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Australian amateur is playing in Masters event this week, but the big one comes in April

January 01, 2023
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Australian amateur Harrison Crowe shows off the invitation he received to play in the 2023 Masters, his reward for winning the 2022 Asia-Pacific Amateur. (Photo courtesy of Golf NSW)

A package that arrived on Harrison Crowe’s doorstep reminded the Australian amateur golf star that 2023 is going to be bigger than 2022, if that is possible. It was a letter from Augusta National Golf Club that came on Dec. 24, inviting Crowe to play in the 2023 Masters—a reward for winning the 2022 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which Augusta National and the R&A run in their efforts to grow the game globally.

“I was actually on the way out to do some last-minute shopping, then I was heading to the beach; I saw [the invitation] on the step and said to myself, ‘Yep! I know what this is! Here we go!’ Opening it was a spine-tingler,” the 21-year-old said ahead of this week’s Master of the Amateurs tournament in Melbourne.

Winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand was among Crowe’s action-packed highlight reel in 2022, which also included a victory earlier in the year at a professional event, the New South Wales Open. The most attention Crowe received in 2022, however, was not for an actual tournament. Rather, it was a video that went viral of Crowe hitting an iron shot from off the sidewalk at the corner outside the Dunvegan pub in St. Andrews, Scotland, over buildings and onto the 18th green at the Old Course during the St. Andrews Links Trophy. Golf presenter Erik Anders Lang filmed the entire saga and his large YouTube audience ensured the video got picked up by sports networks around the world.

Defending his 2021 title at the Master of the Amateurs tournament, being held this week at Southern Golf Club within the Melbourne Sandbelt region, is only reminding Crowe of his looming major championship debut at Augusta National. In addition to the word “Master” in the title, the men and women winners also receive a green jacket. Notable past champions of the Master of the Amateurs include PGA Tour players such as Sahith Theegala (2020), Aaron Wise (2016) and Jason Day (2006), while Rickie Fowler lost in a playoff in 2009.

Crowe, like most elite golfers, has dreamed of playing the Masters since childhood.

"When I was in [elementary] school, I had to write a story and draw a picture about a goal in life or something I wanted to do when I grew up, and I remember I drew a picture of the green jacket and writing that I wanted to win the Masters,” Crowe said. “I would have been 10 or 11 when I did that, and it must've been on my bedroom wall for a good 10 years.”

Predictably, he said his favorite memory watching the Masters on TV is 2013, when Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the green jacket. Crowe admits a book called Amen, detailing Scott’s Augusta triumph, is the only book he has ever finished.

“It is probably the first and only book I’ve ever read. I don't think I even read a full book at school,” he said. “And in a few months, I’ll get to play a practice round with [Scott] where he [accomplished] that.”

Crowe has become acquainted with his idol, Scott, having played a practice round with the 42-year-old at the Japan Open in October and tournament rounds at the Australian Open last month. But picking Scott’s brain around the course where the former World No. 1 has gained 20 years of Augusta National experience is the big ticket, and Crowe has already asked the star for a game early in Masters week.

Crowe will also travel from Australia to Augusta in February for a handful of practice rounds, in a bid to both familiarize himself with the nuances of Alister MacKenzie’s layout and to soak up the aura of the property well before the Masters. “I get to have five practice rounds, plus as many rounds with a member as I can organize,” Crowe said.

After the Master of the Amateurs tournament and his reconnaissance mission to Augusta, Crowe will defend his New South Wales Open title in March as his final tournament before the 2023 Masters.

“It’s starting to feel real now,” he said.