Larry Mize is a Masters champion, but his favorite title is family man
April 09, 2020
By Chris Richards, PGATOUR.COM
- April 09, 2020
- Larry Mize won the 1987 Masters by holing a chip shot on the second playoff hole. (Getty Images)
Memorabilia can still be found in his house in Columbus, Georgia, and his Green Jacket is safely kept at Augusta National. He has photo albums and a trophy and an engraved gold coin, and even his striped purple shirt from that Sunday is in storage.
But the biggest effect from Larry Mize’s 1987 Masters win is something he cherishes even more: time.
Thirty-three years ago, Mize won on the second playoff hole by holing an iconic chip shot that inspired the iconic call by CBS announcer Steve Melnyk: “Words do not do justice to the greatness of that shot.”
The 28-year-old Augusta native celebrated in the 11th fairway with his wife, Bonnie, and first son, David, who would turn 1 year old just five days later. Over the next seven years, the family added two more sons – Patrick and Robert – and two more reasons to be thankful for the intangible benefits of donning the Green Jacket.
“Winning the Masters helped give me more time to be at home,” Larry said. “After I won Augusta, I cut my schedule back a little bit and didn’t play as many tournaments and I was home more because the kids were getting older.”
That’s not to say the Mizes were apart during the bulk of Larry’s PGA TOUR career. David was just one month old when he started traveling with Larry and Bonnie, and Patrick and Robert joined years later. Trips across the country and around the globe included games of hotel tag with other kids of TOUR players, as well as faxing homework assignments back to school on Fridays.
“We didn’t know any other way, so it’s very normal and natural to us,” David said. “We have experiences that only we have and it’s cool to share that with your brothers.”
Just like an only child doesn’t know what life’s like with a sibling, the Mize brothers don’t know what life’s like without a Masters champion as a father.
“I never played without it (the Mize surname), so I never really knew what normal was,” said Robert, who won the 2014 Georgia State Amateur and was a Division II All-American at Columbus State. “Normal is my life and normal is that expectation.”
The abundance of normalness was by design. Humility is in the DNA of southern gentlemen, and the Mize family is no exception.
At home, long talks about fishing and hunting are much more common than reliving dad’s glory days, and Larry Mize stories come up with passersby, not at family dinners.
“It’s always amazing to me how many people come up to me and say they were there. I feel like at this point in my life I’ve met everybody who attended that Masters,” David said. “The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve appreciated the magnitude of the situation.”
Robert’s appreciation perhaps started in the first grade when he brought to school the VHS tape of the 1987 Masters, and it grew along with his golf career before it eventually intersected with Amen Corner.
When he was playing at Columbus State, his team had the opportunity to play Augusta National. On the 11th hole, Robert’s approach shot landed near a familiar place.
“I played it one time and I was kind of over there and it made me even more nervous,” he said. “I may have just barely got it on the green.”
After pursuing professional golf for a couple years, Robert is now a Management Associate at a bank in Augusta. David is a lawyer in Columbus, while Patrick is a computer software developer.
In other words, they have exactly what their father wanted for them all along: a regular life.
For Larry, his regular life included coaching his sons’ soccer and basketball teams in elementary and middle school. He never wore his Green Jacket on the sideline, but the competitive fire was there all the same.
Case in point: David’s team was tied with its rival late in a middle school soccer game. Larry was filling in for the head coach and didn’t want to lose, so he called a play for the team’s best player.
“I called David over and said ‘David, quit passing and take that ball down there and score!’ And he did.”
The Masters brings out the best in Larry, not only because of his win in 1987 but because every year is a “family reunion.” The family has a typical walking route at Augusta National (According to David: “You always know how to find everybody because our crew follows the same path every day.”), there are family dinners every night, and there’s no shortage of extremely normal stories.
“Where my parents used to live in Augusta, they had some trees in the front yard and they were climbable. I remember one morning before I played, I was out there and we were climbing trees,” Larry said. “People were probably thinking I was crazy, climbing trees before I play in the Masters, but we just had a great time.”
And at the end of the day, that’s all Larry ever wanted for himself and his family.
“That was the way I wanted it, I wanted to have a fun time with my family wherever I was, whether it was at the Masters or anywhere else,” he said. “It was some great memories over the years, and we’re still going to have some more.”