“I nearly teed off the first with an AirPod in my ear!” McClean’s Masters memories

Ronan MacNamara

Matthew McClean (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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As an amateur playing in one of golf’s four major championships it is widely expected that you come away from one or all four events with plenty of memorabilia, Matt McClean has an interesting photograph in his house.

The photo is not of him, but of his name at the summit of the early round one leaderboard at the 2023 Masters when the 30-year-old Belfast based optometrist birdied the first hole to briefly lead at Augusta National.

He would birdie the 240-yard par-3 4th to open up a two shot lead although he wouldn’t sustain such a hot start, eventually missing the cut on Friday night.

Still, with four Irishmen in the field last year he can say he was the only one to lead the Masters!

“I got a few messages on instagram and some screenshots sent every early doors when I was out on the course,” explained McClean.

“My phone was on silent but it was just buzzing all the way round on Thursday so I have a photo of that somewhere in the house, but a cool memory.”

The Malone amateur who won the 2022 US Mid-Amateur championship is a cool customer and he was so laid back on the Thursday morning that he almost teed it up on his major championship debut listening to some music before a quick prompt from his caddie to remove the AirPods from his ears.

“Honestly I wasn’t too bad I played the course a few times already so that nervy feeling is out of the way just from playing it. Played a bit on the Sunday with a decent crowd there, played the Monday morning with Lowry and Power and I hit a big right off the first tee and that was a nervy moment but thankfully that’s the most nervous moment I had of the week.

“Thursday morning I felt pretty good I was trying not to think about it as much as possible to an extent where I nearly teed off the first with an AirPod in my ear I was just blanking out everything and the caddie just gave me a nudge and said take out the AirPod for the tee shot.

“After that I tried to enjoy it and you can be pretty relaxed knowing nothing bad can happen coming out of it so I was surprisingly calm on the first tee.”

It was a week to remember for McClean who enjoyed a night in the Crows Nest on the grounds of Augusta National as well as an amateur dinner for all the competing amateurs.

“We rented a house with the family and a few family friends and my girlfriend, ten minutes away then on Monday is taped in the Crows Nest which was nice, it’s a great place, you have the clubhouse to yourself which is a lovely freedom and very comfortable beds!”

2023 was a dream year for McClean who also played in the US Open Championship at LA Country Club before putting in a strong performance at the Walker Cup at St Andrews as Great Britain and Ireland fell to a brave defeat to the USA.

“It was obviously a great year, those three tournaments were the highlights and I played the US Amateur for the first time which was great and the Western Am so loads of events I was lucky to be a part of but obviously the Masters, US Open and Walker Cup were standout weeks.”


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