After the Masters, Auburn's Jovan Rebula focused on SEC championship

Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports

After the Masters, Auburn's Jovan Rebula focused on SEC championship

Digital Edition

After the Masters, Auburn's Jovan Rebula focused on SEC championship

By

AUBURN, Ala. — Jovan Rebula’s favorite golf major had always been the British Open. It’s the only one played outside the U.S., and it has been won by South Africans like himself more than any of the other three.

His uncle, Ernie Els, won it twice — at Muirfield in 2002 and at Royal Lytham in 2012. If there was one major Rebula could choose to win some day, that would be it.

But getting to play at the Masters at Augusta National might have changed the Auburn junior’s mind a little bit.

“You don’t realize how prestigious that golf tournament is until you actually get there,” Rebula said.

It was the continuation of a whirlwind journey that began when he won the 123rd British Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen on June 23 of last year. The Western Cape, South Africa, native was already a decorated college and amateur golfer, but that victory earned him exemptions into the 2018 British Open at Carnoustie (he missed the cut at 16 over par), 2019 Masters and 2019 U.S. Open (June 13-16 at Pebble Beach).

Rebula fared much better at the Masters than he did in his first major. He missed the cut at 8 over but was just 1 over going into the back nine of his second round, which would have placed him inside the cut line.

He went on to double bogey 11, 12 and 14, but that doesn’t take anything away from what he described more than once as a “special” experience.

On Thursday, he sat down with the Advertiser at the Jack Key Golf Teaching Facility to talk about the Masters.

What’s that experience like, getting to play in that tournament on that course?

REBULA: “With how prestigious that place is, and the tournament itself, it was unbelievable to play it as any kind of golfer. To play it as a professional, it’s just tough to get into. Playing it as an amateur, it’s just really special. The way they treated us during the week was awesome. We had an amateur dinner on Monday night, which was dedicated basically just towards us and to welcome us and stuff like that. That golf tournament, they make it special for the pros, but I think they really try to make an effort to make it special for the amateurs, which is really special. That’s something that I enjoyed, for sure.”

What was it like once you were out there playing on the course?

“You’re a little bit nervous the first couple of days. Obviously, that first tee shot was a little nerve-racking, but it was fun. I hit a good shot down the middle of the fairway. During the week, it was just so much fun. I just embraced the amount of people that were there, the crowds and stuff. They were very generous. That’s something that I enjoy, is playing in front of people and stuff like that, so that was a cool experience for me, to play with some of the top players in the world. That was special for me.”

What was it like to play with Vijay Singh and Billy Horschel during the first two rounds?

“It’s actually a cool story. The guy that caddied for me this week (Cayce Kerr), he actually caddied at Augusta for the past 30 years at the Masters, and he used to caddie for Vijay. He caddied for Vijay when he won the golf tournament (in 2000). So that was pretty sweet. Playing with Vijay, I was so happy when I saw that draw come out, to be able to play with a world-class player is something really special.”

Your uncle, Ernie Els, played at the Masters 23 times from 1994-2017. Did he give you any advice?

“Yeah. He actually helped me throughout. Since Tuesday, he called me every single day, in the morning, at night … there’s so much — you can compare that golf course to a chess board, I would say. You just need to position yourself properly on that golf course. You don’t have to necessarily be the longest hitter out there. As long as you hit it in the right spots, that’s kind of how you can work your way around. That’s kind of what my uncle helped me out with — just kind of where to hit balls and where to miss shots and stuff like that. We were on the phone a good bit. He was very engaged with me and texted me during the week. It was cool.”

Are there any moments from the week that stand out the most?

“That amateur dinner was something really special. Something I didn’t expect to be so fun. To be at a dinner with all of the members — Bryson DeChambeau was there, also. He spoke for a little bit, which was really cool. That what stood out to me, for sure. Then we had a practice round on Monday, played nine holes with some South African guys — Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Justin Harding. To be able to play a practice round with a former Masters champion was something really special, too, with Charl (2011).”

What do you take away from your experience at the Masters?

“I’ve definitely seen that I can play. I played the first 29 holes — I was in there, in the mix, making the cut comfortably. I kind of just had a span of three, four holes that kind of kicked me out of the tournament on the back nine. It just gave me a lot of belief that I can be in position to compete with those guys. I know that I’m going to get better with what I’m doing and I’m going to get more experience. Honestly, I can see myself being there one day very soon again.”

Now you’re back in Auburn, and you have the SEC championship and NCAA Tournament coming up. What are the goals for the rest of the season?

“The moment I walked out of Augusta, my mind was on the next couple of college events and mentally preparing for them. I feel like we have a good chance. We’ve got to do something special to defend our title at SECs (April 24-28 in St. Simons Island, Georgia) and try and maybe even win nationals. That’s definitely what’s on my mind.” Gwk

 

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home