This article originally appeared on GeorgiaStateSports.com in April 2013.
As the golf world closes in on Georgia this week and the annual playing of The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, GeorgiaStateSports.com felt it only fitting to look back and catch up with former Panther Dave Womack, who played in the 2007 Masters and was a key in helping make GSU golf what it is today.
Womack has many stories to tell from that special week down Magnolia
From just down I-75 in McDonough, Womack was one of the first recruits to sign with then head coach Trey Jones. Jones was looking to build the program into a national power and with Womack’s help, it became a reality.
“Coach Jones first saw me play in Hilton Head at the MCI Junior Heritage Classic,” commented Womack. “I played well that week and not too long after, he offered me a scholarship that I could not turn down.
“The Georgia State program was really starting to grow and I thought we could do some special things. I also really liked Georgia State and the business program. I felt like it was a perfect fit for me.”
Special things were definitely coming for the program. During Womack’s four years, the Panthers made three NCAA Regionals and the school’s first appearance in the NCAA Championship in 2000, just down I-85 in Auburn, Ala.
“Playing in the regionals and the NCAA Championship was an incredible experience,” continued Womack. “The school had never been there before. We were building the program right before our eyes. We won the conference tournament my freshman year as part of the Trans America Athletic Conference. My second year, we brought in Allen Thompson, Jack Croyle, D.J. Fiese and Henrik Sevegran and we made the NCAA Regionals for the first time in Rhode Island.
“Playing with guys like Georgia Tech’s Matt Kuchar, we knew we had made it. Then, my junior year, we end up at the NCAA National Championship in Auburn and we watch as Oklahoma State’s Charles Howell III won the event. We actually only missed the cut by a couple of strokes. We really had come far in just a few years.
“To know that we had helped really get the program going was something special. I remember my senior year and we only had about four tournaments to go. The time had just flown by, but knowing that other golfers would come to Georgia State because of what we had done is something that I will never forget.
Since Womack became a Panther in 1997, Georgia State has made it to the NCAA National Championship four times, earned 10 regional appearances and won six conference championships.
Today, Womack works as an independent insurance agent with McGarity Insurance in McDonough. He and his wife Amber have twins, Hayden and Harper, who were born in 2011 and don’t yet fully understand what
When golf was able to still be a priority for Womack, he played often, doing extremely well in many of the
The Masters is one of the most exclusive golf tournaments to participate in, whether a pro or an amateur. Amateurs have their best chance by winning either the U.S. Amateur or the U.S. Mid-Am Championship. Womack qualified for the event to be played at Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was the start of a magical week on the other side of the country for someone only about two hours away from Augusta’s hallowed grounds.
“Going into the event, I knew that the winner automatically earned a spot in the Masters,” commented Womack. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t. It was actually one of the toughest things to overcome that week. I needed to stay in the present and focus on winning each match after I got out of stroke play.
In the United States Mid-Am Championship, the field normally starts with 237 golfers of the more than 4,000 that attempted to qualify and after two rounds of stroke play, the top 64 golfers play a match-play format similar to the NCAA Tournament. It is extremely tough just to get out of stroke play, let alone win six straight matches, with the final being a 36-hole marathon.
Womack finished tied for 17th in the two-round stroke play portion of the tournament. Step one complete, but still six grueling matches to go.
He rolled through the first couple of matches 3&2 and 5&3 to reach the Sweet 16. When things should have gotten tougher he kept improving and earned a 6&5 win to move into the final eight. From there, he earned another 3&2 victory to get just two wins shy of the title.
In the semifinals, things got tough. Womack led for just one hole in regulation, after a birdie at the fifth, but the match was still all-square after 18, sending it back to the first where a birdie gave him a win over Scott Hardy and sent him to the finals to face off against Ryan Hybl, an All-American who played at Georgia and was from nearby Madison County.
Womack won the first two holes in the morning round and never trailed against Hybl. He held a 2-up advantage at the midday break between rounds. He built the lead to 3-up when Hybl bogeyed the first hole of the second round. But birdies on the 20th and 22nd holes helped Hybl cut the deficit to 1-down.
The turning point came on the par-5, 539-yard 13th hole, the 31st of the match. Womack, holding a 1-up advantage, hit his tee shot into the right-hand hazard. Hybl, whose tee shot entered the rough, hit his second shot right and short of the green. He failed to advance the ball with his next shot, thanks to his ball being buried in the thick rough.
Hybl then took a drop from the hazard and chipped his fifth shot to within a foot of the hole for a conceded bogey.
Womack, after hitting his third shot to the front of the green, was able to get up and down for par and won the hole.
Despite winning that first hole of the 36-hole match to go 1-up and never trailing, it came down to the final putt to earn a 1-up win over Hybl.
“On the 32nd hole, I really started thinking about the Masters,” commented Womack. “I also realized that I didn’t come this far to blow it, so I needed to get back to focusing on my play and finish the match off. When the final putt went in, words could not explain what I was feeling.”
The emotions continued into the fall and on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Womack made his first trip to Augusta National for a practice round.
“I knew a member over there and he invited me to come over to get in
Between then and April, Womack estimates he played the course between 12 and 15 times, making the two-plus hour drive over from McDonough to get acclimated to the course.
Then came the first weekend in April, always reserved for The Masters.
“I left home on Saturday and drove over to Augusta and played a practice round with Ian Poulter, his father
The Crow’s Nest is reserved for the amateurs playing in the tournament to help reduce the cost of playing in the event since as amateurs, they are not eligible for prize money. Some of the legends of the game of golf have slept there and Womack has a memento from that night, but that is a story for another time.
“I remember waking up on Monday morning and the course still being quiet,” continued Womack. “Then at 8 a.m., they allow the patrons to come in and it changes everything. It was cool to be staying there on that Sunday night and knowing the next day it would all start. Driving down Magnolia Lane is incredible during the day, but it is even more beautiful at night with all of the trees lit up.
“That Monday I played a practice round with Charles Howell III, Davis Love III
“By the time Thursday came around, my nerves had settled down. From playing with Charles Howell III on Monday as just a two-some, he told me he was nervous too and to just breath and have fun. That really helped and by Thursday, I was ready to go.
“I was actually too ready to go. I arrived at the course too early for my tee time with Stuart Appleby and Mark O’Meara and warmed-up too quickly. I was already finished warming up and still had 20 minutes to go. I was anxious and when I got out on the course, I really couldn’t get anything going.”
Womack opened with an 84 on Thursday, but made some birdies on Friday en route to an 81, tying for 93rd with Camilo Villegas and Casey Watabu and finishing ahead of the legendary Seve Ballesteros.
“I truly had a lot of fun that week,” continued Womack. “We had rented a house in Augusta and just had family around all week. My cousin Walt caddied for me and I just tried to soak in everything that I could. I knew it would be a once in a lifetime experience and I wanted to take it all in.”
And there are some things from that week that he will never give up or forget.
“My player’s badge, the invitation to the tournament, my wife Amber’s invitation for the wives to meet, my yardage book, those are all things that I will never give up and hope to pass along to my children
So as you are watching The Masters this week, just remember, one day, a current Panther might be the next great Georgia State golfer waiting for their turn at The Masters or remember Dave Womack, who helped put the Panthers on the golfing-map and lived out a childhood dream along the fairways of Augusta National.