Randy Lewis of Alma has played in amateur golf tournaments for decades, hoping to earn a berth in The Masters.
The Masters gives automatic invitations to the winners of several national tournaments every year.
In September, Lewis won the U.S. Mid-Amateur Tournament of golfers age 25 and older, and with it, a ticket to play this week at Augusta National.
At age 54, he became the oldest-ever winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
WKAR’s Scott Pohl spoke with Randy Lewis about earning his way into the world’s most prestigious golf tournament.
RANDY LEWIS: Oh, no. I played in my first U.S. Amateur in 1983, so I’ve been competing and trying to win a national championship for a long time. I played my first U.S. Mid-Amateur in 1991. I’ve played in eight U.S. Amateurs, eight U.S. Mid-Amateurs, one U.S. Publinx, and one U.S. Senior Open.
SCOTT POHL: As an amateur heading into Masters week, what are some of the highlights of things you get to do at Augusta National?
LEWIS: There’s a lot of great things that they do for you. As far as practice rounds, I reached out to (two-time Masters champion) Tom Watson. I wrote Tom a letter and was able to play a practice round on Monday at 8 a.m. with him.
They have things like the Amateur Dinner Monday evening, where they honor the amateurs that are participating in The Masters. The whole excitement of Masters week is just unbelievable, it’s just pretty incredible. Everybody’s so nice! It’s been quite an experience.
SUPPORT FROM ALMA
POHL: Talk about your home town of Alma and the Alma area, and how people have responded to your win last September and the time between then and Masters week.
LEWIS: It’s been really overwhelming. I can’t even begin to say how appreciative I am to everybody that has supported me. Everybody’s so excited. Alma’s a smaller town, and that’s one thing I like about a small town. People know you and they care about you. The response has just been overwhelming.
I’ve talked about The Masters every day. I’ve certainly thought about it every day since I won, and people are just really excited and really supportive, and I’ve got a lot of people that are coming to see me this week. It’s really amazing. It’s really touching to have the kind of support that I’ve received.
POHL: It’s my understanding that the amateurs do get a lot of attention, and they very much are a part of the week. They aren’t just oh, here are the amateurs who are taking spots away from the pros, some might think would be the approach. The amateurs are very much appreciated, not just by the organizers but by the pros who are involved in the field. Am I right about that?
LEWIS: Yeah, you’re right, and I think that goes back to the tradition of The Masters. Bobby Jones was a lifelong amateur. He founded The Masters with Clifford Roberts. The amateurs at The Masters have always been a big part of it, and they do make you feel special when you’re there.
I think a large part of why the pros really respect the amateurs and will reach out and play practice rounds with them is because a lot of those guys, you look back, Phil Mickelson and Tiger (Woods), all those guys won USGA championships, and a lot of those guys played in The Masters as an amateur. So, I think their experience was just as great as my experience has been, and so I think they have a real appreciation and they understand how important and special that is. It’s just unbelievable. Everybody there just treats you so special as an amateur. It’s really, really neat.
MAKING THE CUT: CAN HE DO IT?
POHL: For the benefit of people who don’t follow golf, the way it works is everybody plays on Thursday and Friday, and after everyone is finished on Friday, they have what’s called the cut, where they reduce the field by about 50% roughly. It would be quite an achievement to make the cut, wouldn’t it?
LEWIS: Yeah, it would, when you consider the field that’s there and the quality of players that are there, and the difficulty of the golf course. No Mid-Amateur has ever made the cut. To make the cut would be a pretty special accomplishment.
It’s a pretty big golf course. It’s pretty challenging. So, you’re going to have to play extremely well to be able to make the cut.