Aaron Jarvis – The Masters’ Uncommon Amateur

Amidst the chaos surrounding the will he, won’t he adventures of Tiger Woods, another standalone athlete silently prepares for a defining experience of his own at the Masters.

For this young golfer, there will be no frantic retweets of flight paths, no highly-publicised practice rounds, and no atmospheric photographs of him practicing a week early on Augusta National’s famed putting green.

He will not have the world held in fit-to-burst anticipation of his opening tee shot on Thursday, and he will not be in attendance at this year’s Champions Dinner. He will, however, become the first golfer to represent the Cayman Islands in a major golf championship; no mean feat when one considers the entire country has just 27 holes on which to hone his craft.

Aaron Jarvis began his sporting career playing soccer. The inspiration to play golf came from his older brother, who competed in the Caribbean Amateur Championships held on the Cayman Islands in 2013. Jarvis proved to be rather handy with a golf club and according to the Islands’ national newspaper, the Cayman Compass, he swiftly began impressing the country’s small golfing community with his obvious talent.

After Jarvis won several of the Caribbean’s more prestigious junior titles, his parents took the decision to move to Florida for their son to attend high school. Perhaps more significantly for his golfing development, he was also within striking distance of the world-renowned Leadbetter golf academy. This is where swift progress saw him claim three world amateur titles and secure a place at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

How someone like Aaron Jarvis worked his way into the Masters

So, how does a talented young man from the Cayman Islands end up cruising down Magnolia Lane? Well, strictly speaking, there are five ways for an amateur golfer to achieve this most bold of dreams. If we are being pedantic about things then I suppose it’s possible for an amateur to win the Olympic gold medal, but let’s be sensible.

The five most achievable roads that lead to the Masters are the Amateur Championships: US, British, Asia-Pacific, US Mid-Am…and Latin American. It was victory in the latter that provided Jarvis with that most coveted of invitations; a victory at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog Golf Course, attended by all the fiercest supporters of his career to date. However, it was not easy; in fact, it was almost wrenched from his grasp in an agonising twist of fate, as he stood greenside at the 18th having posted a clubhouse lead of seven-under.

Two guys could steal Aaron Jarvis’ dream as he stood by that 18th green, and they were both coming down the fairway. It was a par-5, playing downwind. One rival, Argentinian Vicente Marzilio, needed an eagle to tie at seven-under.

His Brazilian playing partner Fred Biondi was much more dangerous; already at six-under, an eagle would see him steal the crown whilst a birdie would call for extra holes. Now, I have watched the replay of this and it could easily have been the worst piece of luck (for Aaron Jarvis) that I have ever seen – we’re talking Paul Casey finding-a-fairway-pitchmark-style bad luck. As Marzilio struck his second shot – needing an eagle to tie – it was clearly not enough to reach the green. It was landing short, which would give Jarvis and his entourage the license to heave a sigh of relief.

And land short it did – directly onto a sprinkler head. The resulting cart-path-style bounce assisted Marzilio’s ball to the tune of around 20 yards, putting him six or seven feet from the hole with a very real chance at eagle. The more dangerous of the two, Biondi, flared his approach to the right and could not chip it close, managing only a disappointing par to finish one back.

So it all came down to Vicente Marzilio and his seven-footer for a playoff-forcing eagle. As the crowd watched on, he lined it up and sent it on its way. As the ball made the journey from putter-head to hole, it looked in all the way on the broadcast. It must have flashed before Aaron Jarvis’ eyes; the junior victories, the family sacrifices, the Leadbetter Academy, Magnolia Lane, and the tradition like no other, the Masters. As the ball entered the hole, it did that most frustrating of things; the thing that weekend golfers all around the world call a card-wrecker, the inspiration for many a putter-throw. It lipped out.

And now, here we are. It is April and the Masters tournament is almost upon us. Aaron Jarvis prevailed in Casa de Campo, which earned him his place in the field. According to his post-round interview, his goal is to make the cut and earn the prestigious title of low amateur, and he is apparently unfazed by the presence of the world’s greatest players:

“It is you against the course. There’s obviously players in the field of the highest quality, but you just have to manage yourself.”

I, for one, will be keeping an eye on Aaron Jarvis over the course of the week. Let’s see if he manages to maintain this attitude if he gets paired with Tiger Woods, hey? Whatever happens, it will be a wonderful experience for him personally and a great sign of hope for every young amateur in the Cayman Islands and beyond; a message that one day, it could be them playing in the Masters.