In 2008, Trevor Immelman won The Masters. He was the first person in 30 years to lead on Thursday and also win on Sunday. He beat Tiger by a solid 3 strokes. No playoffs at 18. No down to the wire, late day heroics. But it was special and good, as all Masters’ Sundays are.
I was there with my dad.
I’m the oldest child and the only girl in my family. My dad, a blue collar, hardworking electrician, is an avid sports fan. He works long hours on knees that fail him and hands that are tightening up. But watching a good game is his relief, his hobby. Football in the fall, baseball in the summer was the typical rhythm in our house. There was a sprinkling of tennis, golf and basketball in the appropriate seasons. No hockey, because well, I grew up in the South Carolina heat. I was in college before I met anyone who watched hockey.
It was easy for dad to connect with my brother. He played baseball. He inherently understood all sports, as some boys seem to do. But for me, somehow in a way neither one of us could perceive, the games on TV became what I did with my dad. We sat and watched sports together. He never backed down from teaching his decidedly unathletic daughter about X and Os and how to keep the baseball score books. There was a patience to him. Never pushy. Shopping trips with mom. Watch sports with dad. It was the flow of our family.
When I was a kid, college football was not nearly as prolific as it is today but you could count on the Cowboys, Bears, 49ers and Packers to be on TV every Sunday. We were, and still are, a Cowboys family. America’s Team. I played on the floor of the den, Dad watched football, and I asked questions. I can still remember the day I asked dad the difference between offense and defense. Aiken, Smith, Irving, and Johnson were the visual aides in dad’s gridiron school.
Repeat the story with baseball but insert Lemke, Bream, Blauser, Pendleton and Nixon. When the Braves won the world series in 1995, you would have thought we won the lottery and Bobby Cox was king.
It took me a while to appreciate golf. The game is slow and looks easy compared to the rough and tumble of football or the skill of baseball. Dad owned a set of clubs but he didn’t use them very often. They were more likely swords or fort pillars than drivers and wedges. And the closest we got to putting was at Captain Hooks Adventure Golf in Myrtle Beach.
But growing up an hour from Augusta National, there is an awe of the course and The Masters tournament in all locals – in all people – regardless of the amount of care for the sport. The soothing music, green jackets, yellow flags, magnolia trees and azaleas. How could a place be so bright, so green? Every year we would watch. Every year dad would teach me about the game. Every year my love and respect grew. Every year, he wanted to go.
Family friends received passes to The Masters for the first time in 2008 and we were fortunate enough to go as their guests. We woke up early, piled in dad’s truck and headed west on I-20.
We decided to walk the entire course before settling down. The greens were soft from evening rains, but still stunning, alive. Amen Corner, where the best parts of holes 11, 12 and 13 can be seen, seemed like the best place to sit. And I can report that despite their painting-like quality on TV, Rea’s Creek and Hogan Bridge are indeed real and just as beautiful in person. We sat beside a Presbyterian minister who has been coming to Augusta National by himself for years. He told us his favorite tournament moments and how the yearly trip was important and necessary. There was an unusual politeness among all the patrons. A reverence for the place and game.
Eventually we moved on to the Par-3 16, my favorite hole, and stood for a while watching pairing after pairing hit over the water. We ate our weight in pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches, moon pies and bananas. We were sunburned. and our legs ached. I knew my dad’s knee was bothering him, but he never complained, not wanting hint at all at ungratefulness.
Dad and I didn’t speak much that day. Words were not really needed. There was an unspoken thankfulness between the two of us. Many let’s-soak-this-up moments. There have been a handful of intentional memory-making moments in the life of our family. Vacations, trips, days off of school just for the fun of it. Once my mom took me to see the Pope in our hometown, not because we are remotely Catholic, but because it felt important and my mom knew I would remember it. This felt like one of those weighty moments. Even as an adult, even now, this was a special time with my dad.
We finished the day at 18 among the throngs of people. We watch Immelman close out the win, slip on the jacket and entirely change his life. But for me, a daddy’s girl who’s never wanted not to be, this day marked me. It marked my dad too. Augusta National has always been special to my dad for the tradition and beauty. Now also because a dad and his daughter could experience it together.