It’s back! This is the week that the world zooms in and shines on Augusta and the Masters Tournament. It’s time for private jets and turboprop airplanes to flood the skies in our area. Other than Christmas and Easter, this week cranks my soul like no other. So many great memories of this tournament since my first one at age seven in 1976 and so many great anticipated ones to come.
I have grown up here in North Augusta, only a short six miles as the crow flies from the Augusta National, the greatest course and tournament in the world. For a boy with heavy Scottish genes and a golfing grandfather with the last name of McDougal, you can see why my heart leaps with joy when the world of golf and Augusta collide here every year. For thirty five years straight, I attended this event practically every day of the week from Tuesday through Sunday.
Times flies for sure and my mind is turning back thirty years to a day that will live forever in my mind when in 1987 an Augusta native named Larry Mize won this tournament on a wing and a prayer in an unbelievable playoff against golfing legends Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.
It was my senior year in high school and I was working the scoreboard on hole #3. Once all the leaders passed your hole, you were free to clock out and enjoy the scoreboard badge for the rest of the day. Joining all my North Augusta High School friends, my brother Jon and I pulled for the local hero all day and dreamed of the possibility that one day we might be the next Larry Mize.
A day of destiny was brewing hot for these three men, one a local long shot and the other players were two of the best to have ever played the game. Tied after 72 holes, a sudden death playoff began. You have never lived until you have experienced a playoff late on a Sunday at Augusta with your friends all around you. To everyone’s shocking disbelief, Ballesteros was out after the first playoff hole. Norman and Mize tied and the second playoff ensued down hole #11. My heart was racing and excitement flooded my body as we all navigated quickly in and around the masses of people. Greg Norman hit the green with his second shot and Mize pushed his shot way right of the green and long. We thought it was all over for Mize, but hurried to secure a great vantage point for what would be one of the greatest golf shots in major championship history.
The masses became incredibly still and eerily silent as Larry Mize set up for his pitch shot, with only those famous and very familiar Augusta bird sounds piercing the air. With nothing but hope and a belief in the God who can make the impossible possible, Mize hit the shot of his life. The excitement built quickly as the beauty of the stroke was evident early. Maybe, could be, looking good, looking great, oh my goodness, it just might go in the, ROAR!!!!!!!!!! We jumped, we screamed, we leaped, we shouted, we hugged and high fived each other and people from all over the world. The local hero became the Masters Champion. This was material for legendary stories to be told forever and memories to last a lifetime.
I love the Masters. I have so many more stories I could share from an eyewitness viewpoint from these hallowed and heavenly grounds of Augusta National. But thirty years ago showed me that God, being the lover and the creator of our hearts, can sure fill it with dreams and excitement beyond your wildest imagination. Life ebbs and flows and after a while you learn that as you grow older it takes more and more excitement to fill that heart with wonder than it did when you were younger. Nothing in this world can do it. Only God is big enough to fill it with wonder, joy, hope, and excitement. This is great news for you and your heart! He is the hero that can conquer against all odds in your life and can fuel your dreams and make them happen, just like He did with Larry Mize.
As I type this right now, all alone in the quiet of my sunroom in the morning, I hear those spring time Augusta birds piercing the air with song. “What are you saying to me God?” I ask. But I already know exactly what he is telling us both. Believe in me, trust me, and courageously swing the club of your life. I want to do a miracle through my power inside of you and I want the world to see it. So let’er rip!!!! Hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” from your Father in Heaven, will be the ultimate green jacket ceremony, as He crowns you as His champion for all eternity.