Amen Corner, The Big Oak Tree, Ike’s Pond and Rae’s Creek, will hold greater significance for South Australian State Coach Gareth Jones over the next 6 weeks, as he fastidiously prepares South Australian 19 year old Amateur, Antonio Murdaca for one the world’s great sporting events, The Masters.
Jones, who is the Teaching professional at Glenelg Golf Club, is Murdaca’s personal coach and guided him to a barnstorming seven shot victory at the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne in Oct 2014.
The on-course partnership will again continue, with Jones agreeing to caddie for his protégé at the 2015 Masters, after Murdaca gained direct entry as Asia Pacific Champion. Murdaca from The Grange Golf Club will become the first South Australian ever to compete in the Masters.
The duo will prepare for the 9-12 April event, that attracts a global TV audience of 150 million, by venturing over to the US for a week in early March.
They will depart Adelaide to Sydney on Sunday morning 1st March, then fly the world's longest route – a non-stop trip, 17 hour flight from Sydney to Dallas. From Dallas, they will fly to Atlanta staying overnight and then Monday morning drive the 2 hours to Augusta National. The 300m long journey up Magnolia Lane will no doubt be one to remember.
The duo with spend four days at Augusta National playing four morning rounds with practice scheduled for the afternoon.
“We will be practicing at Augusta Tuesday through to Friday. Each day I think generally, we’ll warm up and probably play our practice rounds in the morning around 9 – 10am and work on some areas in the afternoon. Because of the weather forecasts, the heavy rain tends to come later in the day.” Jones said
“On those days will be using the local Augusta caddies. One of the caddies is a guy called Brian Tam who is known as ‘Low Am Tam’ as he’s caddied for a lot of the low amateurs, including Ollie Goss last year.” Jones added
“My role during the week is as the non-playing guest, so I can walk the course and will try and learn as much as I can from the caddies. “
On the Tuesday, Jones has booked Murdaca’s first practice round with an Augusta Member who played with Goss and Golf Australia CEO Stephen Pitt last year.
“The Golf Course I imagine in March won’t be playing anything like it will play for the tournament. It’s still going to be pretty soft, just coming out of winter so it potentially will be wet and soft and obviously for the tournament they get that pretty firm and quick.”
Whilst this will be Jones’ first trip to Augusta the planning is well and truly underway.
“I’ve done a bit of research through looking at old footage and talking to people and I’ve already been doing mapping from videos I’ve seen. We have course maps from Martin Joyce from a couple of years ago when he caddied for Jin Jeong when he was British Amateur Champion.”
“I’ve spoken with a lot of coaches that have previously been involved, like Richie Smith and Oliver Goss from last year, Denis McDade with his guys that have played and Neale Smith the sports psychologist, who has been over there a lot with Hunter Mahan and guys like that.”
“I think the course is pretty standard year to year, they have their 4 or 5 pin placement so it seems. They might vary them on certain days, where they are, but there’s some real traditional pin placements, especially on the last day. The course will be pretty much immaculate I’d imagine as it always is. The greens will be fast and weather dependent, likely to be firm.”
Apart from just being about understanding the golf course, Jones sees the week as getting the lay of the land around Augusta, including finding a gym, so the trip during tournament week is as seamless as possible.
“I have not only been liaising with the club pro’s to help us with the caddies for practice but also with the Golf Operations Manager and will probably go out for dinner with him one night as well. On the Thursday night we’re going to meet the owners of the house where we’re staying for the tournament. We will try and understand the place as much as we can and use the opportunity as well as we can.”
On the final day, the Friday, Murdaca will play early and then head back to Atlanta straight after his round, to avoid any traffic delays. They will depart the US Friday night 6 March and return to Adelaide Sunday 8th.
Back in Adelaide for three weeks, Antonio will play in a Golf SA Corporate event on Sunday 15th at Royal Adelaide then compete in SA’s national ranking event, the 72 hole Golf SA Amateur Classic from 16-19th March.
“The Classic will be a good lead up event. The plan for the 3 weeks back in Adelaide apart from playing the Classic will be to really work on the shots we are going to need to play the Masters as well as possible“.
Jones and Murdaca fly back out to the US on Thursday 2nd April. Their journey will be as close to a carbon copy as possible to their previous trip. Staying with them will be Golf SA High Performance Physiotherapist Greg Rosenbauer, Golf Australia High Performance Manager Matt Cutler and Antonio’s parents Domenic and Antonia.
‘We’ve spoken with Adam Scott about having a round on either Saturday 4th or Sunday 5th prior to the tournament and we’re looking to get maybe 9 holes with Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood, or Charl Schwartzel on the Monday or Tuesday.”
The Masters experience will be one to savour, for not only Jones and Murdaca but for the whole South Australian golf industry and sport fans alike.