It has often been said that golf is about the people you meet along the way. As John Augenstein begins to make his mark in the game, the 2019 U.S. Amateur runner-up is fortunate to have a mentor in major champion and fellow Kentucky native Justin Thomas.
On Tuesday morning, Augenstein stood on the 10th tee of the West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club, about to play nine holes with 2017 PGA champion Thomas and Tiger Woods. Not a bad way for the fifth-year senior at Vanderbilt University to prepare for his first U.S. Open Championship.
“Justin and I keep in pretty good contact,” said Augenstein, who is currently No. 21 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®. “I’ve known him for a number of years and he’s been a little bit of a mentor for me.”
Augenstein, 22, of Owensboro, Ky., decided in May to continue at Vanderbilt for another year after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the spring college season and made a path to professional golf more uncertain. Augenstein earned starts in the U.S. Open and the Masters (now scheduled in November) with his runner-up finish last August to Andy Ogletree at Pinehurst.
“I love John,” said Thomas, 27, of Goshen, Ky., who preceded Augenstein by six years as the Bluegrass State’s Mr. Golf honoree in 2009, and also preceded him by six years as a member of a winning USA Walker Cup Team, in 2013. “I was fortunate to have a couple of guys who took me under their wing, and I like having the opportunity to do that as well.”
Thomas laughed when the topic of Augenstein’s demonstrative on-course demeanor came up.
“I see a lot of potential in John, and I also see a lot of things that remind me of myself,” said Thomas, a 13-time PGA Tour winner. “He’s fiery, the same way I was and a lot of kids are at that age. He wants to be the best player in the world. He still has some more maturing to do, but he’s going to figure out how to harness it in a good way.”
Thomas recalled advice that his father, Mike, the longtime head professional at Harmony Landing Country Club in Goshen, received years ago. “Someone told my Dad, you can’t put the fire in someone at a young age, you can only help to take it out. It’s better he’s that way than the other way around.”
Augenstein’s apprenticeship continues in earnest at 7:23 a.m. on Thursday, when he will play with 2014 U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and 2016 PGA champion Jimmy Walker.