Monday, 10 December 2012

Memories of The Masters: April Article


Lasting memory of the Masters - The Big Three on the first tee.  The last time the Masters had three honorary starters was in 1999 with Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead.
"When Bubba Watson’s shot hit the green in the second playoff hole at Augusta Nick Faldo, commentating, said:  “I've never seen a ball screw to the right like that on this green.”  Tom Watson, also watching, agreed.  He said later:  "They didn’t know up in the tower just how far it was.  He hooked the gap wedge 155 yards.  Only a few players, Trevino for one, could turn a wedge right round a corner, I could never turn it that much.”   When  people with a swing like Bubba Watson win the Masters the golf teaching profession gives a groan of despair and says ‘What’s the point!’   

Gene Sarazen’s Albatross was probably the most memorable in the tournament’s 76 year history.  In  1935 the club was struggling financially, and the Augusta National Invitational, as it was then called, was not considered a major championship.

Sarazen was trailing Craig Wood by two when he reached the par-five 15th.  Sarazen knew he needed a birdie or better to give himself a chance.  He  just couldn’t make up his mind which club to take.  As he went back and forth his playing partner, Walter Hagen, yelled over to him “Hurry up, will ya? I’ve got a date tonight.”  Finally deciding on a four wood Sarazen belted it 235 yards over the pond and into the hole for a “Double Eagle.”  (235 yards, with those clubs and those balls!)  He tied with Wood, but unlike Oosthuizen  Sarazen beat his opponent in an 18 hole playoff  the following day.  The Albatross was touted by the press as “The Shot heard round the World.”   It helped put the tournament on the map.

Englishman Errie Ball, aged 101 and still teaching golf in the U.S.  was a friend of Bobby Jones and played in the first Masters in 1934 and again in 1957.  He remembers: “The first Masters was much more relaxed. Bob Jones made it that way, there was a lot of liquor floating around.  In 1957 it was a different story. It was really big time.” 

 One of  Augusta National’s longtime sponsors, IBM, has a new female CEO, Virginia Rometty.  Chief Executives at IBM, all male so far, are traditionally invited to be members of all-male bastion Augusta, and the lady is known to play golf. The choice now is either to invite or deliberately NOT invite a woman to join.  They are burning the midnight oil over this one.

Paul Lawrie winning The Open at Carnoustie in 1999 may not have had a huge impact on golf in Scotland at the time but the Foundation that he set up five years ago to introduce youngsters to golf has made a massive difference.  The PLF now includes football and hockey, and Paul is sponsoring the Scottish Boys Championship, making him the first Tour player in history to directly sponsor a Scottish Golf Union Championship.  Nice to see someone putting something back into the game.

Congratulations to Darren Clarke, who has married ex-Miss Northern Ireland Alison Campbell in a small ceremony on a beach in the Bahamas. It was attended by Clarke's two sons, Tyrone and Conor, agent Chubby Chandler, and Graeme McDowell, who introduced the couple on a blind date in 2009.

Ronnie Corbett -  “My wife has this ridiculous idea that I’m playing too much golf.  It came to a head at about 11.30. last night.  She suddenly shouted at me: ‘Golf, Golf, all you ever think about is bloody golf!’   And I’ll be honest, it frightened the life out of me. I mean, you don’t expect to meet somebody on the 14th green at that time of night.”