from it.
“It’s such a special place,” Augenstein said. “I love it because there’s kind of a blueprint for how to play it; you really know what spots you need to be in, and it’s methodical how you work around the course. I played pretty well for the first two days, didn’t have the best weekend, but certainly learned a lot on the weekend, on what a major on the weekend feels like and the speed it goes in.
“It was just such a special week, such an amazing place, and looking forward to going back someday.”
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for PGATOUR.COM. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.