Tag Archives: Masters

Hail to the King!

29 Mar

A Palmer Pilgrimage to Wake Forest last fall

I am celebrating The King from this month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational to next month’s Masters and beyond. Palmer, the global sports icon and my fellow Wake Forest Demon Deacon, passed away last fall at the age of 87. The new golf season reminds us that old traditions will be quite different this year without golf’s greatest ambassador.

  • “Can he play golf?”

The Wake Forest Athletics Director uttered this in 1947 when a Deacon recruit was encouraging him to offer another scholarship to a fresh-faced 18-year-old from Latrobe, Pa. That recruit would take Wake’s golf team and then a whole sport to a new level.

  • “This man was my favorite person. Not my favorite golfer, but my favorite person that I ever met.”

Country music singer and golfing enthusiast Vince Gill said this about the King. I don’t bite on too many marketing campaigns, but Mastercard aced it with #ArnieWould: Arnie would stop and sign every autograph, Arnie would found two hospitals for women and children, Arnie would become only the sixth athlete ever to be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal…

  • “How he impacts other people is more important than any golf championship.”

A former patient at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies named her son Palmer after surviving a harrowing pregnancy thanks in large part to the Orlando hospital staff. The family was surprised, to say the least, when later little Palmer received a thankful letter from his legendary namesake. Arnie had the common touch, but was still bigger than life to many folks. More importantly, he believed in something bigger than self.

 

Source: Wake Forest magazine, NBC Sports

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9 Holes to Avoid in Your Master(s) Plan

11 Apr
This Phil Phan's choice of cups yesterday didn't help Mickelson much.

This Phil Phan’s choice of cups yesterday didn’t help Mickelson much.

Going to the Masters is like Christmas Day with golf clubs. It’s a whole nation of inspiration plus really good, inexpensive food & beverage. It’ll make you forget your boss, your aches & pains (redundant?) and your deadlines, just don’t forget about the following details:

• Don’t go unprepared: sunscreen, a change of shoes, clothing layers, etc. I have nearly frozen on the course in the morning and followed that up with a sunburn by late afternoon. Also, don’t forget your own personal mood enhancers: sausage biscuits & James Taylor are a favorite combo of mine on the way to Augusta National Golf Club.

• Don’t visit the apparel shop until the end of the day. You don’t want to lug around merchandise the whole day and if you take those items back to the car you’re only spending more time away from the glorious golf.

• Don’t leave Masters badges within view in your car… because there’s a good chance they’ll be gone when you get back! This happened to my aunt & uncle in 1993 — bless their hearts. My brother and I drove down from college in Virginia and North Carolina, respectively, only to find out that, as a result, there’d be no Masters for us that year.

• Don’t think you can be everywhere for every good shot. Plus, part of the fun and energy is hearing those distant roars booming through the pines and checking the scoreboard a couple minutes later to see who made birdie or eagle on what hole.

• The Masters is the greatest sporting event in the world, but don’t skip out on just any obligation to attend. My brother chose the tournament over his high school baseball duties and got more than a firm benching.

• When using the cross walk to get to the other side of a fairway, don’t get distracted. Looking up at the green during a crossing, my dad nearly trucked Curtis Strange.

• Don’t root too hard for a player/fellow alum. Just because you hear the “U da man!” yell all the time on TV doesn’t mean a marshal won’t dress you down for very vocal support. Or maybe I got pulled aside along the 1st tee box one year for rooting on Lanny Wadkins because “Go Demon Deacons!” is just not as familiar as cheers for Dawgs or Tigers.

• Don’t go on Sunday (if you have a choice). The best vantage point for the all-important final round at Augusta is from your couch. Our family tradition involved going to the tournament on Friday when you could see more players (i.e., before the 36-hole cut). Plus, why not make a three-day weekend out of the Masters! (Confession: I am more than happy to go on Sunday this year, especially here in the DVR era.)

• Bringing your cellphone through the tournament gates is a no-no. Oh, and don’t bring your putter either. I actually had a high school friend back in the day ask me if fans did the latter!

My Top 5 Writing Assignments

28 Jun

5. HALL PASS: Coming two years after their Super Bowl campaign and not long before the Michael Vick Era (at least the good part of it), the Atlanta Falcons’ 2000 season was nothing to write home about. But the writing I did at home games that year for the organization’s PR staff was certainly quite memorable. My feature story on defensive tackle Travis Hall ran in the game-day program and on the team website.

4. NOTHING LIKE THE FIRST TIME: My first ever journalism assignment had me interviewing my golfing hero and the 1987 Masters champion. Larry “I Can’t Believe” Mize pulled off a miraculous, sudden-death, 140-foot chip-in to beat Greg Norman that year, one of the greatest shots in golf history. On top of the unmatched drama, the Cinderella story (he was an Augusta, Ga., native who actually manned one of the Masters scoreboards in his younger days) and his Ga. Tech ties, Mize performed his heroics during a time when my love for golf was really beginning to blossom. He instantly became my favorite player. I will say this: his nerves during that epic Masters playoff were far sturdier than mine when I called him for that March 2000 interview.

3. DON’T FORGET TO RECYCLE: During my grad school days at the University of Georgia, I was paid to play and profile The Georgia Club for the Columbus, Ga., Golf Guide. As if free golf and fun work weren’t satisfying enough, I then got paid again for the piece, after only minor modifications, by a local magazine! (Just a few years later, The Georgia Club would become the venue for our traditional guys golf outing the day before my UGA Chapel wedding.)

2. MIXING BUSINESS & PLEASURE IN VEGAS: In March 2005, I convinced my boss to fly me out to Las Vegas for a roundup of stories for my western-focused real estate magazine (including this piece on the $1.5 billion Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino, which opened in December 2010.) Not coincidentally, my good buddy/college classmate and the fellas flew in on the second night for his bachelor party. After cruising around town from one interview to the next in a sporty red rental (while blasting Sinatra), I switched gears and cruised the Strip with the boys during a fun-filled, March Madness-themed Sin City soiree. Airfare covered.

After I told Hammerin' Hank that I was born the same year he broke Babe Ruth's home run record, he responded with "That was a pretty good year."

After I told Hammerin’ Hank that I was born just a few months after he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, he said, “That was a pretty good year.”

1. A HANKERIN’ FOR THE BEST: My first assignment for the Atlanta Braves magazine ChopTalk involved interviewing Hank Aaron! One on one in his office overlooking Turner Field! The true home run king and baseball legend was so relaxed and genuine that my interviewing nerves were soon calmed. I remember thinking: I should be paying for this incredible experience, not the other way around! As the years go by since that rarest of assignments in early 2009, it seems more and more unreal that I got that very unique opportunity with Hammerin’ Hank.

ENERGY OF THE CROWD

31 Oct

It seems right to talk about the excitement and energy of a crowd on Halloween. After all, some of our most special childhood memories are from those long-ago trick-or-treat adventures with friends when anything seemed possible, from the next costume to walk by or candy score to staying up way past your normal bedtime. It was a “festival of becoming” as author Andrew Horton has phrased.

I have had some spectacular moments in the crowd this year. At the Masters Tournament in April, my brother-in-law-to-be and I had just arrived at Amen Corner when Kevin Na holed out for eagle from the 13th fairway. Electric! The very next month I was lucky enough to be in the radio Voice of the Braves’ seats when eventual Hall of Famer Chipper Jones in his last season wacked a walk-off homerun in the 11th inning to complete a comeback from 6-0 down and stop an 8-game losing streak versus division nemesis Philadelphia. I will always remember the sound of the bat and the euphoria that ensued. The game, which also featured a Brian McCann grand slam, was probably the best non-playoff contest I’ve ever attended.

In August, thanks to a friend’s invite, I attended my first Phish show. Despite limited passes, our group took liberties in funneling down to the standing section right in front of the stage so we could soak up all of the powerful rock and roll. Amazing stuff.

When was the last time nothing mattered — not how late it was or when you had to get up in the morning or your next-day obligations — but that stimulating, scintillating moment with 100s of your newest friends?

Though a different style of music, Chris Rose in his book “After Katrina” does a splendid job of capturing that feeling when writing about the Rebirth Brass Band in the Crescent City:

It is an explosion of sound, just drums and horns — who needs anything else, really? — and it is the sound of Mardis Gras, of second lines, street parades, and house parties. Of New Orleans… It’s organic. Sexy. Maybe even mildly dangerous – all that sweat… Loud. Fast. Free-falling. Funky. You’ve got 10 new friends. The girls in your arms — what’s her name? Who cares? Dance. If you saw youself in a mirror at this instant, you wouldn’t recognize yourself. And that can be a good thing… Feeling the release of the fist-thrusting call-and-response, staring into a wall of horns whose music is so muscular that it almost takes on a physical manifestation and reaches out and beats you about the head and grabs your collar and screams in your face, “You are alive, boy! Do you understand?”

FAREWELL TO FURMAN

27 Mar

My first cover story with an assist from Furman Bisher.

Last week, sports fans everywhere, especially those living here in Georgia, lost a true legend when long-time columnist Furman Bisher passed away at the age of 93. His Masters reflections every April, take on the latest gridiron battle between Ga. Tech and Georgia, and annual Thanksgiving column were absolute staples of any Southern sports fan’s diet.

“He put more quality words on newsprint than any other writer in the last half of the 20th century,” Jim Minter, former editor of The Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution, told the newspaper. “He never wrote a bad column.”

Bisher started with the Atlanta Constitution in 1950 as a reporter, and by the end of his long, illustrious career had garnered Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame, International Golf Writers Hall of Fame, and National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame accolades, as well as the Red Smith Award for contributions to journalism.

Even with all his achievements, Bisher was still willing to share his time and encyclopedic knowledge of sports with a green freelancer like me. Eleven years ago this month, I was lucky enough to interview the legend for a Columbus (Ga.) Golf Guide cover story on the unprecedented amount of primetime golf events in the state of Georgia in 2001.

“No state in the country has that many golf tournaments of such proportion,” the preeminent pundit told me over the phone about a Peach State lineup that not only featured the Masters and two regular PGA Tour events, but also the PGA Championship, an LPGA Tour event, a senior tour championship and the two most prominent annual amateur golf competitions. “It’s about as full a calendar as I’ve ever seen in the state of Georgia.”

And, oh, the things Bisher had seen during his incredible sportswriting career! Thanks so much for your time, your inspiration and the many memories, Furman.

Selah.