Augusta, 06 April: It is one of the many fine traditions at the Augusta National Golf Club. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player took pride of place, getting the Masters off the block as honorary starters. At 0815am EDT, the two great golfers drove from the first tee box to signify the beginning of the tournament’s 82nd edition.
The golden bear called it the “the greatest day I’ve ever had at Augusta National.”
“Six Green Jackets is pretty good,” Nicklaus said. “But that’s about yourself. When something happens to your children or grandchildren, it’s special.”
It was Gary Player that went first, firing it straight as an arrow. Nicklaus followed with his tee shot. Neither went past the incline, but Player outhit his legendary partner yet again.
“Time marches on,” reflected Nicklaus explaining the lack of length. But Tom Watson won the par-3 contest and GT warmed grandpa’s heart with a hole-in-one.
“We were all relevant again,” chuckled Nicklaus, reminiscing the fine afternoon when the three men got together for the traditional Wednesday festival.
Only Arnold Palmer was missing, as he was last year too. The King departed to calmer climes in 2016 and it has fallen upon the duo of Nicklaus and Player to be the honorary starters since then.
Between the two they have 97 Masters, 327 rounds of golf at the Augusta National and an overwhelming nine green jackets.
Fred Ridley, delivering the duties of an usher for the first time was clearly grateful to have these two legends do their honourable duties. He paid them a rich tribute before letting them get on with their business – “men whose legacies will live forever throughout the history of Augusta National Golf Club,” is how he introduced them to patrons stretching several rows back.
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