AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Italian amateur Matteo Manassero, 16, capped a brilliant Masters debut with a birdie three to thrill an adoring audience of teenage girls who brought ‘Matteo-mania’ to Augusta National on Sunday.
Manassero, the youngest player ever to compete in the season’s opening major, sank a four-foot putt at the last hole for a closing even-par 72 and a four-over total of 292.
“This will help me in all areas,” the softly-spoken Italian told reporters, referring to his plans to turn professional in May.
“To play with these guys, be comfortable with this crowd, and to understand I can compete with these guys ... it’s very important.”
Manassero, who won last year’s British amateur title and tied for 13th at the 2009 British Open, was cheered on by more than a score of teenage girls who followed his every move.
Later they clamored for his autograph and despite being told by an official that he need not bother, the Italian obliged.
“It’s awesome for a 16-year-old to play in the Masters,” said fan Maggie McLeod, 16.
“A lot of young people were following him around,” said Chesley Cannon, 15. “There were about 10 of our friends and lots of other people we don’t know.”
Lindsay Williamson, 16, had already struck up a friendship with Manassero.
“On Monday of the practice rounds he was doing an interview by the big tree and me and my friend saw him. He’s my age and then we saw how cute he was,” the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Williamson said with a laugh.
“He is very attractive and he is really good at golf.”
Williamson was introduced to the player on Thursday and the pair chatted again on Sunday when they exchanged email addresses.
Manassero’s father Roberto said: “This was a beautiful, beautiful experience. It’s all we hoped for.”
“He is definitely coming back,” interrupted a smiling Matteo, leading his father away and into the clubhouse.
Editing by Tony Jimenez