Hello again, Valley golfers, and welcome to another season of Thoughts on the Green. Although the weather might not be acting like it, spring is upon us. And as I type this on a late Wednesday night, I think we are about to be treated to an extra special Masters week.
I know I’ve debated in the past golf’s most special major. But just a few weeks ago I read an article that made me think of this tournament specifically. It was about a grown man who went back to his childhood hometown. He talked about forgotten memories that flooded back when he saw this or that.
Although it was unrelated to golf, it jogged some of my own forgotten memories that I was able to remember through associations.
I hadn’t thought of Meander Golf Course in a long time — the little nine-hole course in North Jackson that I used to play with my Granny and Poppa. When I really thought about it, I was able to feel how hard their tee boxes got in the summer months and remembered my 12-year-old self having to use a broken tee just to get a peg in the ground.
I haven’t played the old Dogwood Golf Course (now also closed) in decades. But I could somehow still smell the kielbasa cooking on the roller when we’d run in for snacks before crossing the road from five green to six tee.
And I haven’t played in a junior tournament now for 20 years. But I can still emotionally feel the excitement and pride that came from my Poppa’s thumbs-up after a good shot.
While special in my own mind, I realize that these memories are just mine. There weren’t any sports-altering implications from my shots. There aren’t network recordings of my finest moments. And as much as I wish I could, the opportunity to go back and recreate these moments or shots simply isn’t possible.
For 99.9 percent of sports-related memories, that last sentence rings true. Derek Jeter will never find himself in a competitive situation that, in any way, recreates his first World Series experience at the old Yankee Stadium. Tom Brady, while still playing in Super Bowls, will never have his original team from his first Super Bowl victory 15-plus years ago.
But somehow, the Masters is different. I’ll go so far as to say it is the single greatest sporting event in the world. Period. And I say that because of Augusta National’s ability to intertwine all three time periods: the past, the present and the future.
I just watched Jack Nicklaus play nine holes with Gary Player and Tom Watson. Let me correct that: compete for nine holes. And not just against each other, but the entire field. Irrelevant you say? Tom Watson, age 68, won at 6-under par. Jack Nicklaus, 78, finished fourth at 4-under.
From the Par-3 tournament to the Past Champions Dinner, no other sporting event in the world recognizes and includes its past champions as well as the Masters.
The present you ask? Go ask Jordan Spieth what he thinks about the Masters: “It’s our Super Bowl.” Or watch Bubba Watson’s emotions pour out after winning his first green jacket in 2014. Or Phil Mickelson after winning his third in 2010.
The traditions and history of years gone by give today’s players the opportunity to not only compare their shots to today’s best players, but to know they are standing in historic spots: hallowed ground where our sport’s legends hit the shots that made them legends.
And just in case you missed it, Augusta National continues to move our sport forward, with the newer Drive, Chip and Putt Championship that gives today’s juniors the opportunity to fist-pump a made putt on Augusta’s famous 18th green and the just-announced Augusta Women’s Amateur Championship. Immediately one of the most prestigious amateur events in the world, Augusta National will annually welcome the top 72 female amateurs in the world. The week before the Masters.
I’d give anything to go back and play a meaningless nine holes with my Granny and Poppa at Meander — as I’m sure most of you reading this could say about a memory in your own mind.
And although we may not have that option, for those of us who love golf, this week is just somehow a little extra special. History will be remembered. New memories will be made. And the future is in good hands. Because this week, our sport is going home.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com.