​Virginia golfer prepares for the Masters

Junior Derek Bard set to be first Cavalier golfer in 15 years to participate in the event

spderekbardcourtesyuvasports

Junior Derek Bard's accomplishments so far at Virginia make for a long list of accolades. Bard secured top-five finishes in nine tournaments this season, along with placing first at the US Collegiate. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

Derek Bard had two dreams as a young golfer: to play professionally on the PGA Tour, and to play in the Masters. One of those dreams will come true on Thursday when Bard graces the first tee box at Augusta National for the 80th Masters Tournament, the most prestigious golf event in the world.

“I always thought the PGA Tour would come before the Masters, but that’s not how things worked out. To accomplish one of the dreams I had as such a young golfer is pretty special,” Bard said.

The junior New Hartford, Conn. native qualified for the Masters after a surprising runner-up finish at last year’s US Amateur Championships. Playing as an amateur, Bard, widely considered one of the top collegiate players in the nation, also qualified for this summer’s US Open from his finish at the US Amateurs.

According to Virginia coach Bowen Sargent, Bard will be the first Virginia golfer to participate in the Masters since James Driscoll participated as an amateur in the tournament in 2001. Bard will also be the first golfer Sargent has coached to play in the event.

Bard, whose strength lies with his short game, is approaching the Masters as if it were any other tournament.

“I’m gonna go there and try to play my best and to be in contention Sunday would be pretty cool, but I think just to bring it down to earth a little bit, making the cut would be the main goal,” Bard said.

Despite realistic expectations, Bard wasn’t confident in his ability to quell his emotions on the first tee.

“I’m sure I’ll be shaking a little bit, but I feel like after I get through that first tee shot, I’ll be okay and be able to focus on the golf part after that,” Bard said.

Sargent complimented Bard on maintaining focus in the spring season leading up to the tournament, and said that his experience at the US Amateur will help prepare him for the atmosphere and attention he will garner playing in such a tournament.

He also said that while he hasn’t consulted much with Bard about the tournament, he hopes to be in some contact with him over the course of the week.

“He got a decent taste of [the atmosphere] at the US Amateurs,” Sargent said. “I’ll talk to him a little bit while he’s out there. I just hope I can get in there and get in a position where I can see him.”

According to both Sargent and Bard, the conditions at Augusta will play a major factor on Bard’s performance. Each referenced the strength of his putting, particularly on firm greens, which agree well with his game.

“The green complexes are so severe. If you know the greens and you can putt the ball well, that’s the type of player it favors,” Bard said. “Putting is the strongsuit to my game… and there is also no grain either, I’m not a great grain putter. The fact that they’re going to be fast and no grain I think will set up well.”

In preparation for the tournament, Bard has been working extensively with Dr. Bob Rotella, a sports psychologist and a volunteer assistant coach for the men’s golf team. Dr. Rotella has worked with professional golfers such as Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, both of whom are major champions, as well as members of the Kentucky men’s basketball team.

According to Bard, Rotella has instilled upon him a more simplistic approach to the game.

“He’s all about oversimplifying everything, which I really like. I think that’s a huge help,” Bard said.

Bard will have his 18-year-old younger brother, Alec, as his caddy throughout the tournament. Alec was also on the bag for Bard’s at last year’s US Amateurs. Bard said the two had a solid rapport on the course during the Amateur, which is something he thinks will help calm his nerves throughout the tournament.

“He [Alec] knows my game better than anyone. That puts him ahead of any potential caddy I could have. He knows what kind of person I am,” Bard said. “[We have a] process we go through before each shot helps more than anything, just to kind of just zero in on the shot in front of me. He probably helps me out more than he thinks he does.”

Mostly, Bard hopes to be able to absorb the entire experience over the course of the week, and said there was no way the experience can be disappointing.

“One of the things my dad told me was to take a step back and just realize where you are and realize how cool the experience is, so I think the only disappointing thing would be if the week flies by and I don’t fully appreciate everything,” Bard said.

Bard is scheduled to tee off at 8:31 a.m. Thursday morning as part of the second grouping to play alongside South Africa's Trevor Immelman and fellow American Robert Streb.

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