AUGUSTA: Italian schoolboy Matteo Manassero produced more record-breaking exploits at the Augusta Masters, becoming the youngest player in the history of the event to make the halfway cut.
Ten days shy of his 17th birthday, the amateur from Verona added a battling second- round score of 76 to erase 18-year-old Bob Cole from the record books, who played all four rounds in 1967.
Manssero, playing with Lee Westwood and former Masters winner Mike Weir, ducked under par with a 71 on Thursday and his three over total of 147 was right on the cut. He was happy to have survived, he said, but not too happy with his play.
“I’m very happy that the cut is staying at 3-over (par) and that I will make the cut that I struggled for today, because I didn’t play that well, like yesterday,” said the golfing prodigy. “Yesterday I played perfectly from first to 18. Today I mostly struggled but I saved some good pars and I made 4-over.”
Destined for golf Manassero, who bears a striking resemblence to the young Seve Ballesteros, his boyhood idol, is getting used to setting age records. He was the youngest-ever winner of the British Amateur Open last year and that qualified him for a crack at this year’s Masters, where he was the youngest player ever to compete in the tournament.
He is the first amateur since 2005 to play in the final two rounds, and he is already assured of finishing top amateur this year as he is the only one to make the cut. Last year, he played in the British Open at Turnberry and won the Silver Medal, which goes to the top amateur finisher. It’s all enough to go to a young man’s head, but Manaserro insists he will be keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground.
“I always want to stay level since that’s the education that my parents gave me,” he said.
“I dream for something like the Masters, but I try always to stay as level as I can. I don’t know in which way, but I’ve done it.”
A fervent fan of Italian football giants AC Milan, Manaserro said that he played the team sport from an early age as well as golf which his parents introduced him to at the age of three. Eventually he had to make a choice and he chose golf. “I’m better at golf, so I kept golf,” he said.
The long years ahead It will be a hectic few weeks for Manaserro because when he leaves Augusta, he will head home and will turn pro at next month’s Italian Open. His aim would be to secure his place on the European PGA Tour through the seven invitations that he has been offered and if that fails, he will turn to the secondary Challenge Tour and the qualifying school at the end of the year.
Asked if he hoped one day to become the youngest ever Masters winner, Manaserro replied: “Maybe -- but I’m dreaming about being the Masters champion - at what age, I don’t mind actually.”
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