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A trip down Masters memory lane

The First Call readers share their favorite stories, moments that have occurred at the tradition-laden major through the years

The Masters
The Masters leaderboard during the first round in 2022.

Question of the week [March 27-April 2]: What is your favorite Masters memory?

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Jack Nicklaus' sixth Masters win in 1986.

Mel Rothberg
Parkland, Florida

Ben Crenshaw’s 1995 victory after Harvey Penick’s passing and the emotions just after his final putt dropped, with his caddy Mr. Carl Jackson comforting him.  

Steve Moore
Birmingham, Alabama

The Masters brings back so many wonderful memories. My son, Jim Hallet, played with Seve Ballesteros and Arnold Palmer. What a beautiful course with flowers blooming and so many people enjoying the game. Jim’s sponsor had a friend named Roger Patel, and he was such a thoughtful young man.  He actually came wearing extra clothes and when it rained, he shared some with friends.  

Editor's note: Jim Hallet reached the semifinals at the 1982 U.S. Amateur and received an invitation to the 1983 Masters. Hallet opened that Masters with a 68, one shot back of the lead, and went on to tie for 40th. Hallet was the low amateur.

Muriel E. Hallet
South Yarmouth, Massachusetts

Tiger Woods' chip-in from behind the 16th green — and the best Nike commercial it never had to pay for. The Swoosh was on full display as the ball hung on the lip of the cup for what seemed like forever.

Barry Duckworth
Knoxville, Tennessee

1986, my first Masters. I attended with my wife and 8-month-old son. Yes, he needed a badge.

I stood behind the 16th green all day on Sunday, getting ever more excited by the roars for Jack Nicklaus emanating from Amen Corner. I saw Seve Ballesteros' demise on 15 and Jack’s heroics at the best tandem of holes in golf — 15 and 16. By the way, Jim Nantz was in the tower on 16, his first live broadcast there.

Finally, Greg Norman had his chance, but the errant second shot at 18 was sealing his fate as my young family scurried into position for a possible playoff that never occurred.

Tony Austin
Orlando, Florida

In 2012, I attended my first Masters. After going through the entrance gate and nearing the 10th tee, what struck me was how pristine the course was. I was sure the grass was fake and I had to actually bend over to touch it to find out if it was real. I have never seen a golf course maintained so beautifully as Augusta National. It was simply amazing. 

Steve Sartori
Plymouth, Wisconsin
For most, the 1968 Masters stands out because of Roberto De Vicenzo’s wrongly signed scorecard that disqualified him and made Bob Goalby the winner. But for me and Norm Gustafson, the 1968 Masters was a battle between two wiseass college golfers and longtime tournament director Clifford Roberts. 

Our plan was hatched the weekend prior when we saw Roberts on television talking about college-age kids demonstrating everywhere against the war in Vietnam. Roberts vowed that no unticketed intruders would get past the tight Masters security. We were both against the war but our interest in the Masters was born from of a love of golf and our Pennsylvania hero, Arnold Palmer. 

We pulled into Augusta during the wee hours of Friday, found there were no hotel rooms to be had and drove across the river into South Carolina to find a cheap hotel only an hour from the golf course.

Early the next morning, we drove back into Augusta, saw a course and parked nearby on a sandy street in the part of town that time Augusta’s forgot. We hiked to the nearly deserted course, climbed a chain link fence and started walking toward the distant clubhouse. We had a story prepared and soon enough was telling it to a guard in a golf cart toting a shotgun. 

“We were spotting pins for Mr. Sanders,” we told him. “Who is that?” we were asked. “Doug Sanders,” we replied, dropping the name of a well-known competitor. “Oh, you boys should be at Augusta National. This is Augusta Country Club.” 

We made our way to Augusta National, parked a mile away and hiked around the perimeter of the course past an army of security until we found a break in another chain-link fence. We squeezed through it and found ourselves in thick brush on the out-of-bounds side of Rae’s Creek. From there we crawled across a log onto hallowed ground and, still concealed, lit up some rum-soaked cigars thinking the stink would ward off the bugs until the galleries started arriving and we could blend in. 

Emerging from our refuge we started walking down the 12th fairway when a local sheriff’s deputy confronted us and asked for our tickets. We hauled out our Sanders story and were told, “Well, you need a ticket. Go up to the clubhouse and get one.” Emboldened, we headed for the clubhouse, arriving in time to watch a group that included Don Bies tee off on No. 1. 

“Who is that?” we asked no one in particular. “That’s Don Bies,” replied a woman who introduced herself as Bies’ wife. No sooner had we started following the group down No. 1 were we challenged again, this time by a higher ranking lawman. He walked us out to the front gate of Augusta National where we told the local sheriff’s deputy our sad story. He escorted us out with a warning not to return.

Bowed, but determined, we drove slowly through downtown on our way back across the river. Passing an outdoor sports store our eyes were drawn to a pith helmet on display in the window. Seems, except for the color, it resembled the helmet worn by the Masters marshals. We bought two. That night we spray painted the brown helmets Masters white.

On Saturday we returned early to Augusta National, squeezed through our hole in the fence, scooted across Rae’s Creek and hid in the brush with our helmets, waiting for a crowd so we could blend in. Of course, this being morning and this being the back nine, the crowds wouldn’t be forming for an hour at least. 

While we waited among the azaleas, we noticed we were within view of one of the huge scoreboards that overlooked strategic points on the course. High atop the scoreboard the volunteers had not yet begun manually posting the scores since the leaders had yet to tee off. We were convinced that one of them spotted and called us out. When we finally emerged from the woods and joined the growing gallery, we were quickly surrounded by security again.

We were returned to the sheriff, whose advice seemed a lot less fatherly this time. So, not having the stomach for another confrontation we drove back to our respective schools. On the way out of town, though, we stopped long enough to rip two wooden “Masters Parking” signs off trees. My souvenir remained in my parents’ basement in St. Louis for many years.

They say a shot poorly played should be a shot irrevocably lost. We never returned to The Masters. But we like to think that we crashed Roberts’ exclusive party, if only for a few hours.

Barry Bronson
Lexington, Kentucky

While Tiger Woods' last win was one for the ages, I think Jack Nicklaus' win in 1986 still ranks as my favorite. If I recall correctly he stumbled a bit on the front nine, so in your mind you were not giving him much of a chance as he made the turn. Then all of a sudden he came alive on the back nine, wielding that putter with the monster head. Then the capper was when — who else but the famous* Greg Norman — fired one into the bleachers on 18. I still think the roars heard that day were some of the loudest ever at the Masters. 
* – Famous for faltering at key moments.

John Abercrombie
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

I consider myself to have been more than just fortunate to have attended the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Masters. Seeing Phil Mickelson win his first, Tiger Woods' iconic chip-in on the par-3 16th hole and watching both Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus trudge the hills of Augusta for the final time. 

There were more highlights during those three years, but if I had to pick just one it would be Tiger’s chip-in.

Ed Randolph
Plymouth, Michigan

1978 Masters. Gary Player coming from seven shots back in the final round to win his final major. A smooth 64 reminded the world of Player’s true brilliance. I watched the final round with my grandfather who helped introduce me to this great game. My grandfather was cheering for Gary Player and I wisely watched every move, nuance and shot of this remarkable global golfing icon. What really struck me was the sheer magnificence of his sand game. Player could easily manage any bunker at Augusta. That is a day I will always remember and cherish. A special bonding experience with my beloved grandfather and mentor.

Reid Farrill
Toronto, Ontario

Been there only once and could only get in for practice round. All accommodations were booked or too expensive, so I had to stay in Aiken, South Carolina. People are surprised when I tell them that to attend the Masters, I had to stay in a different state.

Frank Mauz
Honolulu, Hawaii

I have been to the Masters many, many times, probably close to 10 times by now. However, one of my older sisters, Donna, had never set foot on the pristine and magical grounds of Augusta National.

In 2018, with that sister suffering from the effects of stage four lung and bone cancer, I was able to create my favorite Masters memory. My sister told me, "I’ll die before I get to see the Masters in person."

I couldn’t imagine that happening. I told a friend of mine, David Whitfield, from Atlanta, who was about to attend his 50th straight Masters about my sister. David generously offered for me and my sister to use his badges to spend the day on the grounds as long as I could get them back to him by 3 p.m. I said, "Done."

At the time, my sister was part of a clinical trial at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and would travel there the first Wednesday of every month for treatment. On the Fridays after those visits, she had to meet with her local doctor in Charleston.

I called my sister and told her that she would need to cancel that Friday appointment. She asked why. I told her "You’re going to the Masters and I am taking you." She cried. I cried. I called David and he cried.

On the day of our epic visit to Augusta National, I drove from Atlanta, my sister drove from Charleston and we met in Columbia. I drove us to Augusta and we first stopped at the house David rents each year for Masters week to pick up the badges. The meeting between David and Donna was emotional as my sister was so thankful for David’s generous offer.

When me and my sister arrived at the Masters, we first went to get our picture taken in front of the clubhouse. After that, we went to the putting green and first hole area to assess what to do next.
Donna told me that due to her condition, she could not walk far. I told her it was her day and we’d go anywhere she wished to go. We proceeded to walk down to Amen Corner, the whole time Donna was recalling famous shots made by the greats like Tiger, Jack, Sir Nick, even Larry Mize’s chip to win the green jacket and many others as she loved golf and loved the Masters.

We watched players go through Amen Corner, then the pimento cheese sandwich was a must before we headed over to the par-3 16th. As we headed toward 17, I pointed up the hill and told Donna we had to get up there at 3 p.m., which left us one hour to climb that hill. I told Donna that the medics stationed in the trees would be more than happy to ride her up that arduous hill. She declined each time. I was exhausted and she walked up that hill.

It was truly a miracle that she mustered enough strength to keep walking. To me, there is nothing that can top that Masters memory. We handed the badges back off to David and we left Augusta National after an incredibly special day. Donna died this past October and I told that story at her eulogy. Afterward, her friends said she talked about that day at the Masters often. It was a very, very special day.

Phil Werz
Pinehurst, North Carolina

My favorite Masters memory is not shot by a specific individual. Rather it was my first sight of Augusta National 28 years ago. Words cannot describe how magnificent that piece of land truly is.

I had watched it on television for years but the screen cannot begin to show the beauty of that layout. From the hills and valleys that earmark each hole to the reverence that is The Masters. I hope everyone that loves the game will have an opportunity to travel to Augusta and be able to experience Augusta National firsthand.

Paul Vicary
The Villages, Florida

In 2012, the hardest and most expensive ticket became as easy as to win as the lottery because the Masters began an online
"ticket application” (Augusta National lingo). I applied for four practice days tickets on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and two tournament day tickets for Thursday through Sunday — the maximum. And was informed I "won" the right to buy four tickets on Tuesday.

I invited my favorite uncle-in-law and as we discussed who the other twosome would be, he got an email announcing he won four tickets on Wednesday — which includes the Par 3 contest. We included his son and a friend and began planning the golf trip of a lifetime, which included playing the Robert Trent Jones Trail — Oxmoor Valley and Oxmoor Ridge on the way up and SilverLake on the way back.

Augusta National is like Disney for golf, only better. It is very hilly and has huge viewing corridors. As you walk from the clubhouse down between the ninth and 18th greens a huge, huge expanse opens up to you. The course is in immaculate condition, everything is perfect. I could wax poetic about various golf holes and the types of shots or places to which the best in the world are called to make, but on top of the golf are the features that are used for only that one week.  

There are huge roofed structures under which they serve really cheap, but really good food. Logistically, it’s fantastic with maybe four or six serving lines, serviced by people whose sole purpose is to keep two Coke and two Diet Coke cups available on their line. It then splits into about 20 paying stations where they will take your money and then there are some tables and chairs, but you may have to find a spot to sit on the ground because the crowds are so large.

There are large restrooms which have a Disneyesque queue. At the door is a guy working with another guy who, as soon as a urinal or toilet becomes available, feeds the next person in. Meanwhile, a third guy is ensuring there are towels and soap and toilet paper.  Who’s better — Masters or Buc-ees?

There is the very large golf shop where everything is expensive, but it’s all really high quality and there are no discounts. But you can spend hundreds or thousands and then they have a FedEx shipping tent so that you don’t have to walk around the grounds or the airport with your haul.

And there are the entrances of ticket booths and gates that feel like Disney, but must be avoided during the other 51 weeks of a year.

Mark Chatfield
Houston, Texas

It has to be the 2003 Masters when a kid who, at one time cleaned clubs in my bag room at the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club during his high school co-op, won at Augusta.

Mike Weir became a national treasure.

Peter Boyce
Strathroy, Ontario

1986 Masters. It’s the top sports moment of my life. I’m 66 years old. I grew up reading Jack Nicklaus' "Golf My Way," best golf book of all time. The 1985 Bears are a close second. 

Tracy Cooley
Gary, Indiana

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