Memorial Tournament

Muirfield Village Golf Club

The Loop

Unlikely road to Masters

March 28, 2009

Among the many romantic elements that make the Masters so endearing -- the majestic drive down Magnolia Lane, the sprawling oak tree behind the clubhouse, the Hooters just outside the club gates on Washington Road (OK, maybe not that last one) -- not to be forgotten is the annual presence of wide-eyed amateurs in the field.

It's true, the one who will attract the most attention at Augusta will be Danny Lee, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion from New Zealand who will surely be making return visits to the Masters as a professional.

But me, I have a soft spot for the guys who earn an unlikely invitation into the field and seek to lap up every ounce of the experience. Hence, the letters to their heroes asking to play practice rounds with them; the wardrobes comprised entirely of Augusta National paraphernalia; the countless trips to the club for practice rounds in the months and weeks before the tournament.

Steve Wilson is one of those. The 39-year-old mini-tour-player-turned-gas station owner from Ocean Springs, Miss., earned a berth into the Masters by virtue of his win in the U.S. Mid-Am last September. He's played 15 practice rounds at the National since December (an impressive enough tally that he might consider pulling the George Costanza mind trick of just showing up to play next year pretending he's a member); and is now hoping to parlay the tournament into another run at a professional career.

If you're looking for someone to root for outside of the obvious crew, you could do a lot worse.