A few days before the start of fall classes, Andy Ogletree found himself watching Vanderbilt senior John Augenstein line up for a putt on the seventeenth hole at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. If Augenstein made it, earning a bogey, the match would continue. Instead, the putt sailed wide, and with that — the match was over. Andy Ogletree had won the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship, joining the likes of Tiger Woods and Tech alumnus Matt Kuchar on a very exclusive list.
Ogletree is busy as of late, perhaps busier than ever. His U.S. Amateur win has attracted significant media attention already, and beyond that, Ogletree has a full schedule of classes to manage — not to mention his responsibilities to Tech’s golf team. But in some ways, this is the schedule that Ogletree always wanted.
His golf career started at three years old, in Orange Beach, Alabama. The Ogletrees were on vacation, and to kill time, his parents took him to a putt-putt course. “My dad thought, ‘There might be something to this.’ So he bought me a super short club. I started hitting balls in the backyard … and when I was four, he took me to our local country club,” giving birth to a life-long love of the fairway.
The success came early and often for Ogletree. At age six, he played at the U.S. Kids World Championship in Williamsburg, Va. There, children played par-three courses as par-fours and par-fives, accounting for their relatively low strength. Along the way, he began to imitate the mannerisms of his favorite golfer: Woods. “When I was a kid, I would love to wear the mock turtlenecks, the red shirts … every kid [did] the Tiger fist-pump,” he remembers.
Golf was not always the only sport Ogletree played. He competed for his high school’s basketball and football teams for parts of high school. But as his focus on golf grew and recruiting visits piled up, the links took priority.
When it came to recruiting, Tech faced an uphill challenge to nab Ogletree. He had known Ole Miss’ coaches since he was a child, and for a while, he assumed he would spend his college days in Oxford, Miss. A visit to Atlanta changed that. “I came over to check it out and just fell in love … I cancelled my other visits and said that this is where I wanted to go to school,” he says. Two of the key factors drawing him to The Flats were the wealth of golf courses in the Atlanta area and Tech golf coach Bruce Heppler.
Under Heppler’s tutelage, Ogletree has made strides as a golfer. “In the last year, I’ve gotten a lot better at my short game,” he says, referring to the difficulty of making putts. “I’ve always hit it pretty good [but] I feel like I play smarter now.” And that extends beyond match play. “I know when my body feels good,” he says, referring to the way he assesses himself in practice.
Leading up to Pinehurst, Ogletree’s body was not feeling good. His practice rounds went poorly. He did not feel locked in. But after sending a few videos to his coach and getting some feedback on his swing, the actual rounds were a different story. “I went out and did solid in stroke play, good enough to move onto match play.”
That match play, of course, is history. Ogletree went through a series of opponents in short order to meet the equally impressive John Augenstein in the final round. And through the first five holes, Ogletree struggled to keep up, going down four strokes. But if there was anything Ogletree knew about the course, it was that he would be punished if he pressed. So he played his game, slowly chipping at Augenstein’s lead, and by the final hole, Ogletree had the upper hand.
When Augenstein missed his putt, giving Ogletree the win, he was at a loss for words. “I didn’t even know what to do. I remember that as soon as he gave me that last putt, it was surreal … [my caddy] was like, ‘Go shake John’s hand!’ So I shook his hand and his caddy’s hand, thanked all the course marshals, guys that were carrying the leaderboard and then the celebration began.”
What excites Andy Ogletree the most about the next chapter is how much control he will have. Sure, he’ll still have to lead Tech’s No. 6 ranked golf team. But he’ll have some “me” time. “My whole schedule will be what I want to do, not what I have to do,” he says. “I just can’t wait to … focus on golf and devote my time to trying to get better.” And Ogletree plans on leaning on the many Tech alumni who have turned professional golfers along the way. “They’ll all help me through this process,” he says.