This is the first of a series of “Top Ten” posts that I plan on doing over the next few years. I thought it appropriate, since my favorite golf tournament teed off today, to start with my top ten Master’s memories. These are confined to memories from my lifetime – whether I saw them in person or on the telly. I started going to The Masters around 1968 when I lived in Aiken SC thanks to the generosity of 1) friends who stayed at our house who had tickets and 2) my 1st cousin Alan who graciously allowed me to use his tickets many times over the years. The Master’s is the greatest golf tournament in the world and I have had the fortune to watch some of the greatest in the game make some of the most memorable shots ever recorded. So here are 10 of my favorite memories from Augusta National…
1) Over the years I have probably been to Augusta National 30+ times. And as much as I have enjoyed going I have also loved being able to take people with me who have never ever been – and then watching them fall in love with the course. One of my favorite memories is from the late 70’s when I took my buddy Andre Hawkins (a Tulane University suite mate). He was a huge Jack Nicklaus fan and when we walked on to the course and he saw him on the 1st tee he broke out into goosebumps because he was so excited. That happens a lot at The Masters.
2) This time of year it is not uncommon to see people proudly sporting their Master’s gear – hats, shirts, etc. Augusta National is very proud of their branding and it is not inexpensive to buy Master’s paraphernalia. But their concessions are very affordable. I always look forward to getting their ham on rye sandwiches at the course, They are very yummy.
3) Nowadays you are not allowed to do any autograph seeking on the course side of the clubhouse. I was able to twice get Jack’s autograph as he walked from the practice tee back to the clubhouse. But in the early days of my going I got two autographs I am very proud of on the course side: 1) In 1972, I saw this 20 year old kid who was playing in his first Master’s standing near the 1st fairway with no one around him. I went and asked him for his autograph which he was glad to give me. In 1984 he won his 1st green jacket and then added a 2nd in 1995. His name was Ben Crenshaw. 2) In 1973, Tommy Aaron won the Masters. But he had to hold off a hard charging Jack Nicklaus who shot 66 in the final round and finished tied for 3rd. I had followed him around the course that day. When Jack exited the scoring tent just behind the 18th green he was mobbed by hundreds of people, including me, trying to get an autograph. I was several rows of people deep but thrust my arm through the crowd and somehow he grabbed my pad and pen, signed it, and even more miraculously got it back into my hand. I still have that autograph… somewhere.
4) In 1993 Bernhard Langer won the Master’s. It was his 2nd green jacket, having also won in 1985. The Sunday that he won also happened to be Easter Sunday. Langer is a very strong believer. I remember him saying after he had donned the green jacket that he considered it a great blessing to win The Master’s on the same day that we celebrate Christ rising from the dead.
5) Of course one of my favorite memories is from 1986. As a Nicklaus fan for many years and having followed him around Augusta dozens of rounds, I was thrilled to see him him win his 6th green jacket. Here is one of the most iconic moments in Master’s history:
6) One of the other iconic moments is when Tiger chipped in on #16 as he clawed his way to victory in 2005 for his 4th win and his last at The Master’s.
7) In 2004 I was out of the country on a missions trip to Jamaica during The Master’s. On Sunday afternoon I was very surprised to find a TV that picked up the telecast. A bunch of us from the team huddled around the TV and watched Phil win his first Master’s and then make his incredibly goofy jump into the air to celebrate. A jump I will never forget.
8) In 1986, 1987, and 1996 Greg Norman managed NOT to win The Master’s in very memorable ways. In ’86 he was tied for the lead going to #18, made bogey and lost to Nicklaus. In 1987, he lost to Larry Mize on the 2nd playoff hole when Mize chipped in from off the green. And in 1996 he blew a 6 shot lead on Sunday and lost to Nick Faldo who said, “It was the only time I felt sorry for someone I’d beaten.”
9) I will include 2 memories here just because they have similarity. In 1997 Tiger exploded on to the golf world with his 12 stroke victory over Tom Kite at -18. And then last year when Jordan Spieth made a definitive statement when he also shot -18 and finished 4 strokes ahead of Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.
10) I will also include 2 memories here from the 2012 Master’s. The first memory is when Louis Oosthuizen made double eagle on #2 to vault him into contention. The 2nd memory is Bubba Watson’s shot from the woods on #10 – the 2nd sudden death playoff hole – an incredible gap wedge that he hooked 40 yards to put on the green and win him the championship over Oosy.
In years past I have written a couple of other Master’s related posts. If interested you can check them out here…
Amen Corner – A Metaphor for My Life
Easter and the Masters
Memories of the Masters – I wrote this 5 years ago – it has a few of the same things I mention here but also some that I don’t mention