AUGUSTA – No par 3 tournament this year, no fans, no traffic and no expectations for a crescendo of roaring applause daily permeating the grounds of the Augusta National Golf Club, one of the prettiest places on earth. Augusta is the sports world’s “Garden of Eden,” but we have never experienced the Masters taking place in the fall. You could have predicted that there would be a common refrain for this year’s event. Weird and surreal, everyone says when assessing the state of the club and tournament. Simply hard to imagine the playing of the Masters under these conditions. However, it is still the Masters, and it would only be natural to predict that there likely will be a dramatic finish on Sunday which has become traditional. For years the Masters was the first major of the year. This year it is the last which would qualify it for a Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not listing. We can’t witness the splendor of the spring for which the tournament has always been given the highest of marks. Fall color has dissipated, the hardwoods are hunkering down for winter, but the ANGC will still reflect an image of beauty to behold. There are no spectacular azaleas to comfort those who partied too late or whose hangovers still holdsway. Thedogwoods will not underscore and complement the majesty of the surroundings. There will be whisperings of the pines and gentle breezes to remind you of past Masters tournaments when its lullaby setting made you pause and extend a tip of the cap to “Mother Nature”; rapturous finishes on Sunday afternoon and unforgettable moments from the setting to the magnificent competition, bringing about enduring respect for a private club which annually hosts one of the classic sporting events on earth.
Nothing comes close, except, perhaps Wimbledon and the Kentucky Derby. There is a glory and grandeur with all three championships which is unmatched.
The green of Wimbledon reminds you of the green jackets, abundant floral greenery and the wooded enchantment of the Masters. The Derby has the advent of the roughhouse gang in the infield, but its showcase environment leading up to the playing of Stephen Foster’s “My old Kentucky Home,” causes one’s emotions to rise to the unforgettable occasion that ushers in the “greatest two minutes in sport.”
For four days in Augusta, there is the unparalleled competition in the most extraordinary setting of any sports venue there is. The Augusta National and its preeminent environment can make your day even if your favorite golfer is experiencing a forgettable afternoon on the majestic golf course.
No event and setting brings the reverence and respect than that of the Masters IfCOVID19 had the life expectancy of a cigarette butt at the Augusta National, we could trash our masks, thumb our nose at the preachments coming out of Washington gather and lock arms and sing “Kumbaya.”
I never come here without reminiscing about past tournaments, the memorable highlights and the magic moments of the Masters. I saw Arnold Palmer win his second Masters in 1960.
Everyone marveled at Arnie’s forearm strength, the way he attacked the ball and the remarkable charm he displayed with his adoring public. There has never been a more gracious and accommodating superstar, a reminder to the modern athletes who are impetuous and insulting that Arnold proved that you could be a nice guy to golfing audiences but was one who could also windramatically. His putter may have been cutthroat, but Arnold was forever the gentleman.
I joined Arnie’s Army and cocked an ear to every word said at every press conference. Every neatly organized and kempt press release was saved for my files back home, even when I was renting apartment space.
When Jack Nicklaus came on the scene, I interviewed him one day while he was changing out of his street shoes into his spikes. An amateur sensation, he had a shy but generous smile and caused wonderment to one and all that his awesome power was accompanied with a velvet touch when he reached for his putter. He would later enjoy ties with the University of Georgia when his daughter, Nan, and his grand-daughter, Kelly enrolled in Athens.
He came to Nan’s graduation and soon will be back when Kelly receives herdiploma. Itis nice to know Georgia is often on his mind.