In early April 1986, a certain young man, barely 18 years old, had two loves: baseball and his girlfriend. One day the girlfriend announced unexpectedly “We’re going to The Masters next week.”
Huh? Golf? Golf sucks. It’s not baseball, the young man thought to himself. “I’m not going to see golf,” he said out loud.
The next Saturday the young man found himself driving the two and a half hour trip to Augusta, Georgia. The girlfriend was in the passenger seat, and he may have done some grumbling along the way. Soon he paid someone $10 for a parking spot on Washington Road, and the young couple made their way to the entrance of the Augusta National Golf Club. At least the weather was good the young man thought to himself.
Once inside the gates, someone gave the man a sheet with the tee times and pairings. The young man didn’t know any of the names. Norman, Watson, Ballesteros? How do you even pronounce that? That Nicklaus name seems vaguely familiar, he thought. The young couple walked around and watched some golf and some people. The young man thought the people dressed funny, especially some of the hats.
A couple of hours later, the young man announced, “I’m hungry.” They found a nearby concession tent and bought a couple of pimento cheese sandwiches and Cokes to wash them down. They found a vantage spot in a grove of tall pines where they could eat and watch.
Looking at a course map, the young man could see they were at the sixth hole, a par three, standing about halfway between the tee box and the putting green. “This looks like a good spot,” he said. “We can see them hit from up there and watch the ball land on the green.”
The young man removed his sandwich from the green paper wrapper and examined the two pieces of white bread with a yellowish-orange spread in the middle. He took a bite as a loud roar came from the crowd gathered around the nearby green. The young man looked up and watched a ball rolling toward the flagstick. It stopped a few feet from the hole.
He swallowed the sandwich bite. Oh my. Wow. That’s good, he thought as a strange feeling washed over him and the surroundings suddenly seemed to be more in focus. He looked up and saw the tops of pine trees against a crystal clear blue sky. He took another bite and looked to the left and noticed pink blooming azaleas. Another bite. He looked back behind them and noticed a blue pond and another putting green with more azaleas nearby. Whites and reds this time. A couple more bites and the sandwich was gone, but the feeling was not.
Another crowd roar interrupted his thoughts, and he turned back around to see a golfer bend over and pull a ball out of the hole. A man in a white jumpsuit put the flagstick back in the hole.
The next afternoon, the young man tuned into CBS television to voluntarily watch golf for the first time ever. Might as well see how this finishes out since I was there yesterday he thought to himself, trying to justify the new desire to himself.
If you only could watch one round of golf in your lifetime, Sunday, April 13, 1986, is the one you should watch. This was the day that a 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus won his 6th Masters title and became the oldest Masters winner ever. It is arguably the most exciting round of golf ever. The young man watched every minute of the telecast. His strange feeling from the day before grew stronger.
After Jack put on the green jacket at the end of the day, the young man finally knew: he had a new love.
Thanks for reading,
PS. That young man eventually fell out of love with golf, but he still tunes in on Masters Sunday and longs for a pimento cheese sandwich. These days 46 doesn’t seem old to him at all.