My first "clear" memory is that of Jack jogging up the slope on 16, arms pumping upward, putter aloft, as his caddie obscured our view of one of the signature moments in Master's history.
Back in the day, when the last 4 holes were all we got, this was my family's second "religious service" on the second Sunday in April. The springs of my childhood began every year on this weekend.
Of all the majors, The Masters is the one with mystique, a sense of something larger than just the tournament. It is the only one that comes close to "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (and I'm talking about the book, not the movie),
It is very much a spiritual experience for the golfers among us.
Pebble Beach and St. Andrews come close, but we are rarely there. Augusta lures us in every year.
It is immaculate, serene and peaceful in its beauty, at least until the back 9 on Sunday.
Triumph. Disaster. Victory. Defeat. The ebbs and flows of warriors fighting back the demons in their minds, as they strive to win the coveted...
That's right. Walk away the victor, and you're a member for life. Until you depart this earth, you will always be welcome.
And we will always know your name.
The genius of The Masters is that every golfer, even those who marginally watch, feel like they are a part of it. We all know every hole. We know the pin placements. We know where NOT to hit the ball. We know how every putt breaks. The final walk up 18 on Sunday is burned in our collective mind. We remember what the winner did when his final shot settled into the cup on the 18th green, or on 10 or 11 in a playoff. I'll bet that most golfers can name more Masters champions than any other major.
I do remember other great "major" moments. Nicklaus and Watson on 17 at Pebble, for instance. But many more are cataloged at Augusta, almost too many to recall. All the playoff drama on 11. Rae's Creek on 12 & 13.
For America, this is golf. While many folks can play year round, the calendar is not what determines a new season.
That's why this is more than just a golf tournament. It is a right of passage, the gateway to a new season. Spring. Azaleas. Finely manicured fairways. For me, it is not a coincidence that this event happens at this time of year. It is golf's version of Easter. New beginnings. Hope.
The stuff of legends.
And of TV.
CBS has done an incredible job of capturing through the TV lens the aura, serenity, and stateliness of these hallowed grounds. The fact that we come here every year allows them to fine tune the message as we go along.
The US Open used to be the place where legends grew. The days of Snead and Hogan, Palmer, and a much younger Nicklaus were incredible. That event still held the public's fascination until the mid 70's. But since then, The Masters has eclipsed all the majors in fan recognition, and TV is the instigator.
There are only two annual events for which I will stop at nothing to watch.
Bedlam football...and Sunday afternoon at Augusta. These two things are a part of my fabric, my religion. Bedlam is the battlefield. The Masters is the sanctuary. One puts me to bed for the winter, the other awakens me to spring.
And the hope that this season my swing will finally be perfect.
One can always hope, right?