Martin's wet, wildmajor fun

Martin

AUGUSTA -- Ben Martin knew he had no prayer in Amen Corner as he put on a splash-proof vest and removed both golf shoes.

"I should have gone for it in two, but I decided to lay up," Martin said of his Friday adventure on the par-5 No. 13 hole at Augusta National. "Then I just fatted a third shot in the creek."

The twisting little tributary to Rae's Creek has ruined the rounds of better players than Martin, a 22-year-old Clemson senior playing in his first Masters.

Already struggling at 7 over for the tournament and realizing he wouldn't make the cut, the kid made the best of it on the way to a triple-bogey.

"I figured I'd have some fun and go down there and hit it," Martin said.

He found the ball "one-third under water" off the edge of the green. He adjusted his wardrobe.

The crowd loved it.

"Some people started cheering when I took my shoes off," Martin said. "I really didn't know how it was going to come out. I asked my caddie, 'You ever hit one of these before?' He was like, 'Nope.' "

Chip.

Two-putt.

Sigh.

"Just having fun out there after that," Martin said. "I had no chance to play on the weekend so I was just taking it all in and enjoying the walks around 15 and 16 and up 18."

Between U.S. Opens

The 5-11, 155-pound Financial Management major qualified for the Masters via a runner-up finish at the 2009 U.S. Amateur. Martin also played in the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black (made the cut) and will play in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach before turning pro.

Shock the world and win or finish last at Augusta, Martin's golf career already has been a triumph.

You have to have heart to play this game at a high level.

Martin had heart problems. As a Clemson sophomore, the Greenwood native took a brief golf leave to deal with viral issues in his heart lining. Martin has excelled for two years without medication.

He is only the third Clemson golfer to play in a Masters while still in school, joining Chris Patton (1990) and D.J. Trahan (2001).

Martin was more familiar with the Augusta National layout than the typical student of the game. His knowledge was gained not merely from TV or computer game analysis but step-by-step experience; James and Suzie Martin regularly brought their son across the Savannah River to see Masters rounds.

Still, this grand patch of land, an esteemed nursery turned golf shrine, is not your typical college tournament venue. Just a few weeks ago, Martin was competing for Clemson at the Hootie at Bull's Bay event in Awendaw. He finished 41st.

Ben thanks Ben

Next up: The Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Tournament in New London, N.C., in two weeks.

"It will be a little different," Martin said, "with four or five people watching."

Different 24 hours a day. As a Masters amateur invitee, Martin got to spend two nights in Augusta National's fabled Crow's Nest accommodations atop the most photographed clubhouse in golf.

He played Thursday and Friday with two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw.

"I don't think you can play with a better guy out there," Martin said. "He's always pulling for you. If you watch him when other guys are putting, he's wanting the ball to go in."

Everyone wanted Martin's ball to go in when it came flying out of the creek. This amateur is pretty smart, having graduated second in his class at Greenwood High School. Maybe in his first Masters as a professional, he will go for the green in two and won't need a vest and extra socks.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.