Golf: US Masters: Dundas fares better than past master: Amateur champion takes to National like second home. Tim Glover reports from Augusta

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The Independent Online
SEVE BALLESTEROS has played in 16 Masters but in a practice round here he treated Augusta National more like a stranger than an old friend. He hit such a variety of shots it took him six hours to get round and he was playing on his own. By the second hole Stephen Dundas, who was also playing on his own, caught the Spaniard up and Ballesteros waved him through.

'I introduced myself and he did the same,' Dundas said. 'As if he needed any introduction. We had a little conversation and I wished him all the best.' Dundas putted out on the second green and walked to the third tee, leaving Ballesteros in his wake. It did not occur to either of them to do the obvious thing and make it a two ball. 'Maybe if I'd asked him . . . ' Dundas reflected.

No matter. Dundas is having the time of his life. The 19-year-old Glaswegian is playing in his first Masters, an achievement which many an accomplished professional would give his eye teeth for, courtesy of his triumph in the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie last year. No money but the perks are invaluable.

'Unbelievable,' Dundas said. He kept repeating himself. 'The course is nothing like it appears on TV. It's even better. It's so much hillier. It's brilliant.' Dundas is staying in a mini-dormitory called the crow's nest, which is situated on the first floor of the clubhouse. There are five beds but Dundas has the place to himself. 'Unbelievable,' he said. His only company are the photographs of Bobby Jones on the walls.

Dundas, at 6ft 3in one of the tallest players in the field of 90, won the Amateur Championship at his first attempt last September with a thumping 7 and 6 victory in the final. 'The phone never stopped ringing,' he said. On the line to Glasgow were management companies and club manufacturers. He told them all to wait and see.

Dundas is in his final year at the Midland Junior College in Texas where he won a scholarship. Ostensibly he is studying psychology. 'I'm actually there for the golf,' he said. He plays every day and is a member of a team that is the second strongest in the United States. In six tournaments Dundas, who wears glasses for reading, watching television and playing golf, finished first in three of them.

He will not make the mistake of Robert Gamez, the young American who arrived at Augusta National a couple of years ago, leant back in a chair, put his feet up and declared that this was 'just another tournament.' Gamez missed the cut. Dundas, who was given honorary membership of his home club, Haggs Castle, after winning the Amateur, is not that cocky but nor is he overawed.

In practice rounds here he has scored 70 and 72. 'It's pretty simple off the tee,' he said, 'but I was surprised at how difficult the approach shots are. You have to be very precise. It's like St Andrews. You've got to get to know the course, you've got to know where to hit it. Although the greens are very fast I've got used to them pretty quickly. It's reading the line of the putts that's more difficult than the actual pace.'

Dundas, whose family home is, he said, a sand wedge from Ibrox stadium, became interested in golf at the age of four. 'I saw it on TV and although nobody in the family played I wanted to take it up straight away.' He also excelled at football and declined an offer from the Celtic Boys' Club who wanted to sign him. Dundas has made quite an impression in America. 'I didn't think that winning the Amateur would be recognised over here but it is. Everybody wants to beat me. It takes a bit of getting used to but I quite like all the attention I'm getting. Once you stop getting it you miss it.'

His father, John, who suffers from arthritis, has not been able to make the journey to Georgia but Dundas has secured eight tickets for friends of his at Haggs Castle. Les McLaughlin, a fellow member who caddied for him at Carnoustie, will carry Dundas's bag this week. 'I'm hoping to do quite well,' Dundas said. 'I'm pretty confident. I don't know why. The only time I've ever felt like this was when I won the Amateur. I love playing in front of crowds, I love the atmosphere. For some reason I feel at home here. I feel comfortable in the surroundings. My concentration is excellent.'

Dundas returns to Britain next month. He has accepted an invitation to play in the Benson and Hedges International at St Mellion in Cornwall and will defend his title in the Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. Then he will fly back to America to represent Midland College in the national championships and will play in the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio as a special guest of Jack Nicklaus, who owns the course. He is also exempt for the Open Championship, at Royal St George's, Sandwich, in July. Selection for the Walker Cup match against the United States is another goal.

After that, and before his 20th birthday in December, he will turn professional. 'So far I've had to pay all my own bills,' he said. 'I'm not complaining but it's not easy.' He will attempt to gain his card at the qualifying school for the European Tour. 'If I don't succeed I'll probably work in a golf shop for a year and try again.' His immediate ambition, however, is to finish in the top 24 in the Masters. If he manages to do that he will receive an invitation to return to Augusta next year. As a professional, though, he would not be offered a berth in the crow's nest.

(Photograph omitted)

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