TRINITY, Texas – When Andy Ogletree arrived at the Georgia Tech football facility on Aug. 27, head football coach Geoff Collins blew a whistle to stop practice and barked at his players to sprint to the 50-yard line and take a knee. Then he introduced his team to a fellow Yellow Jacket and the winner of the U.S. Amateur.
“This right here, this is what a champion looks like. Y’all aren’t,” Collins bellowed. “For 35 holes, he wore this guy down. He showed mental resilience…and he’s going to play in the Masters.”
The whole team roared with delight.
“That’s the only thing most of the guys knew about golf,” Ogletree recalled.
It’s been a whirlwind 12 weeks for Ogletree ever since he rallied from 4 down to beat Vanderbilt’s John Augenstein 2-and-1 in the 36-hole scheduled finale of the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Resort. Shortly after he finished up his final media commitments, Ogletree was whisked into The Deuce, the pub that opens up to the veranda of Pinehurst No. 2, where club members and USGA muckety mucks welcomed him with high-5s and handed him a Havemeyer IPA beer brewed at the local Pinehurst Brewing Company and named after the U.S. Amateur trophy that now bears Ogletree’s name.
“Speech! Speech! Speech!” they chanted, and Ogletree obliged.
He still marvels at how he first came to Pinehurst as a 7-year-old to play in the U.S. Kids World Championship. He’s got the picture to prove it of himself striking a pose with a bronzed Payne Stewart statue behind the 18th green at No. 2 – right-fist punching forward and right leg kicked back in celebration of winning the 1999 U.S. Open.
“It’s all come full circle,” Ogletree said.
Winning the U.S. Amateur has been life-changing. Ogletree has since represented the U.S. at the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool in England and the Spirit International at Whispering Pines Golf Club 80 miles east of Houston, where he and Cole Hammer teamed up to win gold on Nov. 9 in the men’s best-ball team competition. Now, with the fall college season behind him, Ogletree, a 21-year-old senior business major, is set to put the clubs on the shelf for three weeks.
“I need a break,” he said. “I’ve been pulled in a lot of directions. It comes with it, but I wouldn’t trade it, for sure.”
Why would he? He’s earned a new level of celebrity, including dining with Jim Nantz during the Cypress Point Invitational, a congratulatory letter from “The Little Pro” Eddie Merrins, a fellow Mississippi native, and signing autographs at the Atlanta airport for travelers who recognized him. It’s a long way from bagging groceries at the family’s Piggly Wiggly.
Last week, Ogletree finally got back to Little Rock for the first time since Pinehurst and received a police escort home, speeding past one of the eight billboards in the state trumpeting his success.
“They were supposed to meet him at the state line, but they met him in Meridian and took him to Union,” said Ogletree’s father, Jim, who says not a day goes by that he hasn’t been asked for tickets to the Masters. (Note to anyone that was thinking of inquiring: the family only gets to buy eight and they’re spoken for and that includes one for Andy’s childhood instructor. “I’ll buy him one myself if I have to,” Jim Ogletree said.)
Speaking of the Masters, Andy had been hoping to make a trip to Augusta National on Nov. 14 to begin his Masters prep, but Georgia Tech men’s golf coach Bruce Heppler said he’d missed enough school already and so he postponed until Dec. 2, when a Georgia Tech alum and club member has agreed to be his host.
Ogletree’s arrival back home triggered a number of celebrations. He served as honorary captain for the football game on Nov. 1 at Union High, where he won the Class AA state golf title five times, including the 2016 title by 16 strokes. He was also given a key to the city and was the toast of the town at luncheons in his honor at Meridian Country Club and Northwood Country Club. He brought the Havemeyer Trophy with him, though left it behind in Atlanta when he played in The Spirit.
“It’s on my coffee table in Atlanta,” Ogletree said. “Hopefully, my roommates won’t mess with it.”
But the most life-changing part of winning the U.S. Amateur is still to come, which is why the agents were circling at The Spirit. Ogletree has admission into a whole new world when he turns pro later this year and he knows it.
“Before the U.S. Amateur I was thinking I’d play Q-School for PGA Tour Canada or something and kill my time in the summer doing something to keep the game sharp and getting ready for Korn Ferry Q-School,” Ogletree said.
“I’m looking at a bunch of PGA Tour starts and the goal is to get enough points to qualify for Korn Ferry finals and get my card that way,” he said.
In what may become a blueprint for future U.S. Amateur winners, Ogletree plans to conserve most of his seven potential sponsor’s exemptions until after he turns pro. He said he’s under consideration for a spot in the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, but likely will pass on the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which traditionally offers an invite to the U.S. Amateur champ, because it conflicts with the Valspar Collegiate Invitational.
“The team comes first,” Ogletree said.
As does family. His parents have been there every step of the way, including at The Spirit, and already have a house rented for Augusta. Jim said he considered expanding his business and buying a second grocery store, but he doesn’t want to miss out on the good times ahead so he’s put those plans on the backburner for now. For his son, the best is yet to come.
“No way I’m going to miss any of this,” he said.