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Matsuyama earns amateur accolade

Monday, April 11, 2011

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When Hideki Matsuyama approached the first tee Sunday, he knew he was within range of a top-16 finish and a spot in next year's Masters Tournament.

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne presents the silver cup trophy for low amateur to Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, the only amateur to play the weekend. He finished at 1-under, tied for 27th. (Michael Holahan/Staff)

The 2010 Asian Amateur champion had thought about not making the trip to play in the Masters after the earthquake and tsunami in his native Japan. Still, here he was Sunday, at 4-under in the tournament through eight holes and in solid shape for securing a spot in next year's tournament.

He made four bogeys in the final 10 holes, though, with only one birdie, to end his dreams of an automatic invite, but he still had one more memorable moment.

As he walked up the hill on the last hole, the gallery applauded.

"That just gave me chills, and I was very happy to hear that," Matsuyama said through an interpreter. "Also, that I was able to finish up with a birdie."

Matsuyama, the winner of the silver cup for low amateur because he was the only remaining one after the cut, holed a short birdie putt to end his tournament at 1-under, which put him in a tie for 27th place.

He was cheered as he left the hole, raising his cap to acknowledge the standing ovation some fans gave him and his partner, Y.E. Yang. A few hours later, Matsuyama got another huge cheer as he was given the cup in a ceremony after the tournament.

Matsuyama birdies No. 3 in the final round. Four bogeys down the stretch robbed him of an automatic invitation for 2012. (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

Matsuyama, 19, said he will finish college and hopes to again win the Asian Amateur Championship to return to Augusta.

Until then, he wants to make an impact off the course. He will return to Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, where he said he will be staying in a damaged dorm with plans to help others.

"I will volunteer over there," Matsuyama said. "I think that will be a refreshing experience, to get away from golf and do something different."

Reach Wayne Staats at (706) 823-3425 or wayne.staats@augustachronicle.com.

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