By Teddy Allen
Barring a pandemic or World War — and you know how people can be — it happens every year around this time, when Augusta National Golf Club opens its verdant doors to the world.
Geezers show up giddy at Augusta National, grizzled veterans of the golf racket still mesmerized by the azalea and the tall pines and the greenest greens and pinkest pinks.
And then there are the rookies wondering if they’ve wandered into a giant golf painting, half expecting a Bobby Jones or a Ben Hogan to stroll out around the next corner or a flowering crabapple.
Most everyone is reduced to Toddler Level, and doubtful things will be different this week for The 2022 Masters at Augusta National, the official name of the 86th Tournament for those of you keeping score at home, secretly wishing you had a scratch ’n‘ sniff TV set.
Augusta National does this — puts the emotions and senses on high-alert — to anyone who has a pulse plus any level of appreciation for what God is able to graciously furnish and what forward-thinking mortals are able to get as close to perfection as human hands allow.
Shreveport businessman Todd Burns, weekend golfer and dad of PGA Tour pro and local favorite Sam, took the youngest of his three children to The Masters in 2011. This was not long after the just-turned-teen Sam and his family discovered that Sam might have a knack for playing serious golf, ‘knack’ being a word for, “Oh goodness, this kid is some sort of prodigy or genius or glorious mistake of golf nature.”
A couple of Todd’s memories from that trip include how green everything was — “Even the sandwich wrappers were green so when they hit the ground, you couldn’t tell,” he said — and how he sat down on the ground being No. 9 green “and one of the green jackets told me real politely, ‘You can’t sit there, sir. Not on the ground, you can’t.’”
You can sit on the ground at Augusta — just not behind a green. Especially 9 or 18. And while you can sit in some places, you can’t lie flat. You can sunbathe, but only vertically.
Not that Todd will be sitting a lot this week. He was due in Augusta Tuesday with most of the family, although some of the brood will stay back with the newest grandchild who’s not feeling great. (Sam’s a three-time uncle, not a dad yet.) As a dad, Todd is “excited for Sam, and nervous at the same time.” In other words, he’s a parent and a grandparent.
Three weeks ago, he walked Augusta’s fairways — something he didn’t do in 2011 — while Sam played a practice round. He found out something that’s hard to tell on television.
“No even lies,” he said. “Everything is sidehill, downhill…constantly changing.”
But the topography overall, he remembered well from 2011 outside the ropes. “Way more uphill and downhill stuff than you can see on TV,” he said. “Way, way more.” (Well, except for behind 9 green, where there’s this one little flat spot, good for sitting. Until you’re caught.)
Funny, but that course Todd’s talking about sounds a lot like the one Sam practices on all the time. Squire Creek in Choudrant is fairly open off the tee, doesn’t have rough anything close to a U.S. Open setup, and your work is hardly done once you reach the greens, more complex than calculus.
With a game that’s lately shown more improvement around the greens than anywhere else, he’s got everything it takes to win at Augusta but experience — and Fuzzy Zoeller didn’t need that when he won in 1979 as a Masters rookie.
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