Masters: Tyler Strafaci follows in family’s footsteps at Augusta National

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Eighty-three years after his grandfather, Frank Sr., played in the Masters, Tyler Strafaci will continue to try to do him one better while extending the family’s impressive amateur golf legacy.

“My grandfather was a greater than life character,” Strafaci said. “He was a small guy with a big personality and people just gravitated towards him. I never met him but I feel like I met him.”

Strafaci, 22, experienced his own magical summer on the amateur circuit in 2020, claiming the North & South Amateur and Palmetto Amateur before bagging the U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes. The latter was the “Holy Grail” of the Strafaci family, and it earned him an invitation to his first Masters, one of only three amateurs to play in the 85th Masters, as well as a spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team that will compete at Seminole Golf Club in May.

“Winning (the U.S. Amateur) for me was the first time I felt a connection to my grandfather,” Strafaci said.

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Strafaci’s grandfather, the late Frank Strafaci Sr., cast a big shadow. He also was a former USGA champion, having won the 1935 U.S. Amateur Public Links title in addition to back-to-back North & South Amateur titles, in 1938 and 1939. After his family immigrated from Italy, he grew up in Brooklyn and won 27 amateur tournaments, including a seven-time Met (N.Y.) Amateur champion, finishing ninth in the 1938 U.S. Open and 58th in the 1950 Masters. In his inaugural appearance at Augusta National in 1938, he withdrew from the Masters after one round to go and defend his title at the North & South, which he won.

“If I did that, I don’t think I would ever be invited back,” Strafaci cracked.

But the family has long treasured his bronze 1950 contestant, which Frank Jr., keeps in his office.

“He hasn’t let me touch it pretty much my whole life, but I’ve gone there and touched it a few times,” Strafaci said. “It’s really cool just seeing that part of history in his office and where he came from. That just shows how important that golf tournament was to him.”

Strafaci never wanted to play Augusta National until he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and qualified for the tournament, but he eventually loosened that rule after committing to play golf at Georgia Tech since the golf team played there annually. He’s played the course 10 times in the lead up to the Masters, including a round with his father last week.

“That was probably as cool of an experience as I’ll ever have in my life,” the junior Strafaci said.

Strafaci, a fifth-year senior who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in the fall, skipped his final semester of eligibility at Georgia Tech and plans to turn pro shortly after the Walker Cup. He displaced a few ribs and sprained his SC joint, where the collarbone and sternum meet, at the Genesis Invitational in February, but said it has healed.

“It hurt a lot. I couldn’t really extend probably more than a couple feet past the ball and I couldn’t really hit the ball very far,” he said. “I’ve been having kind of a pitch count.  I’ve been hitting maybe 20, 30 balls a day for the last two or three weeks. But I’m hitting it really good.  I feel healthy.  My mind is clear, and so there’s no excuses for playing bad golf this week.”

Strafaci planned to spend Monday night in the Crow’s Nest, and he’s already introduced himself to Dustin Johnson in advance of the traditional pairing of the U.S. Amateur champion and defending champion of the Masters for the first two rounds. Other than that, his game plan is simple: Have fun.

“I’m competing for the love of the game this week, which is great.  I’m an amateur.  That’s a great thing about the Masters,” Strafaci said. “It’s probably going to be the last time that’s going to happen for quite some time other than the Walker Cup where it’s just for the purity and love of the game.”

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