Sunday, April 13, 2003

Amateur hour goes on for trio

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Hunter Mahan got a couple of autographs from Jack Nicklaus, then sent the Golden Bear on his way. The college kid had a weekend tee time at the Masters. He wasn't the only one.

Three amateurs are hanging around Augusta National right to the end, while bigger names like Nicklaus and David Duval caught early flights out of town.

For only the second time in the last 18 years, three members of the play-for-free crowd made the cut at the Masters. That's a change from the last two years, when no amateurs got to play more than 36 holes.

"Bobby Jones embodied amateur golf," said Mahan, referring to the Augusta National founder who never turned pro. "It's great to see the amateurs playing so well here."

This group - Mahan, Ricky Barnes and Ryan Moore - isn't content to goof off in the Crow's Nest and stuff themselves with peach cobbler.

Barnes was the first amateur since 1961 to play in one of the final two groups on the weekend. He even spent a good part of Saturday near the top of the leaderboard before fading on the back nine to finish with a 75.

While discouraged by his finish, Barnes was able to relish the moment. He spent the morning playing with Tiger Woods, finishing the rain-delayed second round, then hooked up with Phil Mickelson in the afternoon.

"I was having fun out there," said Barnes, just seven shots behind leader Jeff Maggert with a 2-over 218. "I kind of got into it. They're not paying me anything, so I might as well get something out of it."

Mahan was also at 218, while Moore was at 222. They were holding up just fine on a course that has played extremely tough this week, leaving just seven players under par heading into the final round.

"I'm just trying to beat everyone out here," Mahan said.

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