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A Player Who Knows Had Immelman's Back

April 15, 2008

By Matt Hombach 

Last week's talk at Augusta centered on Tiger Woods' quest for golf’s grand slam, which he claimed earlier in the year was “easily within reach.” But Trevor Immelman and a contingent of more than a dozen PGA Tour pros made it abundantly clear that the talent pool in pro golf is deep, and it’s not just about golf’s “Big Five” anymore at the majors.

Much like last year’s first-time Masters winner Zach Johnson, Immelman was respected by fellow players as a talented golfer, but wasn’t widely known to many casual golf fans. The South African was the tour’s rookie of the year in 2006 and was ranked 29th in the world coming into the Masters. 


Former Masters champion Gary Player offered his support to this year's winner, Trevor Immelman.
(Matt Hombach)

After a strong display of ball striking and perseverance under pressure, Immelman became the fifth golfer in the history of the Masters to go wire to wire -- leading or having a share of the lead after each of the four rounds. 

Woods and other challengers had a number of chances to pounce as Immelman stumbled a bit down the stretch, but windy conditions made scoring difficult, and no one was able to rise to the occasion.  

SUPPORT FROM LEGEND

Immelman grew up idolizing golf legend and fellow countryman Gary Player. It seems the feeling is mutual now as Player has taken a keen interest in Immelman’s success and played an active role in supporting him this week. 

During a practice round last Tuesday, Player offered Immelman an unsolicited pep talk, telling him he was good enough to win and that all he had to do was believe in himself. 

On Saturday night, as Immelman tried to sleep on the 54-hole lead and Player was traveling to the Middle East for a business commitment, the three-time champ left a brief voicemail that offered some words of advice for his young protégé.

“Take your time, keep your eyes on the ball a second longer on the putts, there will be bad breaks, but I know you’re going to win,” Player said in the voicemail Immelman shared with his family and the media. 

After some strong showings this decade from fellow South Africans Retief Goosen and Ernie Els, Immelman becomes the first South African to win the Masters since Player last donned a green jacket in 1978. 

PLAYER'S BIG WEEK

Immelman’s win capped a big week for three-time Masters champion Player. Player set a Masters record Friday, making his 51st appearance at Augusta, besting Arnold Palmer’s mark of 50 tournaments. 

At age 72, Player claims he’ll be back next year to make it 52 appearances. He contends as long as he can break 80, he’ll continue to play. The benchmark of 80 isn’t just an arbitrary number either. With the continued lengthening of Augusta National, Player has set his “personal par” for the fabled tract at 80. Some of the par 4s, like the 505-yard 11th hole play more like par 5s for Player. He carded a 6-over-par 78 Friday and missed the cut. 

MASTERS THEME STUCK IN YOUR HEAD?

That meandering tune that dominates the television broadcast stirs visions of springtime, azaleas and lightning-fast greens every time it's heard. 

CBS has used the song in broadcasts since the early 1980s. The song is called “Augusta” and was written by legendary country and pop songwriter Dave Loggins. Dave is the cousin of Kenny Loggins, who wrote “I’m Alright,” also known as the theme for Caddyshack. It seems as though writing catchy golf tunes runs in the Loggins family. 

Loggins penned a ton of smash hits for country artists like Alabama and is probably best known for the song “Please Come to Boston.”

After attending the Masters in 1980, Dave Loggins was inspired to write a song about the course and golf’s first major of the year. CBS liked the music so much the company incorporated it into broadcasts and have been using it for nearly three decades. 

What many golf fans don’t know is the song actually has lyrics. After reading and listening to them, it's easy to see why CBS stuck with the instrumental version and skipped the sappy words.

Here’s the first verse of “Augusta,” by Dave Loggins:

Well, it's springtime in the valley on Magnolia Lane It's the Augusta National and the master of the game Who'll wear that green coat on Sunday afternoon? Who'll walk the 18th fairway singing this tune? 

YOUNG FANS BIG WINNERS

While the Masters is rooted in tradition, the tournament and golf club are also constantly evolving and making necessary changes to improve. This year, the tournament introduced a new program which allows each fully credentialed patron to bring one child, age 8-16, to any of the four days of the tournament. 

The intent is to help grow golf by exposing youngsters to it at its highest level. Hopefully, other tournaments and golf entities will follow suit and help grow the game as interest continues to wane on a national level. 

Masters chairman Billy Payne spearheaded the initiative and commented Thursday about why the tournament committee chose to move forward with it.

“What a great combination, bringing kids in to see their heroes [and] at the same time expose them to the great attributes on how our fans act and behave and enjoy the game of golf,” he said. “It was a win-win.”

Issue 3.16: April 17, 2008