The anticipation of 1977 was repeated in 2010-13 years later.
April 22, 2010
By Herschel V. CaldwellIt is generally agreed that until 1977, the 1975 Masters was the year that held a special significant for people of color, particularly African Americans. That was the year Lee Elder became the first African American ever to compete in the Masters’ tournament. That fact pales in comparison to Tiger Woods’ record setting performance in 1997 and what Tiger has accomplished in the eleven years since. Looking back to that year, one is struck, to begin with, by the fact that the 1997 field included the world’s greatest and highest ranked player and as each day unfolded–each contender became resigned to playing for second place. Perhaps the Masters will host many more history making events, but I think none as significant as 1997.
In the years following the 1997 Masters, many of our readers found their thoughts returning frequently not only to that tournament but to many earlier editions of the Masters with a kind of “what if” eye on the past. What if Pete Brown had been invited on the strength of his win at Waco or the LA Open win in 1969 of Charlie Sifford? Would Tiger’s win in 1997 have created the media stir that it did? The records set in 1997, perhaps–the win, I think not as much. I know this was true of me–and still is. I’m already looking forward to the April 9th start of the 2009 Masters Tournament to see what new plateaus in professional golf may be reached, maybe number 15 on Tiger’s road to Jack’s heretofore mount of 18 professional majors?
Tiger’s spectacular feat caught the attention of golfers around the world and made them, professional and amateur alike; permanently aware of the new height the “bar” rests. I remember reading Pete McDaniel’s’ (Senior Editor, Golf Digest) article in the Master’s Journal (1998) in which he recounts Tigers’ lamenting about missing the cut in 1996. And how he (Tiger) spent hours watching videos of the greats and his own so as to learn from the mistakes and to send them into the past. The evidence came in April 1997 and the world of golf would not be the same.
The 1997 Masters was only the second that I had seen up close. My wife and Senior Editor had been issued press credentials for the 1996 Masters. I wrote in Minority Golf Magazine’s summer issue of 1996 that Augusta National compels the feeling of reverence during that cherished week inApril. “Once you enter the gates and pass through the well-maintained concession area, the world opens up to a rolling ocean of green grass. Colorful Azaleas adorn the course. The sky has never been so blue. Even the birds, like a chancel choir, sing in harmony. And there are thousands of people, all obviously taken in by the beauty of it all.”
First, its overall aspect kind of bowled me over–the majestic sweep of the land rolling all the way from the clubhouse down to Rae’s Creek, with the holes set off by tall pines rising like temples heralding an imminent event. Augusta National is one the most beautiful inland golf courses in the world. The view from the terrace of the clubhouse gets into a person’s bloodstream as does no other in golf, unless one would consider the view from the clubhouse at St Andrews, or the grandstand view from behind the 18th at Pebble.
Secondly, the vast area and well-defined features of each hole including the built-in and natural subtleties of the greens–are in my opinion, a marvel of design and nature working together to create a barrier to player domination…in any generation. Tiger only proved that it could be done…not that it will ever occur again.
However, the most striking attribute of the Augusta National course in the eyes of this writer was the condition of the course itself. I have played golf all over the world and had watched tournaments at great venues. I certainly had never seen anything like the fairways and greens at Augusta National. No brown spots in the fairways or around the greens. The fairways have a character of their own–firm, trim and healthy.
Through all of the memorable shots executed by the players…it is still the players behind the scenes who make it possible for the contestants and spectators alike to live out golf history at its finest. For more than 25 years until her retirement, Martha Gay was the primary link between the journalist and the event they wrote about. Her skills and abilities created a conducive atmosphere for creativity and efficiency for the media. Men like Frank Carpenter, Wine Steward, Boomer Gant, Guards like Sam Burns, the caddies and countless others whose names are rarely if ever printed–all played a major role in the preparation of Augusta National as the premier golf host in the world.
Sport at its best is as important as any industry to vital national and international way of life. Golf is no different. I looked back with gratitude at having been fortunate enough to be on the scene when the Masters through a chance of time, has and is adding so much to the whole structure and flavor of tournament golf.
After five months of rehabilitation that only he knows about, the golf world waited with glee and nervous anticipation the return to the Masters of the world’s number one: Tiger Woods. He did not disappoint the purest of golf fans around the world with sterling play befitting his world ranking.
One could argue that a putt here or there and the outcome would have been number 14 on Tiger’s quest to reach Jack Nicklaus’ seemingly unreachable number of 18 major wins.
However it was the determination, skill and better play of Phil Mickelsen during the 2010 Masters week that provided the real golf story of the early 2010 season. Phil was relentless in his on quest to take his place along side of golf’s great players who have accomplished great things while having to shoulder unimaginable personal pain and worry.
While Phil had to battle the elements and the Masters course, he also had to deal with concerns over his wife’s battle with cancer…both are truly golf champions.