A Bruin stood out on one of golf’s biggest stages.
Sophomore Devon Bling finished 55th at 3-over in the 2019 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
“It’s an amateur’s dream to be able to play in the Masters,” Bling said. “Luckily enough, I was able to do that, and it was pretty much a dream come true for me.”
Bling earned an invite to the Masters after finishing as the runner-up in the 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship. He was one of four amateur golfers to make the cut after he was at 3-over through two rounds.
“Making (the cut) was just pure joy and happiness,” Bling said. “Not many can say in their first Masters that they were able to play all four days and walk down the back nine on Sunday.”
UCLA men’s golf assistant coach Andrew Larkin caddied for Bling at the Masters. Larkin, who has known Bling for four years, said the Masters experience highlighted Bling’s growth as a golfer.
“(Bling) has developed from someone with unbelievable natural ability to a pretty refined golfer,” Larkin said. “Since he’s come to college, he’s become an exceptional driver of the golf ball. His iron play has developed tremendously, with him being able to control the golf ball more consistently.”
Bling was seventh among all golfers in average driving distance. Larkin said putting will be Bling’s main area of focus moving forward following an average of 1.65 putts per green.
“(Bling’s) putting is probably the thing that needs to continue to grow,” Larkin said. “He definitely has a great stroke, but he needs to work on adapting to green speed.”
Bling said he cherished the opportunity to meet and compete with prominent golf figures at his first professional tournament.
“I played with Rickie Fowler on Monday in a practice round. … I’ve watched him a lot, and he’s one of my favorite players,” Bling said. “I got to meet Tiger (Woods), who’s been my idol ever since I was little. He wished me good luck (on Sunday) on the practice green before we started, so I thought that was really cool.”
Bling also talked briefly with former Bruin Patrick Cantlay, who finished tied for ninth at 10-under.
“It was just a hello and goodbye, since he was focused on his game and I was focused on mine,” Bling said. “But, I was really happy for him for where he placed.”
Although Bling had many takeaways from the tournament, one moment stood out to him – a hole-in-one at the seventh hole of the Masters Par 3 Contest on Wednesday.
“It was just pure shock … it went in and I just kind of blacked out for a moment,” Bling said. “It’s a huge deal to make a hole-in-one … it was just a really good time.”
It was not the first hole-in-one of Bling’s career, however. The sophomore sank his first collegiate ace at the Arizona Intercollegiate on January 29.
Coach Derek Freeman said he was proud of how Bling conducted himself on and off the course throughout the week.
“I couldn’t be happier for (Bling) … he deserves every bit of it,” Freeman said. “He’s handled himself with great respect and represents the university in an incredible way. I’m super excited about where he’s at and what he’s doing.”
Bling will return to UCLA in time for the Pac-12 Championships from April 22-24. He said that playing in the Masters has prepared him for the NCAA postseason.
“I was able to compete with all of the best players in the world,” Bling said. “Going back and playing with collegiate players just gives me a bunch of confidence knowing that I am one of the best.”