Vanderbilt star Sargent the first amateur to receive The Masters special exemption in over 20 years

Posted at 11:14 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-26 00:14:47-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When Augusta National calls, you drop everything and pick up the phone.

On the first Monday of 2023, Vanderbilt sophomore golfer Gordon Sargent got a call from an unfamiliar number. When he read Augusta National below the number he could hardly believe his eyes.

“I was like, ‘I have to answer this, right?’” Sargent said last week. “The guy starts talking to me and I like forget everything he said because I’m trying to figure out if this is real or not. Then he starts talking me through the whole week and stuff so I’m like, ‘this has to be real. Who’s going to prank me with this?’”

It was real. An invitation to compete in the 87th playing of The Masters this spring.

The only catch was that he couldn’t share the news publicly until the club made it official.

“I remember I told coach [Scott] Limbaugh and he was like, ‘is that real?’” Sargent said. “And I was like, ‘I think so.’ I don’t even think he believed me for a couple days.

But on January 5, Augusta National officially announced that Sargent would be one of two special exemptions in this year’s tournament field.

The Vanderbilt star won the NCAA individual medalist title with a birdie on the first hole of a four-way playoff last spring as a freshman. He will be the first amateur to receive The Masters special exemption in over 20 years.

"It means a lot to be able to just represent Vanderbilt and amateur golf at The Masters,” Sargent said. “There’s kind of no cooler honor.”

Besides his NCAA title, Sargent competed in the prestigious Palmer Cup and is currently ranked as the no. 3 amateur golfer in the world. But now he has less than three months to get set to play golf’s most famous tournament.

“I think it just shows that they think you can compete with the best in the world,” Sargent said of his exemption. “I’m kind of looking forward to just testing my game at that level.”

The 19-year-old Birmingham native has watched The Masters every year. He says he remembers many past champions walking down the fairway to the 18th green to standing ovations.

While it’s still hard for Sargent to believe he’ll be teeing off with the world’s best amongst the azaleas this April, he wants to make sure that he makes the most of his opportunity.

“I think I’m just going to try to soak it in,” Sargent said. “But also hopefully you’re there on Sunday having a chance to win. You’ve got to have the right mindset of they’ve given you the opportunity to play and it’s just going to be a really cool experience, but also we’re not going there just to play, we’re going there to win and represent Vanderbilt to the highest ability.”

Get NewsChannel 5 Now, wherever, whenever, always free.

Watch the live stream below, and download our apps on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and more. Click here to learn more.