Masters memories from those who won Green Jackets
November 10, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- November 10, 2020
- Mark O'Meara and Jose Maria Olazabal at the Masters in 1999. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
Prior to flying out to Arizona for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Mike Weir checked his email. In it was a note from Augusta National brass: the Champions Dinner was a go for Tuesday of Masters week. There was the one dress-code requirement: Green Jackets only.
“They’ve adjusted a couple of things. We usually have cocktails and a reception. That’s not happening this year,” the 2003 Masters winner said. “But at least we’re having the dinner.”
Indeed, in a year of uncertainties, the Masters Champions Dinner – like the tournament itself – is a nice anchor of normalcy. And it will be attended by a robust contingent of PGA TOUR Champions members.
Weir turned 50 in May and this will be his first Champions Dinner since he hit that milestone. The same goes for Phil Mickelson, who has won both of his starts on the Champions Tour in 2020.
Other Champions Tour members who headed to Augusta from the Charles Schwab Cup Championship include Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples (who played a practice round with Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, and Bryson DeChambeau on Monday), Mark O’Meara, Vijay Singh, Larry Mize, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Sandy Lyle.
It’s a big and impressive group, and all of the guys from the Champions Tour have had their run at the head of the table of the Masters Champions dinner at one time or another – one of the Masters longtime traditions, in a place that’s built on them.
For many, Singh’s Thai-inspired meal is one of the best that’s ever been served. It was a special night, as Singh was able to bring in chefs from outside of Augusta National’s walls into the kitchen – a husband-and-wife team who own Nan Thai Fine Dining in Atlanta. Ingredients were flown in from Thailand, including flowers for the tables.
“Vijay Singh had about 11 or 12 courses,” recalls Sandy Lyle, the 1988 Masters winner. “We thought we were done and another five plates later we were still going at it. He got the round of applause at the end of the night.”
Lyle was one of many Champions who have decided to serve dishes from their homeland. He, a proud Scot, wore a kilt and served haggis (basically the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep minced together with some spices and cooked, traditionally, in the animal’s stomach).
Couples served chicken cacciatore, paying homage to his Italian roots (his grandparents immigrated from Italy). Weir went Canadian, with a feast of elk and wild boar from his homeland (with a nice selection of Canadian beer, of course). Mickelson has been all-over with his choices including a Spanish-themed menu in 2011 (to honor Seve Ballesteros, who would pass away the month after the Masters), barbecue in 2007, and lobster pasta in 2005. Langer served a German-specific menu after his first Masters, but after his second Masters victory he went with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and stuffing – as it’s his favorite meal in America.
O’Meara, who was 41 when he won the Masters, served up chicken and steak fajitas with sushi and tuna sashimi in 1999 – a menu Tiger Woods has used as his own.
“We had a big sushi appetizer out front during the cocktail party and we had chicken and steak fajitas. I believe there’s a young man named Mr. Woods that has kind of copied my dinner that was supposed to happen this past April,” says O’Meara, with a laugh. “One of the big reasons I’m going to go on Tuesday night is I’m looking forward to having the chicken and steak fajitas that Tiger’s going to serve.”
The Champions Tour golfers who are teeing it up this week at Augusta National have memories of the Masters thick with nostalgia.
Olazabal, on his Masters debut: “I remember playing with Arnold Palmer and that was it. I don’t think it gets any better than that.”
O’Meara, on driving down Magnolia Lane with his father: “I don’t know what will ever happen in my life, but I do know this for a fact: I got to play Augusta National one time.”
Couples, on Jack Nicklaus’ big win in 1986: “When Jack birdied 9, I had never heard a roar like that.”
So whether it’s the Champions Dinner or past memories of Champions Tour members, the excitement for the Masters, despite all that has been different in 2020, remains very much the same.