When the 2022 Masters kicks off tomorrow at the famed Augusta National Golf Club, 21-year-old Tar Heel Austin Oiler will live the dream of every young golfer in the world playing with and against some of the greatest golfers of all time.
Greaser, a junior on Carolina’s top-10 ranked golf team, earned an invite to play both the Masters and US Open in June by advancing to the States Amateur final. United 2021, which was played last August at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. Greaser defeated four top-ranked opponents to reach the final, where he lost 2-1 in a nationally televised match to Michigan State’s James Piot.
The opportunity to play in the Masters was certainly on Greaser’s mind even before the final 36-hole match.
“I actually called coach (Andrew) DiBitetto the night after the quarter-finals and his wife, Laree, gave me a pretty good pep talk because as a player you know what means the semi-final match,” Greaser said. “You can’t not think about it. The first thing that comes to mind if you win your semi-final is to play the US Open. Then in recent years the two finalists have also been invited to the Masters I didn’t think about it on the course. I was more worried about executing my game plan, but it’s definitely on the back of your head.
Greaser received unofficial word from Augusta in early September, coinciding nicely with his first collegiate victory, when he fired a shot from 168 yards on the 54and and final hole to defeat a strong national ranking in the Olympia Fields Fighting Illini Invitational. The actual invitation to play in the Masters and face world-class players like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson came as a Christmas present on December 22.
“Augusta is the coolest place in the world,” Greaser says, “and playing against those guys is super cool. You can watch them on TV all the time and you yearn to be like them and play against them. But this is where I imagined myself playing with the best on the biggest stage. I’ve always imagined myself here since I was little. That’s what I train for.
Greaser has had several opportunities to practice at Augusta since the fall and will have played the course eight to 10 times before hitting the first round. Seeing up close and personal the hallowed grounds where many of golf’s most historic moments came to fruition only added to the Greaser experience.
“I’ve seen them hit the great shots they hit here, all the memories of Tiger like the chip on 16 in 2005 and his record breaking performance in 1997. It’s just a special place to be able to tie him up alongside some of the best players in the world.”
All that history and tradition aside, Greaser is preparing to play the Masters as he trains for other collegiate and amateur tournaments.
“I approach it 100% the same way I approach every event, doing everything and every preparation the way I have to to win. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. I don’t want it to be wrong. taken But at the same time everyone puts their ankle in the ground the same way and everyone has the same chance I tried to prepare like I do for every event and do my best to go there and compete.
The Vandalia, Ohio native, however, recognizes the unique aspect of an amateur golfer, whose next tournament will be in the ACC Championship, playing against the best players in the world on one of the game’s most legendary courses.
“Obviously I also try to enjoy the event and have a lot of fun. It’s a special opportunity, especially for an amateur and my family. It’s something we’ve been dreaming about for a long time and we didn’t know how soon it would come, but we’re 21 so it’s going to be a really fun week too.”
Greaser’s phone exploded with congratulatory texts after his spectacular run to the championship match at the US Amateur, and he’s also receiving countless messages wishing him luck this week in Augusta.
“I put my phone down to focus on me and my family, but I appreciate all the support. I said after the Amateur that the support was more than I could imagine. Soon I will be able to. I didn’t know that a lot of people liked me.
What people also like is the game of Greaser. He has the lowest stroke average in Carolina history at 71.43 over 76 rounds in 24 college tournaments. Greaser is the only Tar Heel to have a career average below 72.00. He has 11 top 10s and seven top 5s, shooting 28 times in the 60s. He is currently ranked No. 11 in the world (No. 8 in the United States) by Golfweek/Amateur Golf.com and No. 23 in the world ( No. 16 in the United States) in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
As a sophomore, he earned honorable mention All-America honors by coaches as well as All-ACC, All-East Region, and Academic All-ACC honors. He finished tied for fifth in the 2021 ACC Championship at 4-under 206, becoming one of only three Tar Heels to ever shoot in the ’60s in all three innings of an ACC Championship. He beat Florida State’s eventual Collegiate National Player of the Year John Pak 4 and 3 in match play in the ACC tournament and rallied to earn a tie against State’s Cameron Sisk from Arizona in their NCAA quarterfinal game after trailing by three holes early.
DiBitetto is caddying for Greaser at the Masters and knows his job this week has many duties.
“It’s pretty amazing for all of us,” said DiBitetto, who is in his fifth year as Carolina head coach. “A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to walk Augusta with Austin. We were on the first tee, which is up the hill above anything you can really see. Austin patted me and said, ‘When you became a coach, did you ever think you would have this moment?’ No, I didn’t. But having this moment was special. He’s the first, but hopefully not the last to play in the Masters, but it’s an incredible opportunity.”
DiBitetto will do more than carry the bag and rake the sand traps, but he knows Greaser is well positioned to compete this week.
“Austin doesn’t need a lot of help, he’s damn good and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. We spent quite a bit of time together during the college season when I walk with him. He thinks well about the game Its the flat stick (putter) is one of the best, if not the best I’ve ever seen. We don’t play the game the same way, I can assure you, but we see the game from the same way and we think about the game the same. (My work this week) ends up being a lot of confirmation on my part. If he sees the left edge and he turns around and says do you see the left edge, and yes i see the left edge it gives him a bit more confidence and more commitment to this shot i know him well maybe there is a time when i need to kick him in buttocks or put my arm around him Anything I can do to make sure he’s comfortable so he can do what he does, which is play big golf.”
The Greaser’s Masters begins Thursday in the second pool of the tournament, at 8:11 a.m. with 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir and 2007, 2008 Open champion and 2008 PGA champion Padraig Harrington. (Greaser wasn’t quite three when Weir won the Masters).
“What I learned in the practice rounds is that the tee shots are pretty crucial in being able to hit the pins or at least the quadrants and sections of the greens that you really need to hit” , explains Greaser. “Most importantly, you need to have a pretty good flat stick. The greens aren’t easy, but I really like them. They’re bentgrass, which is what I grew up playing on. I’m comfortable with them but they’re not easy at all. If you can give yourself a good chance putting the ball in the fairway to get a little closer to the pin, you can give yourself a few opportunities to make putts. The last thing you What I really learned is you have to eat the par 5s. Historically, if you look at past champions, they did a really good job on the par 5s and the rest of the golf course, they played about even.
Greaser’s goals are to put himself in a position to compete on the weekend and make the most of this incredible opportunity.
“I want to have a lot of fun; I want to enjoy it. It’s going to be special for my family, my closest friends and me. I also want to learn a lot about myself; how I compare to the best and what I have to work on my game to get back here as soon as possible.”
The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club is, as Jim Nantz of CBS so aptly puts it, a tradition like no other. From the verdant course to the stunningly beautiful azaleas that signal the annual arrival of spring; the famous Amen Corner from holes 11 to 13, which includes the 12and hole known as the most difficult par-3 in the world; championship golf’s most exciting final nine holes, including the 16thand where Woods stepped in behind the green and 17and where Jack Nicklaus rolled in his winning putt in 1986 for his sixth green jacket. Memories and history abound on every acre of the course and Greaser embraces the moment well.
“It’s hard to put into words because the course is very surreal, spellbinding,” says Greaser. “It almost feels like a video game. My brother, Byron, and I have watched TV together every year, so you feel like you know the course before you even get here. And then walk where literally all the greats One of the coolest for me is crossing the Hogan Bridge on the 12. The reason it’s so cool to do is because anyone can hike every part of Augusta except across Rae’s Creek. You’re in a very, very small business. When you cross the Hogan Bridge, no customers can go. They’re all the greats who ever played the masters. To exploit that and profit from the fact that I walk the steps that anyone you can think of in golf has walked. That’s one of the coolest things about what makes Augusta National so special.”