Nate was blessed with the opportunity to walk inside the ropes at one of the most prestigious sporting events after Mike earned an invitation by winning the 2013 United States Mid-Amateur Championship.
Nate, who is in his third season as a professional golfer, knows a little bit about the game of golf, too. Nate was a First-Team All-Big 12 golfer for Iowa State, becoming the first Cyclone to play in the NCAA finals since 1980. Nate tied for 29th at the 2012 NCAA Championships at the famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The 2012 Iowa State Male Athlete of the Year will forever cherish his Masters experience. He shared with us his unique memories at Augusta National Golf Club in this Q&A.
What was your initial impression of Augusta National?
“It was a really cool experience. We didn’t play great, but my dad and I had a really good time together. I was really surprised how hilly the course was and how much slope there is around the greens. The hills are gigantic. There are some holes where if you are in the wrong spot on the green, you may not be able to keep it on the green. Most of the greens slope toward Rae’s Creek. There are so many things you have to take into account.”
What were the galleries like?
“To see everybody around the greens and all the people in the gallery was awesome. On No. 18, in our practice round, my dad had a 250-yard approach shot up the hill where he had to slice a 3-wood around a tree. He hit it to about a foot. Just to hear the crowd roar for his shot was something I will never forget.”
What was it like when you first drove up Magnolia Lane?
“I was with my dad so I could drive into the grounds through Magnolia Lane and not where the patrons park. You first see the giant Magnolia trees on both sides, and then you see the “Founders Circle” with the Augusta logo with flowers and the clubhouse. It’s inspiring. The first day I was there I got to go up to the “Crow’s Nest.” It’s pure golf up there. It looks like the rooms from the 1930s. The only thing that looked modern in there was a TV. Everything was perfect.”
How did the other caddies treat you?
“They were great. I actually became friends with Jordan Spieth’s caddy (Michael Greller: Greller is a 1996 graduate of MOC-Floyd Valley in Orange City, Iowa and a 2000 graduate of Northwestern [Iowa] in Orange City). He knew my Dad and he was very gracious. We ended up talking a lot. He told me that compared to every other course on the PGA Tour, Augusta National was the second hardest walk because of all of the hills. It was both our first times seeing the course and we spent a lot of time talking about how cool it was. I got to talk with Steve Williams (Tiger Woods’ former caddie and current caddie for Adam Scott). You can tell on the course he really takes care of his players, but behind the scenes he was a really good guy. Also talked with “Fluff” (Mike Cowan: Tiger Woods’ former caddie and current caddy for Jim Furyk). We talked about Iowa a lot because he played golf at William Penn. He remembered playing Des Moines Golf and Country Club and Wakonda when he was living in Iowa. That was pretty cool.”
Talk about some of the experiences you had meeting the professional golfers?
“I talked with Gary Woodland and Fred Couples. Couples really stood out for me. He was really a down-to-earth guy. He was really polite with us. We played practice rounds and the first two rounds with Larry Mize (1987 Masters winner) and practice rounds with Zach Johnson (2007 Masters winner). I got to meet Justin Rose (2013 U.S. Open winner). I played against Jordan Spieth (University of Texas) in college, and we talked briefly. All of the guys were really nice.”
Did you ask Larry Mize about one of the most famous shots in Masters history when he chipped in on No. 11 to defeat Greg Norman in a playoff for the 1987 Masters?
“Mize was one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. I told him his putting stroke was one of the best I have ever seen. When he takes it back, it looks like it is going in every time. I never brought it up to him, but when we were on No. 11 together, I was certainly thinking about it. I remembered the video of the jump he made after he made it. I asked him how many Masters he’s played in and he said 31. He knows every spot of the course and the fans love him.”
All of the holes at Augusta National are daunting, but which hole stood out the most for you?
“No. 12 is really a hard par-3. The wind really does swirl there. A lot of newer courses are making par-3s at over 200 yards, but all the great par-3s are short. There are not a lot of great par-3s over 200 yards long in my opinion. That’s what shows you what a great hole it is because it is just 155 yards. That hole can play so many tricks on you. I saw a lot of guys hit it in the water during the week. It’s really difficult. You can’t go long either because you would have a chip downhill toward the water coming back.”
How has your experience helped you in your career advancement?
“One of the things I learned is that these guys are really good, but they make mistakes just like everyone else. Zach Johnson told me that driving distance is the most overrated stat on the Tour. The clubs he works on the most are his putter and wedges. All of these guys keep the game simple. They also work really hard on their game. You can see it when they are on the range. I saw a lot of confident and humble guys.”
Talk about your next move this summer professionally?
“I am going back to the Canadian Tour Q-School (May 6-9) to try and get my card back for the summer. In May, I will do the U.S. Open local qualifier. If I don’t get my Canadian Tour card, I will play in the local state professional tournaments like the Waterloo Open and Cedar Rapids Open. Hopefully I can play in Canada because it is such a good pathway to the Web.com Tour. I feel like I am making good strides and progress with my game.”