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Sports journalism student flies out to Augusta to report on The Masters Tournament.

19th April 2024
JournalismHomepage - News - Standard

Solent University, Southampton provided a ‘once in a lifetime’ work opportunity for one of its sports journalism students, who has just landed back in the UK after reporting on the Masters in Augusta, arguably one of the most iconic golfing events in the world.

Any sports journalist will tell you that it’s almost impossible to get press accreditation for the Masters. If you have it, you keep it, because as soon as you don't go to the event, it gets taken away! Solent’s Sports Journalism Lecturer, Peter Auf Der Heyde, has been reporting on the Masters for many years, but was about to pull out this year, due to ill health.

Around the same time, second-year Sports Journalism student, Will Hewlett, was watching a Netflix docu-series called 'Full-Swing', which follows professional golfers.

Will says, “There was an episode on the Masters, which I always loved watching with my dad, and we always said how cool it would be to go there one day.”

“A thought sprang to mind! One of my lecturers, Peter, had told me he'd been going for many years - when he first told me in my first year my jaw literally dropped. So, I emailed him, saying that I knew it was a longshot, but was there any chance he could get me into the Masters or point me in the direction of someone who could? A few days later, I was sat in The Spark doing some course work and Peter saw me, sat down and said, ‘are you serious about wanting to go, because it could actually happen?’ ‘Well, obviously!’, I responded.”

Keen to see if he could give one of his students the opportunity to take his place, Peter requested to change his credentials over to Will. Two weeks later, Will got the email saying, 'Congratulations, we would like to welcome you to the 2024 Masters'.

While he was there, Will reported for South African publication City Press - producing articles, interviewing the players, as well as writing features. He joined journalists from around the world at press conferences, and even managed to bag a 5-minute interview with golfing legend Gary Player. His lecturer, Peter, continued to advise and support him throughout the week.

Speaking about his experience, Will says, "I wasn't that nervous really, I am a confident guy and the skills I’ve gained over the last two years at Solent University put me in a position where I didn’t feel out of my depth alongside the experienced journalists there."

"Sitting in the press conferences watching the greats like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy was fascinating. And my first proper interview couldn't have gone any better or been any bigger. I pulled Gary Player to the side, and he talked to me like we were friends. He is a really great guy, and the skills I learned from university made me feel like an experienced journalist in front of the big professional players.”

"It’s hard to pick out the best few moments, as it was all amazing, but maybe walking alongside Tiger Woods through 18 holes, and walking past Bubba Watson in the clubhouse and him saying 'hi' to me.”

And Will’s round of luck didn’t stop there. He got to play the course! On the Monday after the tournament finishes, a small number of media are selected at random to play the actual course that the competition has taken place on... and Will was lucky enough to get that opportunity!

“To play the Augusta National golf course was a surreal moment, I had sleepless nights beforehand, but after I stood at the first tee and managed to hit it fairly straight down the fairway, I relaxed. I parred hole 11 and 16 which was a highlight.”

Keen to thanks his lecturers, Will says, "I will be forever grateful for the backing I get from the sports journalism lecturers, especially Peter and Will, who have been key to my development as a journalist and allowed me to reach new heights that I could never have imagined."

Sports Journalism Lecturer Peter Auf Der Heyde says, “Will contacted me out of the blue and asked me if I could take him along to the Masters. At first I thought it was a bit cheeky of him, after all, I had to wait for about 45 years before I got to go to Augusta for the first time. But then I thought, good for him, if you don't ask, you don't get. And as I could not go, I was happy to arrange it with Augusta.

"I have often given students the opportunity to write for City Press and knew that Will would be up for the job. And he was! The coverage was great and I am pleased for him that he had the chance to experience something like the Masters. He certainly seemed to have made the most of it. As to him playing on the course, I can only say that I was pleased he got two pars. I got a birdie - just saying."

Course Leader Will Cope says: "We pride ourselves on exposing our students to the best opportunities, helping them to prepare for life as a sports journalist, and dealing with real life challenges, and opportunities don't come much bigger than the Masters! It is a credit to Will that he realised what a unique chance this was, and he threw himself into it with his usual gusto. He will be able to talk about this to future employers and I'm sure they will be hugely impressed by his determination to make the most of the opening. It also speaks volumes of Peter's selfless approach to his craft that he thinks about how our students can profit from his misfortune.