AUGUSTA — Jeff Knox hopes to one day play in the Masters as a competitor.
He got to do something almost as special on Saturday when he played as a mark with Kelly Kraft in the day’s first group.
“It’s the next best thing to playing in the tournament,” Knox, 49, said. “That’s my ultimate goal. I’m running out of time to do that. This isn’t a bad second. It’s a lot of fun.”
A mark is a non-competitive player that can be used when the tournament has an odd number of players in the field. Knox, a member of Augusta National, said he has played as a mark nine times. He has previously been paired with Craig Stadler twice, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Sandy Lyle, Miguel Angel Jimenez, K.T. Kim and Ernie Els.
Knox knows Augusta National well, setting the course record with an 11-under 61 from the member’s tees in 2003. Knox, executive director of the Knox Foundation, also won the Georgia Mid-Amateur in 2008 and ’09.
He shot a 75 on Saturday with bogeys on 1, 7, 12, 17 and 18 and birdies on 2 and 5. Kraft, who played a practice round with Knox last week, shot a 77.
“He knows his way around here pretty well,” Kraft said.
A combination of events ensured that Kraft played. Perhaps the most important was six-foot bogey putt Kraft hit on No. 18 on Friday. It kept him from missing the cut and kept the field at 63 players.
“I told him that this morning, ‘You got us both in,’” Knox said.
Despite having more than 30 friends and family in his gallery, and friends from Augusta working each hole offering their encouragement, Knox said he was nervous.
“I’ve played in a good bit of competition but of course nothing like this,” he said. “First couple of holes are nerve-wracking, especially No. 1. I just wanted to elevate the ball, that’s the goal. Just get it off the tee. Thanks goodness you can tee it up.”
He may get to do it again on Sunday. Knox hopes he gets to a call around 6:30 p.m. Saturday night, which means he will play on Sunday, but said he hopes he doesn’t play with Kraft because that means he is still in last place.
Whoever he plays with, Kraft said his goal as a marker isn’t to go out and shoot a low score.
“The main thing is to stay out of the competitor’s way and make sure I keep the score correct,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC