Hooray, hooray, the Masters is under way at last, a few months late plus several extra hours because of rain, lots and lots of rain. That meant that Mo and I got in a good long walk on a beautiful autumn morning without missing any of the action.
And, boy, was there lots of action. Right from the 2-tee start. I said I’d prefer to start at the 10th in my first round but Mo decided not, she’d start at the 1st on day one. What we did agree on was that having the 10th, 11th and 12th as our opening holes would test the nerve, skill and equanimity of the very best. Not to mention the 13th.
Bryson DeChambeau, the monster masher of the moment, was all over the place, including at the par-5 13th, a drive and a flick for a man of his length. He took 7 but then began to show that he’s no one-trick pony, that he has all the skills needed to be a Masters champion. For one thing, don’t forget how well he putted when he won the US Open.
Tiger started well; so did Louis Oosthuizen; and we were cheering for Shane, who was playing with the defending champ and a very nervy Andy Ogletree, the US Amateur champion. Lee Westwood and Paul Casey started like express trains and it was lovely to see the golf course au naturel, without the clutter of grandstands and crowds, a very different look. Apart from anything else it meant that we could spot one or two of our journalist friends lucky enough to be out there following the action in person.
I was doing some more rooting in the photo archives and came across some pictures of the media centre – not the current one, which I haven’t seen but the previous state-of-the art press palace, although I was never sure how much attention they’d paid to the journalists who had to work there for the week. For instance, if you were stuck at the back, as I was, you needed your binoculars to read the scoreboard because the numbers were titchy – and I was a lot younger in those days. And there wasn’t a lot of elbow room, so I developed a slightly precarious vertical filing/balancing system. It was amazing how much paper you accumulated during a week of interviews and stats.
When Tiger came out on tour, there was an ad line that proclaimed “I’m Tiger Woods”, so in the run-up to the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, the Daily Record embarrassed Gordon Simpson, then their golf correspondent, with a picture of him decomposing at his computer and the words, “I”m Gordon Simpson”. Well, of course, his friends and colleagues couldn’t stop taking the mickey and at the Open we lined up with our Gordon Simpson tee shirts. Dai had a special one, bought by me, embroidered with the words, “I also know Gordon Simpson”. Sorry, but it still makes me laugh.
And, having found it, there was no way I could leave out this pic of Dai with Ian Woosnam in Oswestry, testing out Woosie’s champion’s dinner choice of Welsh lamb baked in hay. Am pretty sure the US Department of Agriculture vetoed it coming in to the country. This year, apparently, Tiger looked to his upbringing in southern California and lined up steak, chicken fajitas, sushi and shushimi. No customs problems there presumably.
Just look at those smiles: it shows you that it’s not just players and their family and close friends who are ecstatic when they win the Masters – or any major; the ripples of joy and delight spread far and wide and never fade!
It wouldn’t be the Masters without a sweep and there are seven of us in ours this year. One of our number left the selection of her five players to her 6-year old grandson, who used tried and tested methods like “that shirt’s a nice colour”; “let’s have that man with a big tummy”; and “that’s a great name”. She wasn’t keen on her chances but four of her men were early starters, so got their first round finished despite the delay and three of them were under par. Out of the choices of babes…..
There was heartening news at the beginning of the week when Augusta National announced that next year, all being well, Lee Elder, the first African-American golfer to play in the Masters, in 1975, will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter. The club will sponsor scholarships in Elder’s name at Paine College, an historically Black school in Augusta and fund a women’s golf team at the college. Changed times indeed and not before time.
Pre-Elder, Charlie Sifford, the first Black inductee to the World Golf Hall of Fame, won on tour but was never invited to play in the Masters and even as attitudes changed, he swore that he would never set foot on the grounds. Nor did he. He died in 2015, still furious. I doubt he forgave and there was no reason for him to forget.
Just in case you’re wondering, you can have a chance to win the beautiful golf shoes at the top of the piece by visiting www.albartross.com – NB the spelling is correct. The shoes are hand-painted by Caitlin Fielder, who was born in Rotorua but now lives in Spain.
As I finish this, they’re showing the film of the 1980 Masters on the telly and it’s hard to believe that it’s 40 years since Seve swashbuckled his way to his first green jacket. Ole, ole, ole.