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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - April 8, 2011

Playing out his dream

Stanford's David Chung tees it up in the Masters for first time

by Jim Young

As a young boy growing up in Fayetteville, N.C., David Chung fondly remembers playing golf with his father, Christian, early in the morning on Masters Sunday, then hurrying home to watch the final round of the tournament he and thousands of other junior golfers his age could only dream of playing in one day.

He remembers the 1997 Masters, when a 21-year old Tiger Woods, just a few years removed from Stanford, won his first green jacket with a record-setting score of 270 (-18), earning a 12-stroke victory over Tom Kite.

In 2006, David and his father made the 3 1/2-hour drive down the I-70 from Fayetteville to attend their first Masters together as patrons. The experience left him awestruck.

"Every blade of grass is perfect," said Chung. "You can't help not to get caught up in the history and prestige of Augusta National. It gave me chills."

Fast forward to August of 2010 when Chung, now firmly established as one of the top amateur players in the world, stood on the first tee at Chambers Bay Golf Course prior to his match against Ben Ahn in the semifinals of the United States Amateur Men's Championship. A victory not only would secure a spot in the 36-hole championship match, but would assure the winner a spot in the Masters.

After closing out Ahn on the 18th hole to earn a 1-up victory, this one time child prodigy who was introduced to the game by riding around in a golf cart with his father at the age of four, had seen one of his golfing dreams come true. David Chung had earned a spot in the field at the Masters.

"I think I was more nervous before that match than the finals, knowing a trip to Augusta was a possibility," remembers Chung.

As one of this year's participants, David was afforded the opportunity to play Augusta National for the first time over winter break.

"It was December 27 and there was only one other group on the entire course, so I had the course all to myself," recalls Chung, who was accompanied by his father. "Driving down Magnolia Lane for the first time was a special experience I will never forget. We purposely slowed down so we could savor every minute of the drive."

Once on the course, it didn't take Chung long to realize he more than had his work cut out for him.

"I didn't realize how difficult the course is to walk because every approach shot appears to be uphill. The temperature was in the mid-40's and the course felt like it played 8,000 yards. I thought it was the longest golf course I've ever played and greens are so demanding."

Chung managed to sneak in another practice round at Augusta on March 25 prior to Stanford's appearance in the Linger Longer Invitational, which was held in nearby Greensboro, Ga. After the tournament, he chose to travel straight to Augusta with his family to begin preparing for his first Masters in earnest.

"I am certainly glad that I was able to spend some time here before tournament week," said Chung, who is bunking in the Crow's Nest above the famed Augusta National Clubhouse, with the other amateurs who are in this year's field. Tiger Woods also stayed there in his first trip to Augusta.

"There is no other place in the world like the National, with its mystic and history. J.J. Weaver, one of the head professionals at Augusta, said amateurs need to visit this place as often as possible before the event to get rid of some of that "awe" factor. I'm hoping my extra time here will help me concentrate on my game."

Chung, who will be paired with 1988 Masters champion Sandy Lyle and Alex Cejka of Germany in the first two rounds, thinks the ability to drive the ball well will be one of his many keys to success this week. He will also rely heavily on a longtime Augusta caddy, known as "Rowdy" to guide him around the course.

"I have to drive the ball well, no doubt about it. I'm confident with my approach shots but the key is to get in the right position, both in the fairway and on the greens, to give myself a chance."

Chung managed to play a practice round last Sunday with PGA standouts Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy, along with Oklahoma State standout and U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein.

"For the first several holes, I was pretty nervous but they are all great guys and their easy going demeanors helped me to settle down. I am going to try to play with as many professionals as possible before the tournament begins on Thursday. Anthony Kim and I share the same swing coach so I will be practicing with him. I hope to play with Tiger, as well."

Chung mentioned Woods, who will be gunning for his fifth green jacket, gave him a welcome embrace on the putting green.

"That was pretty special."

When asked about his goals for the week, Chung plays it pretty close to the vest, saying nothing more than he will try to play to play his best.

Good enough - for hasn't that been the approach that got him to Augusta in the first place?

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