By Taylor Fortney
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
It is the hallowed ground of golf. It is a course that has been played by the best of the best but conquered by few.
It is Augusta National.
Located on the east side of Georgia, Augusta is host annually to the first of four majors, The Masters, which begins today and features seven amateurs, one of which is Texas Tech’s Matias Dominguez.
Dominguez, only the second Chilean to qualify for The Masters, will follow in legendary footsteps of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as he competes with the top professionals in the world this weekend.
“It’s going to be awesome to play there (Masters Tournament) with the best of the best,” said Dominguez, a native of Santiago, Chile, this past week.
Dominguez earned his invitation to The Masters by winning the inaugural Latin American Amateur Championship back in January where he shot a combined score of 11-under-par to stave off a competitive crowd of 108 other golfers.
“It was an unbelievable feeling that I've never felt before - not even close," Dominguez said of winning the LAAC title. "It was a lot of pressure and different emotions going everywhere and almost impossible to control them. At the end of the 18th hole there was just a lot of satisfaction."
Dominguez was one of three Texas Tech golfers who finished in the top-15, and Texas Tech head coach Greg Sands was both pleased and excited with how the tournament finished.
"This is a great opportunity for Matias and we’re thrilled at what he has done," Sands said. "He has worked so hard just to get to this point and to see him to do so well is really satisfying.”
With the LAAC title in the rearview mirror and the invitation to Augusta accepted, Dominguez shifts his focus to competing in The Masters where he will tee off at 11:20 CT this afternoon alongside Angel Cabrera and Louis Oosthuizen.
“I’m starting to get anxious and nervous about it,” Dominguez said with a laugh.
Dominguez previously traveled to Augusta earlier this year to practice on the course, where he said the nerves settled a bit. He was also part of the Tech contingent who played the illustrious course a year ago.
“Well the course is in great shape,” Dominguez said. “And I’ve felt really comfortable. I was impressed the last time I went because I left the course saying, ‘Hey I’m playing really good, it fits me well, and I’m confident.’”
That confidence was on full display Wednesday when he impressed the Augusta gallery and a nationally-televised audience with an ace on hole No. 4 of the annual Par 3 Challenge.
Sands was among the first to high-five Dominguez as he made his way along the gallery, celebrating a shot that will likely go down as one of the most memorable in his still-young career.
Dominguez wrapped the Par 3 Contest with a 4-under 23 on the nine-hole course, another solid round at Augusta National where he acknowledged he had found success in previous practice rounds.
“I feel good on the course,” Dominguez said. “I’ve been scoring well, and I think that has really helped my confidence.”
Augusta National is known for the lighting fast putting greens, and Dominguez noted that it isn’t just the speed that makes the greens some of the toughest in the world.
“The greens were not as fast at this point, but they are about to get a lot faster,” Dominguez said.” But the breaks are crazy. It’s nothing like you see on television all the time. When you actually get to those greens, they move so much.”
Previous Masters champions have claimed the green jacket by minimizing mistakes, notably on the green where a few extra strokes can be the difference in making the cut or being in contention on Sunday.
“They [the greens] move everywhere. There is no flat putt, and there is no straight putt,” Dominguez said. “You have to be really careful with some holes. You can be four feet away and end up 60 feet away or even in the water, so you have to be really careful with it.”
At the end of the day, however, Dominguez is focused on taking in the complete experience.
“Well, for now, I just don't have many expectations,” Dominguez said. “I just want to enjoy the time there. And for sure, try to get to know everybody and just, again, enjoy that time with my family and friends.”