By Amy Tennery
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – It was a clash of the ages at the Masters Par-3 contest on Wednesday as 28-year-old Matt Wallace triumphed over 61-year-old Sandy Lyle during an afternoon of thrilling play that included four holes-in-one.
A time-honoured tradition at Augusta National, the Par-3 contest sees Masters competitors and the old guard play on a truncated course with shorter holes, with their children and spouses often serving as caddies.
Along with collecting the trophy, however, comes a famous curse as no winner has gone on to win the Masters in the same year.
Wallace, who kicks off his Masters bid on Thursday, shrugged off the so-called jinx, after a playoff win against two-times major winner Lyle.
“It got a little bit more serious than how the nine holes went and I guess I just I wanted to win this,” Wallace said. “I want to break history somewhat.”
Some of the game’s greats, such as Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus were involved alongside current players such as Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, and for a crowd hungry to see a hole-in-one, the day did not disappoint.
Wallace landed an ace at the eighth hole, while Mark O’Meara, the 1998 Masters and British Open champion, snagged the day’s first hole-in-one to wild applause, followed by 32-year-old Shane Lowry, who sunk one on the first hole.
Nineteen-year-old Devon Bling equalled the record for the youngest registered player ever to make a hole-in-one on the course.
Last year, Nicklaus’ 15-year-old grandson, who was caddying for him, sunk a hole-in-one on the ninth hole, marking a memorable family moment in an event where one is as likely to see a toddler on the course as a major winner.
One-year-old Azalea, named after Augusta’s 13th hole, caddied for her father, 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia, and was an early crowd favourite as she toddled onto the green appearing completely at home on the course.
“The golfers are in their element but they’re having fun,” said Sean Neely, an Atlanta resident who has attended the Masters for 47 years.
Seeing players on TV “it’s like seeing a movie star,” said Pam Herzwuran, who has visited the Masters for seven years. Seeing them with their families makes them feel more accessible, she said.
“It makes it so normal.”
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Toby Davis)