Part of The Meridian Star's ongoing coverage of college athletes from the local area during the coronavirus outbreak.
Andy Ogletree’s Masters debut will have to wait.
After capturing the United States Amateur Championship last August, the Little Rock native earned direct entry into three of professional golf’s four majors, including the sport’s most prestigious event, while still in college.
Moreover, his victory at the US Amateur meant he’d be paired at the Masters with the tournament’s defending champion. In this case, it’d be a man by the name of Tiger Woods.
But his inaugural appearance is on hold as the PGA Tour suspended its season and Augusta National Golf Club postponed the Masters less than a month before it was set to begin. When the PGA Tour first announced events would be canceled through the Valero Texas Open, the last tournament before the Masters, Ogletree said he saw its postponement coming.
“I kind of expected it,” Ogletree said. “I saw the trends and what everyone was doing with the NBA shutting down, MLB shutting down, all professional sports pretty much shutting down, so I kind of expected the Masters to get postponed, unfortunately.”
In addition to the delaying of his young, promising career, the Union High School alumnus also saw his senior campaign at Georgia Tech come to an abrupt halt as the NCAA canceled all spring sports. The Yellowjackets had played four matches in the fall and had three under their belts when their season picked back up in February. Their performance at the Southern Highlands Collegiate March 1-3 in Las Vegas wound up being their last.
Ogletree, 21, said he was looking forward to his final months as a collegiate golfer and to be able to finish it at Georgia Tech, a team with which he felt had the pieces to win a national championship.
“It’s an awful feeling,” he said. “We were feeling pretty good about (the season), but obviously there are more important things going on in the world than our season getting canceled, so it’s all about perspective, and I’m just trying to look at it that way.”
The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to allow for an extra year of eligibility for all student-athletes who compete in spring sports, allowing schools to increase their teams’ rosters to account for incoming freshman and returning seniors. Ogletree, who said he plans on graduating this year, has not decided if he will return to the Yellowjackets next season.
For now, Ogletree is at Frederica Golf Club in St. Simons, Georgia, where he said he is keeping in practice and staying prepared for when competition opens up again. A left thumb injury suffered in late November set him back with his regularly scheduled offseason between the fall and spring matches at Georgia Tech. His thumb is fully healed, he said, and the cancellations and postponements of tournaments has allowed him to get back to training,
“I’m having another offseason so to speak, and I can actually work on my game this time. I’m not injured, so It’s kind of a good time for me,” he said. “I have some swing stuff I want to work on and just want to keep getting better.”
Whenever the Masters does happen, Ogletree said he’ll be there.
“I’m going to play the Masters. I’m not going to pass on that opportunity,” he said. “I’ve dreamed of playing the Masters my whole life, and I’ve earned a spot there, so I’m going to do it. We’ll just have to play it by ear and see when everything’s going to happen.”