The Masters a Great Opportunity for Young Golfers

The 78th Masters is underway at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia with Round One beginning today. While Tiger Woods had to withdraw with a back injury, 19 past champions will see if they can add another Master’s title to their resume. Expectations for these athletes is high, which leaves newcomer and youngest player in the field Matthew Fitzpatrick, 19, an opportunity to fly under the radar for a Masters title. He’s hardly the youngest to have played in Augusta though. Let’s look back at the past five years and see where the bar is set for the youngest golfers in Augusta.

2009 – Ryo Ishikawa, Japan, 17 years old

Ryo Ishikawa received a special invitation to play at The Masters in 2009. As the only professional golfer at the time of his debut of the five youngsters in the list, he was the only one who failed to make the cut. He’s played every year since his debut, tying for 38th in 2013 and tying for 20th in 2011 – his best result to date. Ishikawa will not be participating in 2014.

2010 – Matteo Manassero, Italy, 16 years old

At the time, Matteo Manassero was the youngest player to ever compete in the Masters. He received his invitation by winning the 2009 Amateur Championship. Just a few months after the Masters, Manassero turned professional. He’s competed last year in Augusta, but failed to make he cut. He’ll try again this year to see if he can improve on his debut performance.

2011 – Hideki Matsuyama, 19 years old

After winning the 2010 Asian Amateur, Matsuyama received his invitation to play in the 2011 Masters tournament. Setting himself at the top of this list, Matsuyama had the highest finish in his maiden Masters with a tie for 27th place. Unlike most of the others on this list, Matsuyama waited until 2013 to finally go pro, almost two full years after his debut in Augusta. He’ll be back this year trying to best his 27th place finish from 2011.

2012 – Patrick Cantlay, 20 years old

The oldest on the list, Cantlay made his debut in Augusta after finishing runner-up in the 2011 US Amateur Championship. He finished tied for 47th place. Just a few months after the Masters, and a very successful Amateur career, Cantlay turned pro. Since his turn to professional golf, he has not returned to the Masters and will not be competing in 2014.

2013 – Tianlang Guan, 14 years old

The most recent young gun to make his debut is also the youngest ever to play the Masters. Guan earned his invitation by winning the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. He placed 58th in Augusta and has decided, for now anyway, to remain an amateur. He will not be competing in 2014.

So what can we expect from Matthew Fitzpatrick in his debut at the Masters? There’s certainly a precedent for him to make the cut and there’s definitely an opportunity for him to finish higher than his five predecessors. He’s currently playing golf at Northwestern University, but if he has a good showing at the Masters, US Open or Open Championship, you’d have to imagine he’ll go pro soon enough.