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Think about every 19-year-old you’ve ever met. What are they doing this weekend? My little brother, a college freshman, will probably be sitting in a shoebox college dorm, drinking cheap vodka and wondering what on Earth he’s going to major in (sorry, Brendan). Cayman Islands-native Aaron Jarvis is not doing that this weekend. Aaron Jarvis is playing in the Masters.
“There’s not much golf there, but in 2013, the Cayman Islands Golf Association hosted the Caribbean Amateur Junior Golf Championships, and my older brother was playing in it.” Like many kids, Jarvis got the golf bug from an older sibling. Unlike most of this week’s Masters field, he didn’t take up the game until he was almost a teenager.
But he’s more than made up for the lost time. Jarvis grew up just 15 minutes from one of the Cayman Islands’ two golf courses and would go there every day after school and stay until it got dark. There’s not a big junior golf scene there, but he’s hoping that will change. With him teeing it up in the Masters this week, I have a feeling it will.
The Cayman Islands has a population of just under 70,000. The 2019 Masters — the last one that ticket sales were normal for — had an estimated 40,000 patrons on site during tournament rounds.
“This is, boom, just thousands of people right in front of your face. Obviously, you’re nervous at times when you first start off in the round, but then it got more comfortable as the day went on.”
Jarvis may not be used to teeing it up in front of this many people, but he’s got quite the support system, both near and far, this week. Jarvis is a freshman at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the same place that 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott attended. His college coach is on his bag this week, and the rest of his team will be cheering him on from the Wyoming Cowboy Classic in Phoenix. As for local fans, Jarvis is renting a house with 13 of his family members just 20 minutes from the course.
Jarvis’ road to Augusta National is one of a kind, as he’s the first golfer from the Cayman Islands to compete in the event. He won the Latin American Amateur Championship in January, which was formed in 2014 to develop amateur golf throughout South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. When asked about the LAAC, Jarvis’ face lit up. How could it not? His victory there is his golden ticket into the Masters and the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
“It’s just a special tournament. It means a lot to me and to everyone in that region, obviously. I knew I could win it, I just had to be patient and I managed to come out on top.”
It’s still early, but Jarvis has already had a pretty great experience at Augusta National. He played a practice round with Brooks Koepka on Monday and Jon Rahm on Tuesday.
Jarvis even had a run-in with Tiger during his Sunday practice round.
“I was turning 9 and I saw Tiger hop out in front of me, and it was me and the U.S. Am champion. You know, there’s no better ‘No’ from — or better rejection from Tiger Woods, right? So, I thought would I give it a shot. I ran up to him and ran through the woods and asked, ‘Mr. Woods, are you playing by yourself, or can we join?’
‘I’m just going to play by myself today.’
It was pretty cool seeing him playing in front of me. And after the round I got to talk to him and Joe for 10 minutes or so, and it was just incredible.”
Hey, you never know unless you ask, right? Jarvis has been collecting pieces of advice from every pro he’s met this week. He can summarize what they’ve told him in just one sentence: “go out with confidence, be yourself and have fun with it.”
Aaron Jarvis, Zach Johnson and Si Woo Kim tee off at 9:17 a.m. ET on Thursday.