AUGUSTA: Reigning US Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci (pix) follows a family tradition this week by playing in his first Masters over the same iconic Augusta National layout his grandfather tested in 1938.
Strafaci, among six golfers making a Masters debut Thursday, is the grandson of Frank Strafaci Sr., who played in the 1938 and 1950 Masters and who finished ninth at the 1937 US Open.
“I never got to meet my grandfather, but he has been a very integral part of my life,” Tyler Strafaci said. “He was a huge part in how I was raised, how my father raised me.
“My grandfather came from nothing. He came from Italy, his family did, and he became a great amateur golfer. He had quite the unbelievable career coming from no money. He was very inspirational.
“So just being in the Masters and playing a tournament that he did, it’s a dream come true.”
Strafaci Sr. won the 1935 US Amateur Public Links title and the North and South Amateur crown in 1938 and 1939, a title Tyler took last July, some 81 years later.
Strafaci Sr.’s Masters debut was a unique one. In 1938, he fired rounds of 74 74 and 82 and was 15 strokes off the pace. He withdrew before a Monday final round so he could compete in the North and South Amateur, where he won the first of back-to-back titles.
“It just shows how the tournament has changed over the years where my grandfather actually withdrew from the Masters to play in a tournament other than the Masters,” Strafaci said.
“If I did that, I don’t think I would ever be invited back.”
Strafaci Sr., who eventually became golf director at Doral, returned to the Masters as an amateur in 1950 and finished 58th. His player badge is in Tyler’s father’s office.
“We have a very cool artifact,” Tyler said. “It’s this big bronze medal with the clubhouse and it says ‘Contestant’ on it. It’s very similar to the badge that members get that they have on their bags.
“And that has been in my dad’s office. He hasn’t let me touch it pretty much my whole life, but I’ve gone there and touched it a few times. It’s really cool just seeing that part of history in his office.”
Tyler’s father, Frank Strafaci Jr., has served as his caddie and played Augusta National with his son in a practice round last week.
“That was probably as cool of an experience as I’ll ever have in my life, just that connection with my grandfather, walking the same grounds he did,” Tyler Strafaci said. “It was cool for him because he heard stories growing up from my grandfather playing Augusta.
“I needed support and need him there for me because it’s going to be a nerve-wracking week just being in an uncomfortable situation, and I’m looking forward to it. This has already been the coolest experience of my life.”
He will play the first two rounds alongside reigning Masters champion and world number one Dustin Johnson as well as 47-year-old Lee Westwood of England.
“It’s going to be fun,” Strafaci said. “I feel like I’m going to do really well once I get past that first tee shot.” – AFP