by Garrett Johnston
Andrew Putnam is getting ready for his first Masters this week at Augusta National Golf Club. The 31-year-old native of Tacoma, Wash. decided to wait on attending a Masters as a spectator (or, “patron,” as they say at Augusta) until he qualified to play in one and take that unforgettable first drive down Magnolia Lane as a player.
So when he qualified via the top 50 in the world earlier this year, what was his first emotion?
“I was ecstatic,” Putnam said. “I was thrilled. I came close the year before as I was just outside the top 50 number, and that’s always been a goal of mine, to get in the Masters. I’ve never been. I’ve refused to go out there and watch (as a spectator) because I wanted to wait until I qualified.”
Putnam comes from a big golf family. He won the 2010 Pacific Coast Amateur, a championship which his older brother Michael also won (in 2004), and also coincidentally held at the same venue, Eugene (Ore.) Country Club. Michael is also a PGA Tour player.
In 2010, Andrew was named the WA Golf Men’s Player of the Year.
Hearing the reactions of his family when he qualified for this year’s Masters was understandably special.
“My dad (Dan) had been tracking it for years; he knew exactly where I was in the rankings and he knew exactly when the cut-offs were,” Putnam laughed. “As a father of two PGA Tour pros, that was kind of high on his list of things to do. My dad was texting me a lot about the rankings and keeping me up to date on all that.”
As Putnam looks back on the last couple Masters watching from home, it’s hard to forget last year’s epic Tiger win, but for a reason one might not expect. Putnam’s cousin, Greg Bodine, was caddying at the time for Tony Finau in the final group with Tiger Woods.
“I watched every shot of it, glued to the TV,” Putnam said.
And of course he noticed when his cousin got some air time.
“On 16, Tiger hit a pretty good shot in there and the camera pan’s over to Tiger’s face on national television, then all of a sudden Greg slips in and blocks Tiger,” Putnam laughed. “He got like 30 seconds of blocking Tiger’s face out. It was the craziest thing. How did this happen? It was pretty surreal.”
Bodine began working for Patrick Rodgers the last few weeks and both he and Putnam have roomed together the past two tournaments. It’s been a good opportunity for Putnam to learn more about Augusta. He’s already been studying the Masters yardage book Greg brought on their trips to Bermuda and Houston (the two tour stops leading up to the Masters).
Unlike last year when he was the cousin on the grounds at Augusta, Bodine will now be the one watching from home back in the Northwest. “I can’t wait to track him out there,” Bodine said.
Putnam has watched this sacred tournament every year since age 10, so clearly there’s Andrew Putnam the player as well as Andrew Putnam the Masters fan. What part of the property is he most excited to see as a fan?
“I think just getting to Amen Corner, and obviously watching that so many times on TV will be pretty special to get there and play those few holes,” Putnam said. “I want to see how the wind swirls and all the craziness that happens on those holes. And driving through Magnolia Lane and stuff like that, everyone talks about that leading right into the club. That will be pretty special.”
— BeyondTheClubhouse Podcast (@BeyondClubhouse) October 30, 2020
From watching the Masters in those 21 years, there’s certainly one that stands out for Putnam.
“There have been so many great finishes, I can remember watching Phil Mickelson get his first major win (in 2004),” Putnam recalled. “Every single Masters you kind of remember, it’s one of those special weeks every year. It’s pretty surreal that I get to go there and experience it.”
Putnam’s form has been up and down the past few weeks coming in to his Masters debut. He missed the cut in Houston, finished T21 in Bermuda and T58 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
“I feel like my game’s been trending in the right direction,” Putnam said the week of Bermuda. “I’ve struggled a bit through injuries the last couple months. I’m a decent putter and those (Augusta) greens are the biggest challenge out there, getting dialed in to them. So I think it plays to my strength in that aspect. But you know, I’ve never been there. I don’t know how the course is going to match up fully with where I’m at.”
Putnam will take his usual caddie Brandon Winton, opting to go with the “team chemistry” they’ve built for over five years, versus a local caddie.
Sadly with COVID cancelling the Par-3 contest, Putnam doesn’t get to have his nephew Jantzen loop for him for his Masters debut.
He will, however, have his parents, wife, and two kids. Putnam’s wife Tawny just gave birth last month to their second, a son named Paxley.
“We ended up waiting to find out what we were having the second pregnancy,” Putnam said. “Obviously I was pretty emotional when the baby comes out and the doctor announces it’s a boy. We’ve had five girls in a row in our family now and just one boy, so I was glad to break the streak.”
Here’s to a great first Masters week for Team Putnam.
Garrett Johnston has covered golf for 10 years as a freelance writer. He also hosts the Beyond the Clubhouse podcast.