Sports writers look back on their careers and like to brag that they were “there at Game 7” or covered “one of the great championships of all time.”
No one says much about the clunkers. The duds. The I-would-have-been-better-off-staying-home events.
Welcome to my Masters experience.
I share a theoretical office space at the Shreveport-Bossier Journal with my boys Roy Lang III and Teddy Allen, who have been to the Masters so many times that they have voting privileges in Augusta. They could go on the banquet circuit and regale everyone with their memories of great Masters moments they have seen.
Meanwhile, I’m stuck with the memory of covering the worst Masters ever.
Fred Couples having a ball miraculously not roll back into Rae’s Creek on No. 12? I was one year late. Ben Crenshaw’s emotional second green jacket or Greg Norman’s choke job on the back nine? Just missed them, too.
The signature moment from the Masters I covered? Chip Beck laying up on the 15th hole because he wanted to make sure he came in second. Don’t you remember that riveting walk up the 18th fairway by eventual winner Bernhard Langer? I don’t, and I was there.
At least I think I was. I might have been asleep by then.
About a month earlier, Kent Heitholt, the late sports editor of the Shreveport Times, asked me which event I’d like to cover – the Final Four in New Orleans or the Masters. It wasn’t a hard choice for me since I had already covered two Final Fours. Kent loved going to Augusta, so for him to throw me that bone was pretty awesome.
So Kent went to the Final Four and was courtside when Michigan’s Chris Webber famously called a time out the Wolverines didn’t have. It’s certainly one of the Top 10 moments in Final Four history.
A week later, I’m writing about how some Australian named Brett Ogle couldn’t find a bathroom on the entire course and so he had to relieve himself behind the bushes on the 13th tee. But I did follow that up with a Pulitzer-worthy story about how Jay Don Blake — you remember him, right? — had a Playboy sponsorship on his bag.
Langer went on to win the 1993 Masters by four strokes, meaning that I got to see the most one-sided win in 10 years. Beck held on for second, which apparently is all he wanted to do anyway.
By the way, I was also there one of the years that the azaleas didn’t bloom. The one time in my life I cared about flora and I got a no-show.
But I don’t want to leave the impression that it was a miserable experience. Far from it. I remember eating Easter lunch on the second story balcony of the clubhouse. Not a lot of people can check that box.
They used to have elevated towers as a vantage point for the press, so I walked down to the one by the 11th green and 12th hole and just posted up in that perch for hours and took it all in.
I came up with a great story idea and failed to act upon it. Gene Sarazen, who was 91 years old at the time, was one of the honorary starters on Thursday morning that year, but all he did was hit a tee shot, take a right turn and head for the locker room. So why did he have a caddy? I wanted to interview that guy under the category of World’s Easiest Job.
As it turned out, within the next month that caddy had one more job than I did. The newspaper and I had a bit of a disagreement and guess who won? They were Bernhard Langer.
And I was Chip Beck.
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