PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Billy Andrade reflects on playing as amateur with Arnold Palmer at the Masters
April 07, 2021
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- April 07, 2021
- Billy Andrade and Arnold Palmer at the 1987 Masters Tournament. (Courtesy of Billy Andrade)
Billy Andrade played in only six Masters. He never finished higher than a tie for 38th.
Still, he has managed to find his way into the lore of the most iconic of golf’s majors.
And he did it in his first trip to Augusta, before he even took a shot.
Andrade, now 57 and a member of PGA TOUR Champions, was an amateur playing in the 1987 Masters. His invite had come via being named to represent the United States in the World Amateur Team Championships in Venezuela.
The Rhode Island native and member of the Wake Forest University golf team, which can only be likened to playing football at Alabama today because of the lineage and history, had lined up a big week. He would play practice rounds with three Masters champions. And his first-round pairing was with another Masters champion.
Andrade said he felt like “the king of the world.” Which lasted until … Monday morning.
Amateurs invited to play at the Masters can stay in the Crow’s Nest, which more or less is the attic of the Augusta National Clubhouse. To Andrade’s recollection there are about 12 beds in the room. And to get up there, a player climbs a very narrow set of wooden stairs.
Andrade and Wake Forest teammate Chris Kite were the only amateurs who were already on the grounds at Augusta National on Sunday night. Amateurs stay for free in the Crow’s Nest, and Andrade said it was a rough night.
“I couldn’t sleep. I was jumping around, just so excited,” Andrade said. “So I already have my shoes on, and I come down the stairs and it’s pretty loud. And I take a left through this door, and I see coffee set up, doughnuts, bananas, a whole spread. I go over and get some orange juice and a banana. I’m just … I’m the king. I’m playing in the Masters.”
It wasn’t long before the king got a tap on the shoulder.
“This guy in a sweat suit, an old guy … he looks at me and goes, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m looking at him like he’s somebody’s father or grandfather. Like he’s just some guy,” Andrade said. “He didn’t look like he was gonna play. I said, ‘Well, I’m having a dougnut.’ He goes, ‘What are you doing in this room?’ I go, ‘I’m staying here. I figured this stuff was for me.’ He goes, ‘Oh, staying upstairs.’ I figured he’d be nice about it. He said, ‘You never take a left, you take a right. You know where you are?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m at Augusta National.’ And he goes, ‘No, you’re in the Champions Locker Room.’ He was like, ‘It’s time for you to go.’”
Andrade walked out the door he should have gone out to begin with. He said a 6-foot-5 Pinkerton Security guard was outside the door.
“I’m looking up at him, and I’m like, ‘Who’s that guy?’” Andrade said. “The guard goes, ‘You don’t know who that is? That’s Gene Sarazen.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ I had no idea. He didn’t have knickers on, the bucket hat. I didn’t recognize him at all.
“It was my fault. He was the second winner of the Masters, in 1935. The moral of the story now for amateurs staying in the Crow’s Nest is don’t pull an Andrade. Don’t go left. Go right and get out.”
The rest of Andrade’s week was pretty special. He played a Monday practice round with 1977 Masters champion Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green. On Monday night he had dinner at first-tee starter Phil Harrison’s house, and among Harrison’s other dinner guests was two-time Masters champion Byron Nelson. Andrade’s Tuesday practice round was with none other than the defending Masters champion.
“I had written Jack Nicklaus a letter on Wake Forest stationery asking him if we could play a practice round together,” Andrade said. “He wrote me back on Jack Nicklaus stationery. It said 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday. See you at the first tee. I still have it framed and it hangs on the wall in my house in Rhode Island.”A signed letter from Jack Nicklaus inviting Billy Andrade for a practice round. (Courtesy of Billy Andrade)
Andrade played in the par-3 tournament on Wednesday with Wake Forest alum Jay Haas and Haas’ uncle Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters winner. And for the first round on Thursday he was paired with Wake Forest’s most famous golf alum and a four-time Masters champion.
“I was told Mr. Palmer asked to be paired with me. I was an Arnold Palmer scholarship guy at Wake Forest,” Andrade said.
Andrade said he got to the first tee early. Then he saw Palmer walking out of the locker room.
“The patrons … it was like the parting of the sea,” Andrade said. “He just glided to the tee. He gets up on the tee, gives me a big hug. This was unbelievable. Just getting the tee in the ground was tough for me. You just want to hit it and get it over with.
“I remember Arnold had a bad knee. He was really limping around badly. And the patrons … on every green they gave him a standing ovation. It was pretty cool.”
Andrade ended up missing the cut by one stroke after a back-nine 42 on Friday. But he was undaunted.
“That whole week … man, I’m still telling the stories like it was yesterday,” Andrade said. “It was such a great week in my life, and it give me a lot of confidence that I could play at that level.”