Wednesday, 10 April 2019
Viktor Hovland  (Getty Images)
Viktor Hovland (Getty Images)

An appearance at the Masters Tournament is the highlight of many golfer's seasons and for some it may even prove the highlight of their career.

It becomes an even more special experience if you are teeing it up from outside of the paid ranks and staying in the famous Crow's Nest, and here we take a look at the six amateurs playing this week at Augusta National Golf Club.

Jovan Rebula - winner of The Amateur Championship

All eyes will be on Rebula not just due to his prodigious golfing talent but a family connection that has been grabbing headlines ever since his 3&2 victory over Robin Dawson at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club last summer.

The 21-year-old is the nephew of four time Major Champion, two time Masters runner up and 28 time European Tour winner Ernie Els.

A student at Auburn University, Rebula is 39th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking but has already made a splash at a professional event. He made the cut at this season's South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg and played alongside his uncle Ernie in the third round. Rebula went on to finish in a tie for 24th, just two shots behind Els, and his uncle was full of pride at his achievements.

“I’m happy he’s good enough," he said. "I hope he breaks every record I have. I only have love for Jovan and I just wish him all the best.”

Viktor Hovland - winner of the US Amateur

Earned his spot at Augusta National by claiming a thumping 6&5 victory over Devon Bling in the Championship match at the US Amateur.

He needed just 104 holes to claim his six victories in the match play section and only trailed for one as he marched to an an utterly emphatic victory.

At third in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, he is the highest ranked amateur at the event and the Oklahoma State University student is making history as the first Norwegian to play at the Masters.

Devon Bling - runner up at the US Amateur

The lowest ranked of the amateurs in the field at 115th in the Rankings, it would be fair to say that Bling's performance at Pebble Beach was the standout moment of his career so far.

The UCLA sophomore showed great grit as he battled to the final but could not do much against the juggernaut that was Hovland.

He has made some friends on social media by practising his putting on the lightning fast boards of the basketball courts at his university - a skill that could come in handy at Augusta National.

Kevin O'Connell - winner of the US Mid-Amateur Championship

O'Connell has one of the more remarkable stories at Augusta this week and we could have been seeing a lot more of him had fate taken a different turn.

The 30-year-old had gone back into the amateur ranks after his first shot at professional golf had not gone how he would have liked but he was ready to give it another try and had plans to enter the Qualifying School and attempt to get his European Tour card.

His 4&3 victory over Brett Boner in the US Mid-Amateur Championship put those plans on hold and O'Connell now intends to use his exemptions this week and at the U.S. Open as an amateur before possibly trying his hand at professional golf again.

The University of North Carolina graduate is 47th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Alvaro Ortiz - winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship

The Latin America Amateur Championship has only been played five times but Ortiz's victory in January could still be described as long-awaited.

He finished in a tie for third in 2015 and second in both 2017 and 2018 before finally claiming the victory that brings him to Augusta this week.

The University of Arkansas graduate enters the week ranked 69th in the amateur game and will be the first Mexican to play at the Masters in 40 years.

"It was a huge deal for my family and me for sure and the whole country when I came back to Mexico after winning," he said.

"People were so proud that I was going to be able to put a Mexican flag up there. I felt all the love from people and all the support I've been receiving from people, in the last couple weeks, especially. "

Takumi Kanaya - winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship

The Japanese will be filling some big shoes if he has a good week on Magnolia Lane.

In winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, he became the first Japanese player to do so since Hideki Matsuyama won the title back to back in 2010 and 2011. Matsuyama went on to become the first player from Japan to win the Silver Cup and Kanaya has a chance to do the same.

Ranked seventh in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and with top 25s in the Japan Open and Australian Open, the 20-year-old could be one to watch.

"I'm so happy to come here," he said. "It was definitely a dream come true since I was a little kid to be able to be here.

"I have played two days with Hideki here and he's taught me many things."

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