Panama's Ordonez, 4 back, humbled meeting Payne


PANAMA CITY, Panama – After pitching out from the right fairway bunker, Miguel Ordonez hit his third shot at the par-4 18th to about 5 feet, prompting a raucous cheer from his hometown fans.

When he converted the putt for par and a round of 2-under 68, the ovation was twice as loud for the Panama City native.

“It’s hard to describe,” said Ordonez, who at 1 over for the week sits four back of the lead heading into Sunday. “The support, the feeling. I’ve felt it all week. Most of the people following me have known me since I was 3, 4, 5 years old. They call me Miguelito. … It’s like I’m there kid. I see looks of pride. I see looks of people that just feel like one of their own is doing something really special. It’s a special feeling.”

As emotional as he was, he wasn’t nearly prepared for what came next. A tournament official pulled Ordonez aside on his way to the scoring room, and hit him with these six words:

“The chairman wants to meet you.”

After signing his card, Ordonez was led into a room around the back of the clubhouse. Sitting inside was just one man, watching a television: Augusta National chairman Billy Payne.

“It was one of the thrills of my lifetime,” Ordonez said, “that he wanted to meet me. … He was by himself. He’s not feeling well; his back was hurting. But I mean, I get in there, and he gets up. He gets up from the chair. He couldn’t be any more humble, classy.”

The two spent their time talking about nearby Santa Maria Golf Club, where Ordonez is a membership and marketing director and where Payne visited Friday.

As small as the gesture was, Ordonez was genuinely moved that Payne not only wanted to meet him, but that he stood up.

“It’s one, it’s one … it’s one of the highlights of my life,” he said.