TV and The Masters


Jason Gore couldnt get enough of a great thing.
Like many young boys smitten by the game and ravenous for more golf, Gore feasted on The Masters, the sports handsomest major tournament and its internationally-acclaimed annual rite of spring.
Into his living room, gift-wrapped in drama, came the broadcast of the 1986 Masters at which an aging 46-year-old legend named Jack Nicklaus took the Sunday measure of the back nine at Augusta National.
Its the reason why we all play golf, says Gore, who would grow up to play and win on the PGA TOUR. Its the only tournament I watch on TV.
Gore was 11 years old that year when Nicklaus navigated the back nine in 30 strikes to hold off an ascendant Greg Norman.
Verne Lundquist saying, Yessir. Ben Wright saying, Jack Nicklaus, waiting for absolute silence.'' Gore recites.
If Caddyshack is the film of choice for a generation of TOUR players, The Masters is the made-for-TV extravaganza that annually offers a sequel to itself that, with rare exception, delivers a compelling storyline.
Gore says he was probably in college when his VHS tape of Nicklaus Sunday charge broke from overuse. Last Christmas, his wife Megan replaced the damaged treasure with a DVD of the 1986 Masters.
Ive watched the 1986 Masters almost 2-1 over Caddyshack, Gore says now.
He watches it every day, Megan Gore clarifies.
Australian Tour pro Nathan Green was 10 years old in 1986 and just getting into golf when he got up at 4 a.m. at his home in Newcastle, New South Wales. When the broadcast was over it was time to go to school.
In 1996 Norman lost again, this time to Nick Faldo after talking a 6-shot lead into the final round. Faldos precise 67 in the face of Normans floundering 78 was the golfing equivalent of watching someone pick the wings off of a fly.
In Australia, the 1996 Masters was a blow to national pride and a tournament that would live in sporting infamy. I remember having a kind of gutted feeling, Green said. The whole country was gutted.
All across the world, boys have glued themselves to their television sets and dreamed of playing at Augusta National on the second Sunday in April.
Winning? Thats pretty much of a pipe dream, says Green, who has yet to play in his first Masters but is acutely aware of the potential for serendipity of his surname there.
Ian Poulters fashion statements had yet to be made when, as a boy, he watched the telecasts of The Masters at home in England.
I remember Woosies (Ian Woosnam) putt for birdie on 18 (in 1991) and Sandy Lyles putt for birdie on 18 (in 1988), Poulter says. Both were winning strokes, for the Welshman and the Scot, respectively.
I remember Seve (Ballesteros) with a 4-iron in his hand in 1986 (on the 15th on Sunday), Poulter recalls. The ball wound up in the water. Watching The Masters was huge growing up in England. It was great. Even when the Euro didnt beat the Legend.
Boo Weekley will proudly tell you he doesnt watch golf on TV because, he says, hed rather be out hunting and fishing. But in the next breath hell admit he caught Tiger Woods Sunday shot-heard-round-the-world chip-in on the par-3 16th at Augusta three years ago.
Weekleys high school teammate, Heath Slocum, was 12 years old and hanging out in the North Florida pro shop where his dad worked when the crowd swelled in the pro shop. Yes, the 1986 Masters was on the tube there, too.
Im sure there was some hootin and hollerin, Slocum says now. Im sure I had a club in my hand trying to make every shot he (Nicklaus) made.
This year at Augusta, Weekley and Slocum will both be playing in their first Masters.
And Mike Hulbert, who will turn 50 the week after the tournament, will be doing the Live From Amen Corner broadcasts.
In the Hulbert household in New York watching The Masters on TV was woven into the fabric of the family culture. We were kind of golf nuts and sports geeks, he says. We didnt miss a beat.
Hulbert would go on to play in four Masters, the first one in 1987. But he still remembers watching the 1979 Masters on television when Fuzzy Zoeller tossed his putter to the heavens after defeating Ed Sneed and Tom Watson in a playoff.
I still want to know where that putter ended up, Hulbert says.
Zoeller ended up in the Butler Cabin wearing a green jacket. TV was there for that moment, too.
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