First Masters visit will forever be special

Published 8:13 am Wednesday, April 10, 2024

By Steve Stricker

“My life has been a tapestry, Of rich and royal hue, An everlasting vision, Of the ever-changing view, A wond’rous woven magic, In bits of blue and gold, A tapestry to feel and see, Impossible to hold.” Carole King, “Tapestry” February 10, 1971 – I have the vinyl album….

Carole King is one of my all-time favorite vocalists, have her songs on vinyl and my purchased new in Vietnam, Sansui, Reel-to-Reel tape deck, AR Turntable which I still have including Janis Joplin, “Pearl” 1971, the album and box of tapes.  

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That “wond’rous tapestry” Carole sings about is my tapestry, woven by God – I never planned one thing in my life and although at times quite tumultuous, scary, so close many times to death (especially Vietnam) was always protected. Faith is the one thread that has remained constant in my life and so wonderful that I could not have written a script for and remains active, unknowing, and exciting as we speak. 

There have been many “firsts” in my life – birth, Catholic School, the most amazing first gift then or now, 1st Holy Communion and the transubstantiation, long life list of other firsts to include first Masters in April 2013!   After six years of trying to get free lottery tickets to the Masters, son Stephen called one memorable day to say he had finally won two tickets to the 77th Masters Tuesday Practice Round that April 9, “Dad, do you want to go?  YES!”  

The 2024, 88th Masters, Monday April 8 to Sunday April 14 with scoring rounds begins tomorrow, Thursday the 11th.

The first Masters began on March 22, 1934 known as the “Augusta National Invitational Tournament” until 1939, founded by retired golfer Bobby Jones, held as now at the Augusta National Golf Club and won that first year by Horton Smith who pocketed the hefty sum of $1,500 (Smith won it again in 1936).  

From 1940 to today, the Masters is held the first full week of April…until the totally weird pandemic that moved it (so wrong) to November 12-15, won by Dustin Johnson “DJ” his first with a record 268, 20 under par…so unreal – like all that virus mess that has forever altered our lives.

In 1937 staff members of the Augusta Tournament began wearing green jackets so patrons could easily find them if they needed assistance and the tradition of tournament winners wearing this coveted, “Pantone Green 342” Green Jacket began in 1949 with Sam Snead being the first to slide it on. 

The Masters is my favorite PGA event, St. Andrews, Scotland second, and is way more than just another golf tournament – like my 1971 MGB-GT bought new is now a cherished time capsule!   There is a policy of strict rules and items banned from the Masters, including cell phones, is fervently enforced, cameras only allowed for practice rounds, with a strict “no-autograph” policy, and was life-changing for me….

Early on that Tuesday, April 9 practice round, trying to absorb this historically beautiful and hilly course not obvious on TV, seeing all my PGA golfers in person, that same tsunami that hit me at St. Andrews flattened me here, especially when hero golfer “Steve Stricker” big smile walking past us on the 13th Fairway when I yelled, “Steve!” pointed to me and Stephen – “Steve Stricker, Steve Stricker!

The Masters is satiated with tradition – no electronic scoreboards, prices for sandwiches and beverages unchanged for decades – Masters club $2.50, domestic beer $3.00, course immaculate, totally impressed by the friendliness of the huge staff, politeness of patrons, and everything flowed smoothly from snack lines, fair-priced Golf Shop, to restrooms.  

On that Sunday, Adam Scott, in a pouring rain, bested Angel Cabrera in a two-hole playoff by one stroke on the 10th green becoming the first Australian ever to win the Masters.  Tomorrow’s Masters will also be thrilling with unforeseen twists and turns. Go Masters, Go Rebels!