Chaplet readjusting to junior life after Masters

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GRANITEVILLE, South Carolina - Two weeks ago, Costa Rica's Paul Chaplet was playing his first Masters.

Now he's playing 20 minutes away from Augusta National in what's commonly referred to as the Masters of junior golf.

"It's been quite a fun three weeks," he said.

Chaplet, who turned 17 on Monday, posted 3-over 75 on Thursday in the first round of the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley. The reigning Latin American Amateur champion chastised himself after his round for being too aggressive on a difficult course that punishes shots missed in the wrong spots.

But that kind of aggressive play is understandable, even expected, from someone in Chaplet's position. 

"When you come back down, you feel like you should be able to win every tournament you play in," said Cole Hammer, who found himself in a similar position last summer when he played the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old. 

"I came back to Texas and I was tired after being out there all week. I had a couple so-so starts after in junior events. It surprised me a little bit."

And that's what Chaplet is working through now after going 83-82 in his first chance to play a major championship. Following the Masters, Chaplet flew across the country to San Diego, where he spent a week hanging with a friend and playing courses like Aviara and San Diego Country Club. He then hopped a flight back to the East Coast to play in something very much like a major championship - for juniors.

"It is frustrating," Chaplet said. "You just played the biggest tournament of your life and now you're playing a junior event,  which is kind of ... boring now, in a sense. I understand why Cole said it was frustrating.

"You basically played with the guys who ... there's no one better."

This week at Sage Valley, Chaplet is playing with some of the best junior golfers in the world in a 54-man field with players from 14 different countries on a pristine golf course that rivals some of the strongest layouts in the country.

If any of this is a problem, it's a truly excellent problem to have, and to his credit, Chaplet is doing well to keep his unique situation in perspective.

"I respect every player here. Obviously, they're the top 54 players in junior golf. It's not going to be easy," he said. "You can't just be like, 'Yeah, I should be winning these tournaments.' Just because someone played in the Masters, they're not better than you. You've got more experience than them, because you've learned from professionals1. But now it's applying that and learning how to manage yourself on the golf course like a professional, not a junior."

Chaplet will continue to apply those lessons as he plays his next 36 holes at Sage Valley, tries to qualify for two more majors, the U.S. Open and Open Championship, and eventually sets his sights on a growing pile of scholarship offers.

"As you know, I didn't do great at the Masters. I would've wished to do a lot better," he said. "But life is life and golf is golf and I can't ask for more than what I'm doing now - playing the Masters, getting a week off and then playng here. Overall, it's just been a great three weeks and I'm trying to enjoy every moment of it."