One of the great things about this tournament is the emphasis given to the amateurs and the opportunity for them to play the Augusta National layout. It was of great importance to co-founder Bobby Jones, perhaps the greatest amateur this game has ever seen.
The 2004 edition of the Masters will have one current collegiate player in the field.
Oklahoma State freshman Casey Wittenberg is making the trip to Augusta, Ga., after finishing runner-up at the 2003 U.S. Amateur. One of his playing partners for the first two roundssome guy named Tiger.
Much was expected of this 19-year-old the moment he set foot on the OSU campus. While he has yet to win a college event, he has been the mainstay for Mike Holders team. Filled with an abundance of confidence, Wittenberg has been mislabeled according to Holder. The legendary coach says people mistake Caseys intensity for arrogance, but Wittenberg will understand the balance as he gets older and matures.
After sitting down with Holder and Wittenberg recently, I found Casey to be quite pleasant and well spoken. He will also tell you exactly what is on his mind. Its refreshing in my estimation to see such a talented player be so candid in front on the camera.
When I asked Holder about the potential of the Memphis, Tenn., native he answered with a very revealing stat. In Holders memory, only two players have entered college as the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world. The first was Tiger Woods. Thee second? You guessed it, Casey Wittenberg.
Only time will tell how well he will perform in college and beyond, but this week might very well be the first of many trips to Augusta in April for Wittenberg.
For more on Casey, be sure to tune in Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m. (ET) for College Central presented by PING.
Email your thoughts to Steve Burkowski