Finally back after what has been the trip of a life time. I have been fortunate through my working career and travels to attend numerous significant sporting events. I’ve sat in the long room at Lord’s for an Ashes test match, I’ve been to Wimbledon finals at centre court, the Kop at Anfield, Queens Enclosure at Royal Ascot, I’ve even sat on the 17th, the road hole at St. Andrews during the 2000 Open Golf Championships. The US Maters at Augusta national has surpassed them all. I didn’t think anything would ever equal the 1984 Norwood vs Port Grand Final but this has come close.
Augusta is the Disney Land for sports fans. It’s all very surreal. Set in essentially a botanic gardens, every blade of grass is perfect. The sand in the bunkers is whiter than white and every hole on the course makes you question whether it’s your favourite. I was going to state my favourite but can’t decide between 10, 13, 15 and 16.
It’s more than just the golf course though; it’s the people, the buildings and dare I say it the traditions. Everyone is so happy, the staff welcome you as if you are a personally invited guest. Every morning the gate security welcome you with “Good morning sir and welcome to The Masters!”
Being there as part of Team Antonio Murdaca made it of course even more special. We got a few extra perks. A couple of mornings we came in with Anthony (I still call him Anthony). Which meant we got to drive down Magnolia Lane. We got invited into the press room to see his press conference and I got to look through the club house.
Following Anthony around also gave extra significance to the occasion. I have known Anthony since he was 14 and have done countless sessions with him in the Unley Physiotherapy gym or at golf courses around Adelaide trying to help improve his postural control, strength and mobility. To see him here at Augusta performing alongside the world’s greatest players on the world’s greatest golf stage was truly amazing.
At lot of credit has to go to a lot of people. Firstly, to Anthony who has an incredible work ethic and self-belief, to go with his undeniable talent. He is generally amongst the hardest workers at each session and has never back away from challenges thrown at him.
His family, with whom I have been lucky enough to stay with and get to know better during this last week, have shown great commitment and belief. They are the ones who have dropped him to West Beach at 6am for the beach sessions we did, picked him up from Unley at 7pm and given him the opportunities.
Gareth Jones, Golf Australia, Golf SA and Anthony’s coach. Gareth has worked tirelessly for Anthony and even caddied for him this last week. He also caddied for him when he won the 2014 Asia Pacific Amateur which got him to Augusta. He is a familiar voice of calm amongst all of the excitement which I think was of immeasurable assistance to Anthony. What perhaps even Anthony doesn’t sometimes know is the amount of work Gareth does to try and assist him behind the scenes. Gareth was fastidious about his caddie duties, he tried to learn every yardage, swale and gradient around Augusta to give Anthony the best chance of success. He also was hard at work behind the scenes meeting with people who will help Anthony progress through the next stage of his career when he eventually turns professional. An incredibly impressive performance.
Golf Australia and Golf SA have made huge improvements over the recent years in the way they support young golfers coming through the system. A young player like Anthony is given funding and assistance to help with coaching, bio-mechanical assessment, sport psychology (when he nailed his drive on the first tee, I thought wow, that is mental toughness!) physiotherapy, sports conditioning, travel, tournament wild cards and the list goes on. It really is a team performance.
I can’t wait to watch how Anthony goes from here. I get the feeling it won’t be his last trip to The Masters but he of course has many challenges ahead and I look forward to helping him through some of those. I also look forward to working with the next batch of young South Australian and Australian talented young golfers as they try to reach their golfing dreams.
Who knows if I’m lucky enough maybe, just maybe I’ll find myself back at Augusta National Golf Club politely clapping them on (no cheering allowed at Augusta) as they tackle the challenges of what is an amazing place and event.