Author: Jay Busbee
Date: April 8, 2015
AUGUSTA, Ga. - At any race track, Kevin Harvick can't walk anywhere without running a gauntlet of fans looking for his autograph. But at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, Harvick was just a dude in a golf shirt, easily blending in with the thousands of other dudes in golf shirts. (No, he didn't wear his firesuit, but he was sporting a black "Kevin Harvick Foundation" cap.)
Harvick made the short stopover in Georgia en route to Texas to support his friend Scott Harvey, an amateur playing in his first Masters. "It's so cool for him to be here," Harvick said. "I of course wanted to support him."
Harvey isn't a professional golfer; instead, he owns a real estate business and plays as an amateur. Last year, he won the Mid-American Amateur Championship, and on Christmas Eve received the invitation to play in this year's Masters. As the date approached and the pressure mounted, Harvey decided to reach out to Harvick, who knows a thing or two about performing in front of crowds.
"I called him early last week to see how he deals with this every week," said Harvey, who met Harvick while the reigning Sprint Cup champ was learning to play the game. "I was getting calls, texts, tweets, and he helped me keep calm." Harvey finished the day four over par, two strokes out of the lead for the coveted Low Amateur award. (Winning the award will not qualify him for the Chase, however.)
"Calm," meanwhile, is a perfect description of the Augusta National course. Golf seems an unlikely refuge for a NASCAR driver -- if Harvick fired up his ride on one end of the course, you'd be able to hear it all the way on the other -- but quite a few drivers take to the links on their off days. Denny Hamlin came to Augusta three years ago, caddying for eventual Masters champ Bubba Watson in the Wednesday Par 3 contest. Michael Waltrip, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Jarrett all claim at least a touch of game.
Harvick has actually played Augusta; he shot a "91 or 92" a few years back. But this marked his first time as a spectator, and he was clearly enjoying his final few hours of relaxation before flying to Texas.
"It's just amazing here," Harvick said, looking out at Amen Corner and the famed Hogan Bridge. "There's nothing else like this place."