Honest Eaton Calls Penalty, Finishes With 81
DAY ONE- Austin “Ace” Eaton, formerly of Sterling Farms GC, in Stamford CT, and winner of the 2004 U.S. Mid Amateur Championship, struggled on the back nine at Augusta on his way to an opening round 81, but it was his honesty, not his scorecard, that highlighted the day. On the par 3 16th Eaton’s tee shot landed in a greenside bunker. After walking through his pre-shot routine, Eaton spotted his caddie reach into the bunker to remove a twig resulting in a self imposed two-shot penalty and a triple-bogey six.
"He just instinctively reached down and touched it," Eaton explained. "I saw it out of the corner of my eye and said, 'You didn't touch that, did you?' He said, 'Yeah.' It's a breech of the rules."
Despite his struggles Eaton, who was paired with 8-time major champion Gary Player (89) and 2004 British Open Champion Todd Hamilton (77), had eight putts for birdie en route to a front nine 37 and was particularly confident following his opening round.
"I've just got a lot of confidence right now and just being here with these guys has given me a feeling of tremendous confidence," he said.
Ace recently took time out to sit down with the MGA to share his thoughts on what is sure to be a week to remember.
Metropolitan Golf Association (MGA): With the Masters approaching quickly, how are you preparing your game? How many practice rounds have you played?
Ace Eaton (AE): I have been down to Augusta three weekends and have played nine rounds. I am gradually getting used to the course, and just taking it all in. It’s an amazing experience.
MGA: Other than excited, what emotions are you feeling?
AE: Anxious, really. Anxious to get down there and play. The course I am playing now will be much harder once I get down there. It will dry out and the greens will get much, much faster.
MGA: How will you play the course?
AE: The course is suited to my game really. I am a right-to-left hitter, and off the tees (at Augusta National) that’s an advantage. I am also high off the tee, which helps. I have a good imagination with the putter, and on these greens I’ll need it.
MGA: If you could make your own group, who would it be?
AE: I actually was partnered with the starter the last time I was down there. He has been starter at Augusta for 54 years. Our twosome won, so I think I am on his good side. He did say I will be paired with a past champion, but who that will be I have no idea. My ideal group? Well, I would love to play with Freddie [Couples] and Tiger [Woods] and Phil [Mickelson] but they would never put those guys together. Actually, its only groups of three, so I guess Phil would be my choice.
MGA: And finally, who are you going to have on the bag, you wife, or your dad?
AE: Well, I have had a lot of success with my wife, Pam (who caddied for his throughout the U.S. Mid- Am), on the bag. But it’s The Masters, and it’s my dad. So Pam will caddie for me during the Par 3 Challenge and my dad will caddie for me Thursday and Friday.
Eaton is the fourth Met Area player to win the U.S. Mid Amateur since 1992. The others were: Jeff Thomas (1993), Jerry Courville, Jr (1995), Ken Bakst (1997) and George Zahringer III (2002).