The Molding of a Masters Amateur

Gordon Sargent's golf game a combination of power, maturity

by Chad Bishop

AUGUSTA, Ga. — All eyes of the gallery had been conditioned Tuesday to crane to see how Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka were doing for their practice rounds on the front nine at the Augusta National Golf Club. But soon enough, heads were turning and queries were made as to who the third member of the threesome was—the one in the light purple shirt?

Gordon Sargent continued to impress in his buildup to the Masters Tournament, which begins Thursday, with another day of epic drives and unflappable demeanor. The Vandy sophomore spent three hours on the pristine course taking in lessons from the two pros while simultaneously continuing to make a name for himself before the world’s largest golf event even begins.

But off to the side, bobbing and weaving through the ever-swelling gallery these first two days here, have been those closest to the 19-year-old, a handful of people who have helped shape who he is. Their support has helped put the youngster’s mind at ease the past 48 hours.

“It means a lot,” Sargent said after he left the course around 3 p.m. Tuesday. “To have them all on the range with me means a lot. To be staying in the same house with them—I’ve been seeing a lot of support out in the crowd too.”

The one other person who gets to step stride for stride with Sargent this week is William Kane. Kane is Sargent’s caddie, a role he took on with Sargent during the 2022 U.S. Amateur in New Jersey.

Kane runs the College Golf Fellowship, an organization that works with members of the collegiate golf community to provide, among other services, Bible study. Sargent was drawn to Kane and the College Golf Fellowship since arriving at Vandy in fall 2021.

Sargent also knew that Kane caddied for Webb Simpson on the PGA Tour from 2008 to 2010.

“I wasn’t necessarily expecting to get this invite,” Kane said, “but I was certainly honored to have it.”

Sargent’s ability to drive the ball is what allows him to, at a foundational level, hang with the big boys at any level of golf. But, Kane explained, there’s more to the kid than a big driver.

“Everybody talks about his power. He has big-time power. But it’s power under control,” Kane said. “He’s able to slow down. And he’s got a very honest self-assessment too. He knows what he can do, he knows what he can’t do. He thinks probably more maturely than most 19 year olds.

“He’s willing to take what a golf course gives him. He hits a variety of shots. He can do a lot of things.”

Sargent grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where he attended Mountain Brook High School and was a member of the Shoal Creek Club. It was there that he met Eric Williamson.

Now at Charlotte Country Club, Williamson was the director of golf at Shoal Creek when he met then-10-year-old Sargent. Williamson has been coaching Sargent ever since.

“We hit it off, and ever since then we’ve been doing the same thing—just trying to get better every day. He’s got a commitment to excellence, and it’s fun teaching,” Williamson said. “Everybody knew how good the kid was going to be. It’s definitely not a surprise to be at Augusta National and to see how he’s handling himself, his composure—it’s incredible.”

Williamson has been arriving at the course early each day with Sargent, and the two have worked on the putting green, on Sargent’s chipping and on the range. When it comes time to play, Williamson blends into the crowd with the rest of the patrons and watches his pupil hitting it with the best in the world.

He, too, is unsurprised by what has been unfolding in front of him.

“It’s everything,” Williamson said of Sargent’s physical prowess and intelligence. “His mental capacity, how he takes everything in—it’s been unbelievable, the coaching he’s gotten on and off the golf course. It combines into one, great, composing athlete is what it is. He’s special.”

Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh left Naples, Florida, on Monday and arrived in Augusta around midnight. His Commodores had completed the second round of the Calusa Cup earlier in the day, and he would have to sacrifice seeing them play Tuesday to be with Sargent all day for Masters practice.

Limbaugh called the afternoon a surreal experience.

“First of all, he’s really good. People want to see really good. But he does things the right way. And he’s humble,” the veteran coach said. “I think those are the kind of things that attract people. It’s been a really, really neat day so far, and I’m excited to see the rest of the week.”

Of course, the closest people to Sargent his week are his parents, Seth and Monica, and his brother, Thomas, who is 18. That trio has been walking the course with Sargent as well, with Seth chatting up any and every well-wisher who introduces themselves and with Monica rushing to tee boxes to snap photos with a small digital camera.

And no matter what happens during Thursday’s first round and Friday’s second round, the Sargent family already has two full days of memories after watching their son rub shoulders with some of the world’s best golfers.

“I don’t really care what my kids are doing as long as they’re doing what they love to do and have success doing it. As a parent, it makes you proud and happy for them,” Seth Sargent said. “For my two kids, when they find what they love to do and are doing it and having success at it? That’s very satisfying for me.

“He loves playing golf, and he’s doing it at a high level and it’s great that he’s at The Masters. But if he wasn’t having any fun, it wouldn’t be any fun for us. I just know he’s doing what he loves to do.”

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.