Amateur Goss shows clutch ability Friday at Masters

Oliver Goss shot a 1-under 71 in the second round of the 2014 Masters and will most likely be the only amateur to make the cut.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Oliver Goss won the 2012 Western Australian Open by birdieing the last two holes in regulation play and then birdieing four of five holes in a sudden-death playoff.

“He’s really good in pressure situations,” said Ritchie Smith, a national coach for Golf Australia.

The amateur Goss proved that point Friday at Augusta, scrambling to shoot 1-under 71 as the wind began to swirl. The Tennessee sophomore’s 3-over total means he’ll celebrate his 20th birthday with a Saturday tee time at the Masters.

“I’m really proud of myself for stepping it up when I needed to,” said Goss, who made two solid pars on the finishing holes downwind.

Goss’ game is anchored on the strengths of impressive length and a solid short game. On Tuesday during a practice round, Goss hit a second drive on the 15th and noticed his club started making a funny noise. After the round, Goss discovered that he’d cracked the clubface in the sweet spot. The folks in the Cleveland truck quickly put on a new driver head and he was back in business.

“He was hitting it past Adam (Scott) with a broken driver,” Smith said. “He hits it angry.”

Goss said he drives the ball an average of 310 yards. He hit 3-wood on one of two measuring holes this week 270 into the wind.

Perhaps it was the water balloons Darren Goss filled for his oldest boy to smash at age 2 that first got him swinging hard. Goss’ father, a builder in Perth, also constructed a little five-hole course in the family’s backyard.

Darren first put a club in Oliver’s hands when he was only 18 months old. After his son’s first swing, Darren called his wife into the room. They were onto something.

“For a dad, he’s a dream come true,” said Darren, beaming with pride on the 14th fairway.

When “Gossy” was 6 years old, the family joined Perth’s Royal Fremantle Golf Club. Darren’s work ended by early afternoon and he often picked up Oliver from school and took him to the club for a father-son match. Even when Oliver became better on paper, dad still gave him a good match. Oliver said they usually picked one hole where they’d try to “put each other off,” jiggling keys or talking trash. No one can get to Oliver like his dad, making him crack up every single time.

“He’s a huge motivation,” Oliver said.

Darren’s confidence in his son surely has a calming influence. He’s as positive as they come, explaining the water balloons in three simple words: “Golf is fun!”

It certainly is this week, anyway, where Oliver and his parents are joined by girlfriend Jessie and her family. When Darren fell ill Wednesday, Paula and Jessie took turns carrying the bag for Oliver at the Par 3 Contest. Jessie studies turfgrass management at Tennessee, so she’s had plenty to take in this week.

Goss’ runner-up finish at last year’s U.S. Amateur also gets him a spot in this year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst. The members at Royal Fremantle had a fundraiser in December to help the Goss family with their expenses for the trip to America.

Last month, Smith flew to the U.S. to spend two days with Goss at Augusta and two days at Pinehurst. The coach believes these two majors could go a long way in growing Goss’ belief that he belongs out here. While Goss said he could turn pro in the next few months or in the next couple years, Smith seems more clear on subject.

“If he plays well in these two events,” Smith said, “he’s crazy not to.”

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