Standing on the 18th tee with a 3-shot lead, Owensboro native John Augenstein still couldn’t believe he was about to win one of the nation’s premier amateur tournaments.
Augenstein, a 2016 graduate of Owensboro Catholic High School, entered the day leading the Players Amateur by two strokes. Augenstein knew he was in a good position to win all day, but it wasn’t until he was walking up the 18th fairway that he was sure he wouldn’t be caught.
“Walking from the second shot to the green with my putter, I knew there was no chance of me not winning,” Augenstein said. “That’s when I was able to smile and relax a little bit.”
The win was the highlight of a stellar summer for the 20-year-old rising junior at Vanderbilt University. It also earned Augenstein an exemption into the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Classic, which will take place April 15-21, 2019, at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, S.C.
“It was certainly nerve-racking and there was a lot on the line,” he said. “All week I did a really good job of blocking that out and just focusing on what I was doing.”
Augenstein’s hot streak started in May with a tie for ninth place at the NCAA Championship, then he tied for fourth at the Sunnehanna Amateur and tied for sixth at the Northeast Amateur. Last week, he tied for fourth at the Southern Amateur.
Augenstein can date his achievements back to an early age — he was already playing in nationally ranked tournaments by the time he started high school. In fact, Augenstein started getting attention from college scouts after some top finishes in the summer of 2013.
The University of Alabama and Florida State University were in the mix, but Augenstein chose Vanderbilt because of head coach Scott Limbaugh. It was Limbaugh that was the first to recruit Augenstein, and that relationship was the deciding factor.
“He has been, and always will be, an incredible influence on me,” Augenstein said of Limbaugh. “In the end, I couldn’t say no to him, and I’m very glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Augenstein found immediate success in college, earning the SEC Freshman of the Year and winning his match to clinch the SEC Championship in 2017. He was also named to the 2017 SEC All-Freshman Team, and is a two-time GCAA Honorable Mention All-American.
Augenstein hopes to have the opportunity to lead his team to an NCAA Championship and be named First-Team All American, but his sights are already turning to professional golf.
While he realizes he’ll eventually have to go on tour at some point, he also knows he can always count on his hometown to help keep him grounded. “Whether I’m successful or not, I have support from a lot of friends and family who keep up with me,” he said. “I do enjoy coming home. I’m able to get away from it all.”
The next big event for Augenstein will be the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course from August 13-19. He earned an exemption into the event when his win in the Players Amateur vaulted him to the 32nd-ranked amateur player in the world.
He’s already looking forward to the chance to showcase his talent on the PGA Tour when he plays in the RBC Heritage Classic. Augenstein sees no sense in waiting, because he knows playing golf is the only thing he wants to do.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, there is no plan B,” he said. “I’m playing professional golf.”