The usual sites, sounds, and smells of Augusta National Golf Club were nonexistent on Easter Sunday. There wasn’t an epic Moving Day charge or collapse of epic proportions. The azaleas bloomed without patrons present to admire their vibrant colors.
Even though we haven’t yet heard the soothing voice of Jim Nantz’s broadcast of the 84th Masters Tournament (we have to wait until November this year), the Masters has given so many of us countless memories we can recollect at a moment’s notice. And members of The Cliffs have enjoyed first-hand magical moments by legends of the game on those hallowed grounds.
There is Ken Heyward, who has only missed one Masters since 1959 (also Jack Nicklaus’ first Masters appearance). Including the “Yes, sir!” putt on hole 17, Nandina, to thrust the Golden Bear to his record sixth Green Jacket. But the most memorable shot Ken saw was an uncharacteristic shank by the 18-time Major champion in 1964 at the par 3 hole 12 that settled just short of Rae’s Creek.
Jerry Hightower was at the Masters in 1986 for that spectacular Sunday finish as well. “I could hear the roars coming from 15 & 16…deafening …and heard the “Bear” was on the move at age 46,” said Jerry. “I rushed to 17 and was able to see him make the memorable putt. I was standing next to the exit side of the 18 tee box. I remember Jack and his son with tears in their eyes but Jack was still focused to finish 18. It was an unbelievable experience. Got a picture later of Jack making that putt on 17. What a memory.”
Jan and Bill Dockendorf attended the tournament in 2019, and naturally, had to capture themselves posing by the picturesque 12th hole, Golden Bell. We hope they also got to sample the famous Masters cuisine, too (buying the entire menu of 25 items cost only $56.50).
Miraculous moments are around every corner at Augusta National Golf Club. Catching a flash of brilliance so it may live on forever is no easy feat. Mike O’Bryon, a photographer for Sports Illustrated (among other outlets), has captured thousands of those special images during his career. He snapped this photo of Nicklaus that graced the SI cover in 1986. He also has pictures of Tiger Woods’ first ever swing in a Major, as well as Ben Crenshaw’s emotional 1995 victory.
The Masters, perhaps, brings families and friends together unlike any other sporting event in the world. Curt Hockemeier, along with his son and three friends, attended the 2013 edition of the Masters. Curt said, “As we were leaving Augusta National that Friday we walked along the 15th fairway where Tiger Woods was preparing to hit his approach shot. We stood quietly inside the ropes but no more than 25 feet from him. Of course that was the shot that hit the pin and ended in the pond in front of the green. We were stunned. We then watched him drop and hit his next shot, never realizing the controversy that would ensue.”
Once you get inside the gates of Augusta National, the feeling you get that you are part of the Masters’ tradition is what separates it from nearly every other tournament (shoutout to The Open). David Schoenfield took a fellow Walnut Cove resident to the 82nd edition in 2018.
“I brought my close friend and neighbor Don Singer to Augusta National and it was the first time he had attended the Masters,” said David. “To see his face light up when we arrived on the grounds was priceless and I found myself looking at the golf course from the perspective of a newbie.”
No doubt the Masters is arguably the hardest ticket to get in sports. So sometimes, a trip to the Masters is a spur of the moment opportunity. Take it from Philip Urban’s son, Alex, who got the call from his father one Friday evening about an extra ticket for Saturday. That turned into a Sunday pass, too, and together they watched the South African, Trevor Immelman, fend off Tiger Woods.
Yes, the Masters is a “tradition unlike any other.” Just ask Paula and Rob Underwood. “The Masters golf tournament is for me and Paula the world’s greatest sporting event….period,” said Rob.
Their favorite spot on the course? Pink Dogwood (hole 2) and Carolina Cherry (hole 9). They typically finish the day standing behind Holly (hole 18), of course. But it was on Pink Dogwood where they witnessed one of the most famous shots in the tournament’s history.
“We saw Oosthuizen hit his drive down the center of the hole 2 fairway,” Rob recalls. “At the time, he was one behind the leader. With the flag tucked in the back right corner, the only way to get the ball close is to run it up the center of the green and hope it takes a big right hand turn. That’s exactly what he did and from the time the ball landed it took 15 seconds for it to find the bottom of the cup.
“If you have ever been at the Masters, you can identify from the direction and the magnitude of the sound when and where an eagle or hole-in-one has been made. Those always send a chill up my spine, but this shot and the roar that built to its crescendo was like a sonic boom.”
Not realizing the significance of his albatross, Oosthuizen tossed the ball into the crowd – just out of the reach of Paula’s hand. The man standing beside her who snatched the ball from her grasp traded the priceless piece of memorabilia to Augusta National for Masters tickets for life. Even after the fact, that’s just heartbreaking for Paula and Rob.
Today, Augusta National offers internships for hundreds of high school and college aged students. It’s been their practice for decades. Robert Waring recalled growing up during the 1950s in Augusta, Georgia, and he was required to participate in the school’s ROTC program. But that duty came with perks. “Dressed in my uniform I served as a gallery guard for all four rounds,” said Robert. “I was assigned to the hole 1 green (Tea Olive). After all the golfers played through I was able to walk the entire course and get close up wherever I watched play. Hogan and Snead battled for the win with Snead coming up on top.”
Indeed, the town of Augusta is inundated with Masters lore. Geneva Larson grew up in North Augusta when the tournament first began to gain critical acclaim (prior to dawn of golf on TV and The King’s – Arnold Palmer – four Green Jacket wins). What comes to her mind first? Many memories including free tickets to the Par 3 Contest, “celeb” watching until she got too sunburned, going over after church on Sunday when Augusta National opened up the driving range for close parking, and when parking “under the water tower” was annoying because it was such a long way to walk (today people pay thousands of dollars to park there during Masters week).
It’s these types of memories that are the cushions of our lives. “Priceless time spent each year over many years at our ‘family gathering time’ shared with grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and dear, dear friends – a tradition that continues thanks to help from our good Glassy friends,” she says. “The 2.5 hours from Glassy is not nearly as convenient as the 15 minutes from my childhood home, but we make it work.”
So, now all we can do is wait. Wait until November for the 84th Masters Tournament. More moments are coming. We just have to be patient.