Michael Thompson At Augusta

University of Alabama senior golfer Michael Thompson is one of three amateurs participating this week at Augusta National at the 2008 Masters Tournament. The Tucson native drove from Tuscaloosa to Augusta, Ga., on Friday. Sunday night he spent his first night in the Crowe's Nest, the dormitory room on the third floor of the Augusta National Club.

As is tradition, the amateurs participating in the Masters are allowed to lodge there during the tournament, and Sunday night was the first night they were allowed to stay there. Thompson, a 2007 U.S. Amateur finalist, is rooming with fellow collegian Drew Weaver, a Virginia Tech golfer who won the British Amateur last summer.

The Alabama senior is scheduled to play a practice round with Phil Mickelson Tuesday and with former Crimson Tide star Jerry Pate in the Par Three Tournament on Wednesday.

Monday marked the first official practice round for the field, and on Monday night Thompson, Weaver and the other amateur competing, Trip Kuehne, all were the guests of honor at Augusta National's annual Amateur's Dinner.

Following is a telephone interview with Thompson that took place Monday night following the Amateur's Dinner.

What was your evening like tonight? (Monday)

"It was really special. They had a whole bunch of Augusta National members, members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and from the USGA. It didn't hit me until when they started giving the speeches that that dinner was for us, the three amateurs. It was kind of surreal. It was just really cool because all of those people really want us to do well and that kind of support you don't see a whole lot in golf tournaments from the hosts."

What was on the menu?

"They had some sort of fried tomato appetizer with some sort of fish meat; I don't know exactly what it was. It might have been grouper or something like that. And then we had filet mignon for our main course. And we had white chocolate bread pudding for desert which was fabulous."

Was that your highlight so far, or is every day there one highlight after another?

"Pretty much. Today was really the first big day. There were so many people out there on the course. It was a little unbelievable to see that. There were 40,000 people today out on the golf course.

Probably the most memorable thing that I experienced today was on 16. What they do is, the crowd tries to get the players, after they hit their regular tee shots on this par 3, they try to get the players to skip a ball across the water and try to get it up on the green. Then you hit off of a little down slope like at the front of the tee box close to the water, and you just try to skip it up there. When I went up to do it, I hit a 3-iron to begin with and chunked it into the water. There had to be 10,000 people on this one hole. And so everybody's going crazy, and when I chunked it, everybody booed me. They go, ‘boo, boo.' And I kind of walked to my bag with my head down and kind of sulking, kind of being dramatic and pulled out a 5-iron and a new ball.

And everybody started cheering when I pulled out a new ball because they wanted to see me do it again. And so I stepped up, put the ball down and I hit a 5-iron and I skipped it along the water and it hopped up onto the green to about 15 feet and the whole place went nuts. It was just like I'd made a hole in one. It was unbelievable."

What's it been like playing in front of such a large crowd? Are you glad you have these practice rounds to get acclimated to that?

"Oh yeah, absolutely. Surprisingly, well, I guess not surprisingly anymore, I'm pretty calm out there. To me, being out here feels normal. This has been my dream for so long that I've really started to believe that being out here with these guys is where I want to be and where I'm supposed to be in terms of my career and my destiny so to speak, so it's a very cool feeling. I'm really enjoying it. I haven't been very nervous just because when I go out and play I'm just telling myself, ‘This is the same game you've been playing all your life. Just make a golf swing.' And more often than not, I hit it pretty well. So, I don't know, it's just really, really cool. It's a really fun experience because I'm seeing what it's going to be like when I turn professional."

Who did you play with today in the 1st practice round?

"I played with Brandt Snedeker (a former Vanderbilt golfer), Heath Slocum, and Boo Weekley."

What was that like? Did you learn anything?

"Oh, yes. It was really cool. They are no different than I am. That's what I learned. That's the God-honest truth. Those guys look amazing on TV, but when you play with them, they don't do anything else special that I feel like I can't do. It was really cool and it's cool to see how they react to the crowd and for the most part, they really just ignore everybody. And I thought that was interesting because it is very easy to get caught up in what the crowd is saying and to get overwhelmed or just over-excited to where you're not focused. So that was very interesting today."

So how's life in the Crow's Nest?

"It was awesome. Get up in the morning. Take a shower. Put your clothes on and then go walk downstairs and you are there at Augusta."

When you lie down and put your head on the pillow to go to sleep last night in the Crow's Nest at Augusta National, what was running through your head?

"I was thinking about what today was going to be like. What it would be like with all the people. I was pretty excited. I actually ended up waking up at 5:30 this morning. I couldn't fall back asleep because I was so excited."

What about tonight when you go to sleep? When you wake up tomorrow (Tuesday), you're going to go out and play a round of golf with one of the top golfers in the world, Phil Mickelson.

"You know what? I'm more relaxed tonight because I know what to expect. And so I'm not as excited, but yet, still, I'll be excited tomorrow morning. Tonight I want to make sure I get a good night's sleep so I'll be rested tomorrow."

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