Monthly Archives: March 2019

‘Party with a Purpose’


Taste of the Master Chefs brings together award-winning chefs, celebrities and golf fans for a worthy cause.

It’s easy to have a full plate during Masters Week, and local residents or visitors can add a special culinary event to their menu. Taste of the Master Chefs will offer cuisine prepared by 15 James Beard Award-winning chefs from across the country.

“This is a history-making event in Augusta. There has never been a party with so many James Beard Award-winning chefs,” says Laurie Merrill, CEO and founder of Taste of the Master Chefs. “There are all kinds of parties and events in Augusta during the Masters, but this is an amazing, all-in-one party with special foods prepared by the best chefs in the country.”

The event can accommodate about 2,000 people, and guests can purchase tickets online for a VIP Experience or the Main Event. The VIP Experience includes early admission, a meet and greet with the award-winning chefs and special guests, reserved seating at a private lounge or table, a private bar and more.

Star-Studded Lineup
Professional athletes, including golfers, and giants in the music and media industries will be among the guests. Musical entertainment also will be provided.

This year’s lineup of master chefs will include Rich Rosendale, one of only 68 certified master chefs in the country. A designation of certified master chef, presented by the American Culinary Federation, is the highest level of certification that a chef can receive.

José Andrés, who served as chef chair for the previous two TOMCs, also is expected to attend this year’s event. A pioneer of Spanish tapas in the United States, he is known for his groundbreaking avant-garde cuisine. Together with World Central Kitchen and #ChefsforPuertoRico, he served more than 3.3 million meals in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Nominated for a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, Andrés was named the James Beard Foundation’s 2018 Humanitarian of the Year and one of Time’s Most Influential People. “Awards and achievements just seem to follow him because he does everything he can to help others,” Merrill says.

Fulfilling a Vision
The chefs are not the only ones to garner attention, however. The fundraiser itself got a shout out on NBC’s Golf Channel last summer when one of the event chefs, John Howie of Seattle, was featured in a segment with PGA Tour Champions pros Rocco Mediate and Gene Sauers. The players took Howie to a golf course to give him golf tips, and he invited them into his kitchen to teach them how to cook the perfect steak.

Merrill started the fundraiser with Wayne Kostroski, Taste of the NFL founder and 2010 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year, in 2017. A former Augusta resident, Merrill served as host to private parties during Masters Week for almost 20 years. However, she always had a vision to create a premiere, city-wide event during the tournament.

The mission of the event is to raise funds and awareness for hunger relief, and all proceeds benefit the Salvation Army of Augusta.

“It’s a party with a purpose. You get to give back and enjoy time with fabulous chefs, celebrities and other visitors to Augusta,” says Merrill. “I can’t think of a better way to kick off Masters weekend.”

If You Go:
What: Taste of the Master Chefs

When: Friday, April 12; VIP Experience 6:30 p.m., Main Event 7:30 p.m.

Where: West Lake Country Club

How Much: $275 VIP Experience, $175 Main Event

More Info:

Now What?


The Lydia Project and area healthcare professionals launch a new program for post-cancer care.

A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event for anyone. So is life after cancer once the treatments end. Oftentimes, however, survivors don’t know where to turn for the continuing support they need.

Enter The Lydia Project and area healthcare facilities. They have partnered together to launch a new educational series called Now What? to help cancer survivors cope with life after the illness.

Community partners in the program, which begins in April, include Georgia Cancer Center of Augusta University, University Health Care System Cancer Services, Doctors Hospital and Livestrong at the YMCA.

“What makes Lydia work is the people who care,” says Michele Canchola, executive director of The Lydia Project. “It’s the partnerships with the people in the community and the companies that support us that make all this work.”

While The Lydia Project traditionally provides free services to women and girls who have been diagnosed with any type of cancer, Now What? is open to anyone – including men – going through, or who has gone through, a cancer treatment or diagnosis.

Now What? sessions will be held in addition to the speaker events that are held at The Lydia Project headquarters on the second Saturday of every month.

In the four-part Now What? series, cancer survivors will get information about long-term and late effects of treatments, nutrition, exercise and encouragement for emotional issues.

“Depression can be a greater challenge than the cancer diagnosis,” says Canchola. “The fear of recurring cancer is patients’ number one concern.”

The sessions will be held 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Tuesdays at The Lydia Project, 1369 Interstate Parkway, Augusta. Individuals can attend any or all of the four sessions in any order, but space is limited to about 15 people per program.

“It’s so hard to struggle with cancer and all of the things that happen afterward,” Canchola says. “People need a place to go when they don’t have support or other family members don’t understand.”

Currently, The Lydia Project provides support for more than 1,000 women and girls, and the nonprofit receives an average of 400 new referrals a month. Self-referrals can contact The Lydia Project for tote bags, emotional support and prayer.

Through referrals from oncologists, female cancer patients can receive financial support for rent, utility bills, medical supplies, prescriptions or overnight lodging at the 10-bedroom Daksha Chudgar Lydia House during cancer treatments.

Male and female patients receive transportation to and from cancer treatments. In addition, Canchola says, “The Lydia Project is writing grants to fund other services for men.”

While Lydia reaches patients across the world, Canchola says all of the financial support stays in the local area for cancer patients who reside in Columbia, Richmond, Burke and McDuffie counties in Georgia and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina.

Reservations for Now What? sessions can be made by calling (706) 736-5467. For more information about The Lydia Project, visit

Tournament Tips & Landmarks

Guide to The Masters

Course LandmarksMagnolia Lane – tree-lined main entrance to Augusta National

Founders Circle – two plaques honoring founding members Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones at the base of the flagpole in front of the clubhouse

Crow’s Nest – a cupola atop the clubhouse that provides tournament housing for amateur players 

Oak-TreeBig Oak Tree – a gathering spot for media interviews behind the clubhouse

Rae’s Creek between the 11th and 12th greens 

Hogan Bridge at No. 12 green 

Nelson Bridge at No. 13 tee

Sarazen Bridge at No. 15 green

3.-Landmark--Arnold-Palmer-Plaque-behind-No.-16-teeArnold Palmer Plaque behind No. 16 tee 

Jack Nicklaus Plaque between Nos. 16 and 17

Record Fountain to the left of No. 17 green

Augusta National Golf Club cabins

Ike’s Pond – a spring-fed, 3-acre pond on the Par-3 Course behind Eisenhower Cabin

Par 3 Fountain – adjacent to No. 1 tee on Par 3 course; includes list of Par 3 Contest winners 


Prohibited Items
• Cell phones/cellular-capable devices
• Beepers
• Electronic devices/tablets
• Any device capable of transmitting video
• Backpacks, bags and purses larger than 10” x 10” x 12” (in its natural state)
• Cameras on tournament days*
• Weapons of any kind (regardless of permit)
• Radios/TVs/noise- or music-producing devices
• Two-way or other talk radios
• Folding armchairs/rigid type chairs
• Flags/banners/signs
• Strollers
• Food/beverages/coolers
• Golf shoes with metal spikes
• Ladders/periscopes/selfie sticks

 *Cameras (still photography/personal use only) are allowed at practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Violation of these policies will subject the ticket holder to removal from the grounds and the ticket purchaser to the permanent loss of credentials.

Tournament Amenities:

  • Automated teller machines
  • Concession stands
  • First aid stations
  • Golf shops
  • Information centers
  • Lost and found
  • Merchandise shipping/check stands
  • Message center
  • Pairing sheets with course map and tee times
  • Parking
  • Picnic areas
  • Patron photos (tournament days only)
  • Restrooms
  • Scoring information
  • Spectator guides
  • Telephones
  • Water fountains

Autograph Policy
Autograph seeking is only allowed around the practice range and on the Par 3 course during the Par 3 Contest. A No Autograph Policy will be enforced on the golf course for practice and tournament days.

Re-Entry Policy
Patron tickets will be limited to a total of three entries per day. 

Free Masters parking is available at Augusta National Golf Club on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Talent, Toughness and Tenacity

Guide to The Masters

AUGUSTA, GA – Patrick Reed of the United States

Seeking his first major championship, 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed found last year that Augusta National Golf Club suited him to a tee.

With a 6-0 match play record when he led Augusta State University to back-to-back national championships and a Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup record of 11-6-4, Patrick Reed is known for his match play prowess. At the 82nd Masters Tournament, no one in the 87-player field could match his stroke play, either. It wasn’t for lack of trying, however.

Reed, the 36- and 54-hole leader, shot 71 in the final round to finish at 15-under – and hold off furious Sunday charges by a pair of fellow 20-something Americans – to win the 2018 Masters. He finished one stroke ahead of Rickie Fowler, who carded a final round 67, and two shots clear of Jordan Spieth, who posted a blistering 64 on Sunday.

“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” said Reed. “It’s just a way of God basically saying, ‘Let’s see if you have it.’ Everyone knows you have it physically with the talent, but do you have it mentally? Can you handle the ups and downs of the round?”

Champions Past and Future

Practice Round-Woods & Phil Mickelson

The 2018 Masters was one of the most highly anticipated in recent memory. After all, a healthy Tiger Woods, who has four green jackets, and three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson, who was back in the winner’s circle for the first time in five years with a March 2018 victory in Mexico, were in fine form.

“I think there’s a lot of players, a lot of the top quality players, young and old, that are playing some of their best golf. And I think that’s going to lead to one of the most exciting Masters in years,” said Mickelson.

The two former Masters champions teamed up for a practice round on Tuesday with 1992 Masters winner Fred Couples and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, and the buzz the foursome generated felt like a final round. The galleries ballooned at each hole they played. “It feels like a Sunday, y’all,” said a gallery guard on the 18th hole.

Wearing a long-sleeved, button-up shirt for the occasion, Mickelson even looked like he was dressed for church. “I always give him a little bit of grief about that,” Woods said. “The only thing that was missing was a tie.”

Par 3 Kids

Woods and Mickelson were not the only former Masters champions that garnered attention at the tournament last year. On Wednesday Tom Watson, the 1977 and 1981 Masters champion, became the oldest Par 3 Contest winner at age 68. Winning the tournament tune-up for the second time (he also won it in 1982), he posted a 6-under-par 21 for a one-shot victory.

“When I birdied the first three holes, I made the putt at number 3, I said, ‘Well, let’s see if I can win this thing,’” Watson said. “There’s no hex. I’m not playing in the big tournament, so there’s no pressure on me to win.”

No player has ever won the Par 3 Contest and the Masters Tournament in the same year.

Tom Watson

Watson played the Par 3 with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who have won nine green jackets between them, and the group showed that golf is for the young as well as the young at heart. Nicklaus’ caddie and grandson, 15-year-old GT, aced the ninth hole when he hit his grandfather’s tee shot.

Nicklaus called the shot his “number one” memory from the Masters. “Watching your grandson do something, it’s pretty special. I got a few tears. We talked about three days ago, and I said, ‘Do you want to hit the ball on nine?’ And he said, ‘Sure.’ And I said, ‘Well, I think you’re going to make a hole-in-one.’ That’s what I told him three days ago. And he said, ‘OK.’ He’s never made a hole-in-one. It’s his first hole-in-one. It’s pretty special.”

The younger Nicklaus said he was just trying to get the ball on the green. “I couldn’t even imagine doing that,” he said of the hole-in-one, “but I couldn’t think of a more special place to do it.”

Two PGA Tour players – Dylan Frittelli and Tony Finau, who were playing in their inaugural Masters – also had holes-in-one during the Par 3. Finau slipped as he ran toward the hole to celebrate, dislocating his ankle, but he still competed in the tournament and finished T10.

16th Hole 3

At his Wednesday morning press conference, Fred Ridley, the Masters and Augusta National chairman, revealed that more golfers will play Augusta National for the first time in 2019. He announced the establishment of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, an annual 54-hole, stroke play tournament that will include an international field of 72 players. The first two rounds will take place at Champions Retreat Golf Club, and after a cut to the low 30 scores, the final round will take place at Augusta National on Saturday, April 6.

“This championship will become an exciting edition to the Masters Week, and it furthers our effort to promote the sport and inspire young women to take up the game,” Ridley said.

Dialing Up the Heat

Jordan Spieth

The tournament began with Nicklaus and Player hitting drives off the first tee as honorary starters Thursday, and the day ended with 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth atop the leaderboard with a two-shot lead at 6-under-par. “I’ll always have demons out here, but I’ll always have a tremendous amount of confidence out here. Once you win here, you have an advantage over anybody who hasn’t won here,” said Spieth.

Reed finished the first round at T4 with a 69. “Any time you shoot anywhere between 2- and 4-under par, especially on an opening round at Augusta, it’s always a great start. . . . It’s definitely a course I feel I can win on,” he said.

By the end of the second round, it was Reed who had a two-stroke advantage. Three times during the round he had a trio of consecutive birdies on Nos. 1 -3, 7 – 9 and 13 -15 to shoot 66 – the low round of the day. For the second straight round, he also birdied all four of the par 5s.

“To be able to go out and capitalize on those par 5s and to make a lot of birdies there, it kind of allows you to be really aggressive when you feel like you’re really comfortable with a shot,” Reed said.

On a dreary, rainy Saturday, when the field had been trimmed to 53 players, Reed shot 67 to finish three shots ahead of the field at 14-under-par. He eagled Nos. 13 and 15 and birdied Nos. 5 and 8 – 10.

“You have so many of these guys that have played some really solid golf coming into this week and that were making a charge today,” he said. “I just needed to get myself going and make some birdies and get it started.”

Rory McIlroy

At 11-under, Rory McIlroy was in second place – setting up a tantalizing final round pairing with Reed. McIlroy could secure a career grand slam with a Masters victory, while Reed was trying to win his first major and become the first player in tournament history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.

The Sunday pairing conjured up memories of the epic singles battle between Reed and McIlroy in the 2016 Ryder Cup that Reed ultimately won, 1-up. However, the competition essentially got underway Saturday night during their post-round interviews when McIlroy and Reed lobbed verbal volleys at each other to dial up the heat.

“Patrick has got a three-shot lead. I feel like all the pressure is on him. He’s got to go out and protect that, and he’s got a few guys chasing him that are pretty big-time players,” McIlroy said. “He’s got that to deal with and sleep on tonight. I feel like I can go out there and play like I’ve got nothing to lose. If I can do that, I feel like I’ll be OK.”

Reed didn’t take the bait that all the pressure was on his shoulders. “I am leading. . . . But at the same time, he’s trying to go for the career grand slam. You can put it either way,” he said.

He also said he would stick to his game plan. “I’m not out there to play Rory. I’m out there to play the golf course,” Reed said. “At the end of the day, if I go out and I feel pleased with how I play, then, you know, it should be an enjoyable Sunday night.”

Fowler finished the third round in third place at 9-under. Spieth, who said he would get to play one of his only stress-free rounds ever at the Masters on Sunday, was nine strokes back at T9.

Kudos to Captain America
The final round showdown between Reed, nicknamed “Captain America” because of his Ryder Cup heroics (he has a 3-0 singles record), and McIlroy turned into a bust as the Northern Irishman ultimately shot 74 behind uneven putting.

Instead Reed, who parred all four par 5s on Sunday after playing them in 13-under through the first three rounds, had to fight back surges from two of his Ryder Cup teammates.

Spieth pulled even with Reed at 14-under after sinking a 33-foot putt for birdie on No. 16, but a bogey at the 18th hole dropped him back to 13-under for the tournament. “It was kind of nerve-wracking,” said Reed, an admittedly avid leaderboard watcher. “I was kind of glad he ran out of holes.”

Reed birdied No. 14 to go to 15-under, and he needed to par the final four holes to fend off Fowler, who was one shot behind after a birdie on No. 18.

“We gave it our all. We left it all out there. We made P. Reed earn it,” said Fowler. “It was nice to get the one at the last to keep him honest.”

Reed earned it, all right, with a 5-footer for par on No. 17 and a two-putt on No. 18 to hang on to the lead. His first putt on No. 18 – 24 feet downhill – rolled 4 feet past the hole. He drained the comeback putt, however, to claim the green jacket.

“Trying to go win your first major, you know that people are going to make runs, and it’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to go out and play a good round of golf and shoot under par,” Reed said.

After a winless 2017, capturing a major championship was even sweeter for Reed.

“To end the drought and win a major, it helps me mentally, and also helps my resume,” he said. “Hopefully, I can just take this momentum going forward and play some really solid golf.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Drawing on Experience

Guide to The Masters

Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament Fred Ridley stands with overall division winners, from left, Ella June Hannant, Taighan Chea, Vanessa Borovilos, Tip Price, Sarah Im, P.J. Maybank, Katherine Schuster, and Brendan Valdes at the presentation ceremony during the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 1, 2018.

Repeat competitors found plenty of success at the fifth annual Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals.

Experience often is a valuable teacher, much to the delight of some of the participants in last year’s Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club. Three of the eight 2018 champions had competed in the event in prior years.

Conducted by the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America and the USGA, the championship is a free, nationwide youth golf development program for boys and girls, ages 7-15, in four age categories. Tens of thousands of youths compete in the annual event, which began in 2014. The field is narrowed down to 80 competitors who earn a trip to the finals, which are held each year at Augusta National Golf Club on the Sunday preceding the Masters.

“All of us at Augusta National are focused on the future of golf, and this event remains one of the most meaningful endeavors in the history of our club,” said Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament. “Our goal here is to inspire a lifelong passion for the game of golf, and if our participation helps, then we’ve accomplished our mission. I would like to say how inspired we all are by each and every one of these kids, and I’m pretty confident that the game of golf has a great future.”

Chip Winner Vanessa Borovilos, Girls, 10-11 age group, is picked up by Masters champion Gary Player of South Africa as Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa looks on during the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 1, 2018.

The third time was the charm for Vanessa Borovilos of Toronto, Ontario. The winner of the Girls 10 – 11 division also competed in the Girls 7 – 9 division of the Drive Chip and Putt finals in 2015 and 2016, finishing in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

“I’ve tried a lot of times (to win Drive, Chip and Putt), and (last) year I just practiced more and I think that helped me,” said Vanessa, who was lifted off her feet by former Masters champion Gary Player during the trophy presentation ceremony.

On her second trip to the Drive, Chip and Putt finals, Katherine Schuster of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina won the Girls 14 – 15 division. She finished in third place in the 2015 national finals in the Girls 10 – 11 division and was a medalist in putting.

“There are no words to describe it. I am so excited,” she said. “I definitely felt more comfortable around the greens (this year), and I was able to sink the 30-footer, which really put a smile on my face.”

Tip Price, Boys, 10-11 age group, is congratulated by Masters champion Sergio Garcia of Spain with First Place Overall trophy during the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 1, 2018.

Cheboyogan, Michigan’s PJ Maybank III, who competed in the 2015 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals in the Boys 7 – 9 division, drew on his experience to win the Boys 12 -13 division. “I knew what to expect. I knew which way the putts would break and how the chip would roll out,” he said.

He had to hold off a late rally by Conrad Chisman of Stanwood, Washington. Chisman became the first finalist in the history of the competition to make both putts on the 18th green.

Brendan Valdes of Orlando, Florida, who claimed the Boys 14 -15 division title, felt a surge of pride when he saw his name go up on the leader board with those of the other winners. “That’s where all the leaders have been, and it’s where Sergio Garcia was (in 2017). It’s just insane that I am up there,” said Brendan, who defeated Joshua Lavely of Kewadin, Michigan in a playoff for the victory.

The other female champions were Ella June Hannant of Pikeville, North Carolina (ages 7 – 9) and Sara Im of Duluth, Georgia (ages 12 – 13). The other male winners were Taighan Chea of Bothell, Washington (ages 7 – 9) and Tip Price of Greenville, South Carolina (ages 10 – 11).

This year’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will be held at Augusta National on Sunday, April 7. Registration for the 2019 championship is underway at, and local qualifiers begin in May.

By Betsy Gilliland

Photos courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club


Growing the Game

Guide to The Masters

Augusta National Golf Club will hold its inaugural Women’s Amateur Championship this year

A new tradition will begin this year at Augusta National Golf Club when the final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship takes place on Saturday, April 6.

The 54-hole, stroke play tournament – announced by Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, at last year’s Masters Tournament – will feature an international field of 72 players.

The first two rounds of the tournament will be held on the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat Golf Club on Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4. After a 36-hole cut, the top 30 competitors will advance to the final round. However, the entire field will play Augusta National for a practice round on Friday, April 5.

Invitations have been extended to the winners of the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship, Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, U.S. Girls’ Junior, Girls’ British Open Amateur Championship and Girls Junior PGA Championship.

Additional participants have been determined by awarding invitations to winners of other recognized championships and by filling positions in the field based on the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking at the end of the 2018 calendar year. Remaining spots have been filled by special invitation from the ANWA Championship Committee.

Based on the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, the top 30 players from the United States who were not qualified otherwise have been invited. The next 30 highest ranked players, who were not qualified otherwise, also received invitations.

The tournament champions, provided they maintain their amateur status, will receive invitations to the event for the subsequent five years.

“Receiving an invitation to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur is representative of a remarkable amateur career, and so much more,” says Ridley. “We share in the excitement of the players, not only for what will unfold in April, but also for what their involvement will mean to increasing interest in the women’s game.”

Tickets to the event, which were available through an online application process, are sold out. No tickets will be available at the gate. However, NBC Sports will broadcast three hours of live final-round coverage, and Golf Channel will deliver highlights, live reports and news coverage throughout the event.

By Betsy Gilliland

Shop ‘til You Drop

Guide to The Masters

Photos courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club

A look inside the new Masters Golf Shop that opened in 2018

Need a Masters Tournament garden gnome dressed in a white caddie jumpsuit? How about an infant caddie jumpsuit onesie for the future golf star in the family? Maybe Masters playing cards, pajama pants, bowties, vintage signage, temperature-controlled cups, dog leashes or dog bowls are more your style. A new Masters Golf Shop, which opened last year, has it all – along with plenty of other items you never knew you needed.

Patrons who enter the Augusta National Golf Club grounds through the main gate can’t miss the Golf Shop, located along the pedestrian corridor between the tournament practice facility and the No. 1 fairway. And whether you’re buying for friends, family members or yourself, it’s hard to resist the Masters merchandise inside.

In a project that took 20 weeks to complete from the demolition of the old edifice to the construction of the new building, the Golf Shop has double the floor space of the previous shop. Throughout the shop, 385 mannequins (yes, there’s even a dog mannequin) model apparel featuring the famous Masters logo. Hats are the top seller, and the merchandise area has 125 different styles along the headgear wall in the back and throughout the shop.

The shop includes 64 checkout registers, and an expanded check stand and shipping facility are attached to the exit area for those who want to watch golf unencumbered by their purchases.

There are two other golf shops on the grounds, plus additional merchandise stands throughout the golf course. (Of course, there’s also the clubhouse pro shop, but the average bear can’t go in there.) Happy shopping, y’all.

By Betsy Gilliland


Q & A with Scott Parel

Guide to The Masters

Photos courtesy of Mary Parel

A local PGA Tour Champions golfer discusses his career and previews this year’s Masters Tournament.

The 2018 PGA Tour Champions season is one that Scott Parel, Aquinas High School and University of Georgia alum, and his many local fans, will never forget. In a breakout season, his 11 Top 10 finishes, including four runner-ups and two victories, catapulted him to a third-place finish in the coveted Schwab Cup standings. Especially impressive was the span of 16 events to close out the season when he tallied nine of those Top 10s and his first two wins on tour.

In late August, Parel captured the Boeing Classic outside Seattle in dramatic fashion. He birdied six consecutive holes on the front nine at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge en route to a final round 63. Two months later, he notched another victory at the QQQ Invesco Championship in Thousand Oaks, California. Parel took time out from his schedule to talk with Augusta sports historian, Stan Byrdy, about all things golf.

(The interview has been edited slightly for space considerations.)

Stan: Scott, you had a great year in 2018 on the Champions Tour. Are there any specific goals you’ve set for this year?

Scott: Well, my goal is always to play good enough to be on this tour again next year. That’s my number one goal. So if that includes winning or whatever has to happen to stay in that top 36, I really would like to try to have a chance to win a major sometime this year. One of my goals is to be in contention a little more. I’ve only had one major in all the ones I’ve played so far that I really was in any position to win. If you win a major, you get five years of playing in a few of these tournaments. It’s not a five-year exemption, but it’s five years to play in Hawaii and a few of the invitationals. I think that would be kind of neat to do.

Stan: Will you be in Augusta during Masters Week?

Scott: Yeah, I’ll be in Augusta. I’ll probably go out (to the tournament) at least one day. I like being in town, I like being there. I love golf so much, and it’s the center of the universe for that one week, anyway, of the golf universe. I really do enjoy it out there. Part of the stuff I really enjoy now is not only seeing the guys I play with out here (on the PGA Tour Champions), but then seeing guys that I know like Kevin Kisner and guys that I actually played with on the Tour, like Zach Johnson and those guys. I enjoy visiting with them. And I’ll love to see Keith Mitchell, a Georgia guy that I know, so it’s always a really fun week for me out there.

Stan: Many of the guys you play with have won the Masters. When you go out to Augusta National, is it a little bit different feeling for you now? Do you root for them?

Scott: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’ve made it a point since I’ve been playing on this tour to make sure I go see all the guys that I see out here every week. You know, Sandy (Lyle) and certainly Larry (Mize). Larry and I are pretty good friends, and Bernhard (Langer) and I are pretty good friends. I try and see most all of them. I know Mark, I don’t think he plays anymore, O’Meara. And José (María Olazábal), I see them out here every week, and I at least try to let them know I’m out here rooting for them. It’s a cool feeling, to be friends with these guys who people are standing outside the ropes, you know, imagining what it would be like to be their friends almost. And I’ve been lucky enough to get to know them.

Stan: Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way for you to get into the Masters at this point? 

Scott: (Laughs) You know, I get asked that all the time when people find out that I live in Augusta. That ship has sailed. There are ways from regular majors you can earn your way into the Masters, but the reality of that happening is obviously very, very slim. So I’ll resign myself to the fact that I’ll play out here with guys my own age (chuckles). And I’m enjoying it. Back when I first started doing this for a living and wanted to get on the PGA Tour, that certainly was the goal to someday play in the Masters. But I’m not pining over that anymore, that’s for sure.

Stan: You could make a case that a lot of the seniors are playing well enough that they could do pretty well out there even in their 50s. 

Scott: I wouldn’t know what to predict that I could do, but I would love to have the chance. It’s a lot of golf course now. I know I’ve talked to Larry about it. You know, Couples still hits it far enough where he’s done well out there. But it’s a long thing for Larry. And it’s longer for Langer as well. But those guys have been playing that course for 30 years, so they know how to navigate their way around out there in those tournament conditions. (Chuckles) It’d be a little bit tough for me. I’d love to say I could do well, but if I were ever to have that chance, I would just try to enjoy the moment, and try not to (laughs) worry too much about what I was shooting.

Stan: Do you have a feeling for who might win this year’s Masters Tournament?

Scott: I just have a sneaking feeling that this might be Rory’s year. I just feel he’s been playing really good golf. And I feel his game is in a good spot right now, to where maybe this is his year. If I have to pick one person, and plus I’m rooting for him, I’d love to see him win. And it’s hard to pick against Bubba. He just does so good around that golf course.

Stan: Since we’re throwing out names, what are your thoughts on Tiger?

Scott: Tiger, if he’s nursing his neck, I just think it would take a lot of really good health for him to be in a spot to beat these guys at the top of their game. I know he’s proven it at the Tour Championship, but I’m not sure he’s where he needs to be yet for the Masters. I would love to see it. I think it would be great for golf. But I think you’ve got too many of the young guys right now on the top of their game. But you never know on a Sunday, with the excitement Tiger can create. (He) doesn’t put the same fear in these young guys that he used to. Even if he’s up there, I think they all feel they can handle it now.

Stan: How satisfying is it now, being that you waited so long to play golf professionally, and knew you could do this, and were so close so many times, and now you’re there?

Scott: (Long pause) It is very satisfying, yeah. It’s great to be able to do what I love for a living and now have some success at it, and be able to support my family in a way I always wished that I could. And then to still get to do what I love for a living. It was definitely a lot of lean years doing what I loved for a living, and it makes it that much sweeter now that I’ve had a little bit of success. You know, golf is an awfully humbling game, and it can turn on you. I’m trying to do what I’ve been doing and try to stay healthy, and keep the same attitude. Like I said earlier, do whatever I’ve got to do to keep my status out here. By not working, that’s not going to get it done. So I know I’m going to keep working hard and keep grinding away like I’m supposed to be.

By Stan Byrdy


A Looper’s Lasting Legacy

Guide to The Masters

Photos by Stan Byrdy

Iron Man Avery, Arnold Palmer’s caddie for all four of his Masters wins, finally has a gravestone more than three decades after his death.

Will Avery has felt the pressure cooker of college basketball at Duke for the 1999 NCAA Championship Game and in the NBA as a first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Augusta, Ga., native traveled the world, playing professionally in the Middle East and Europe for a decade before coming home to start a career as a coach and camp organizer.

But for more than half of his life, the 39-year-old Avery didn’t know much about his most famous predecessor in the sports spotlight. He knew there was a pedigree of top-flight golf caddies in his family, beginning two generations before with great uncles and continuing with his father and uncles, all with ties to Augusta National Golf Club. But the story of Iron Man, his famous great uncle Nathaniel, was lost in time, especially since Iron Man died at age 46 in 1985, a broken man, when Will was just age 5.

“I think the first time I heard it I was actually in my 20s and I’m thinking to myself, why didn’t I know this earlier? This is a big deal,” Avery said. “I had a lot of individual success, but it doesn’t come close to what he did. That was historical and will be there forever.”

The Original Iron Man

There are so many inspiring stories told in the new caddie documentary, Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk. There’s the climb of Carl Jackson and Greg Puga from inner-city upbringings to prominence within the caddie profession. See Fanny Sunesson and her ascension to sidekick for the world’s No. 1 player in an all-male workplace. Or experience the whole lot of caddies over the centuries in Ireland and Scotland treating visitors to their hard-edged whit and knowledge.

But one of the encounters within the caddying world tugged at my heart more than others… and had so for nearly 20 years. Before Tony Stark’s Marvel superhero or Black Sabbath’s heavy metal song brought the title to greater prominence, there was the original Iron Man, who stood so tall beside Arnold Palmer when he made golf and the Masters Tournament so famous on television beginning in the late 1950s.

The youngest of eight children, he hung out in the caddie yard in the early 1950s, learning from his older brother, Big Henry Avery, the longtime Augusta Country Club caddie master who is responsible for giving many of Augusta National’s caddies their humorously appropriate nicknames. As a 115-pound kid, little Nathaniel boasted that he could carry the heaviest bag of the day’s rounds and come back for more. That was the first time, he said in a mid-1960s interview, that someone jokingly called him Iron Man, even though that nickname would thrive with fanciful stories of fingers being chopped off in an ax accident, a knife fight or via a drunken encounter with powerful firecrackers.

Just as fantastic were the ventures off the course. In Palmer’s first Masters victory in 1958, it was the intention to pay a caddie fee of $1,400, but Arnie’s wife Winnie was overcome by the moment and hurriedly wrote a check for $14,000 — more than Palmer’s $11,250 first prize — and Iron Man’s check was later reissued.

With every new Masters victory, Iron Man purchased a new car and sported about Augusta as the small Southern city’s new celebrity in inner-city black neighborhoods. He totaled one new vehicle soon after a Masters victory, only to smile in the hospital emergency room that “I still got these $30 shoes.”

When Palmer won his second Masters in 1960, he was staggering down the stretch before Iron Man asked him in the 15th fairway, “Mr. Palmer … are we chokin’?” Perturbed, Palmer birdied the last two holes to win. Palmer admitted years later that he didn’t rely on Iron Man for yardage or green reading, but the man’s presence made Palmer smell victory.

Penetrating the Invisible Curtain

Just when you think that Iron Man was “just there” and not an essential part of the team, consider his above contributions and that in the 1950s and early 1960s it was highly unusual for the press to write about a caddie. They were considered just bag toters and not worthy of a story, especially if they were black during that sorry time in American history. But Iron Man broke through that invisible curtain to become one of the first caddies that the press went to for insight.

“He just hitch his trousers, jerk on his glove, starts walking fast and says, ‘The game is on,’” Iron Man told the Associated Press following Palmer’s third Masters win in 1962. “When Mr. Arnold do that, everybody better watch out. He’s gonna stampede anything in his way. … I been almost in his pocket on every hole. Sometime he goes with my advice — and it better be right. If I mis-club him, he don’t chastise me. He just look a little mean, and I feel like going through the ground. But he is a great man.

“He just look up in the sky like he is wishing for some miracle to come down. And the miracle come down — like somebody was answering him.”

But this golf version of Iron Man was virtually forgotten to relatives and golf fans, lost in black-and-white stories, flamboyant quotes and outlandish off-course behavior in a player-caddie tandem more suitable for Hollywood.

A half-century after Palmer and Iron Man split as a team in 1968, the only way you could find out what happened to Iron Man was to visit the office of Southview Cemetery in downtown Augusta, Ga. Grave No. 3, Lot 12, Section G held Iron Man’s remains. No marker existed. You can’t blame family, as Iron Man squandered any notoriety and winnings and separated himself from family. Palmer lost track as the years passed.

Caddie Royalty

When I was writing the 2004 book, Men On The Bag: The Caddies of Augusta National, my impetus was to reveal the people behind the nicknames. Who was “Cemetery,” President Eisenhower’s caddie? How about “Stovepipe,” on Gene Sarazen’s bag when the Squire made double eagle on No. 15 in 1935? Or Willie Peterson, the first caddie I researched as his daughter, Vanessa Peterson-Fox, called the Augusta Chronicle sports department in 1999 to report the death of her father, five times on Jack Nicklaus’s winning bag. I served as the Chronicle sports editor at the time.

I, too, lost the tug of that story until 2015 when film executive Jim Packer made a cold call to brainstorm his idea of developing a wide-ranging tale of caddies, what they do and why it’s so important.

By 2017, we were wrapping up much of the film’s storyline on Augusta caddies and I voiced that it was important to finally put Iron Man to rest. We had Iron Man in the film, but not his end story, which is told in an extra that was released in March, and is also available at A dear Augusta friend, former sportscaster and historian Stan Byrdy, helped us document the end of the road.

We worked with Julius Clark, the Southview Cemetery owner, to make sure that there was a casket below the perceived Iron Man grave site. A marker was funded by an anonymous donor, with a design to recognize the Masters wins and lead with the Iron Man moniker. The Palmer Company, just a year after Arnie’s death in September 2016, gave their blessing, as did the Avery family, with Will Avery leading the way.

By late October 2017, the marker was ready and some of the Avery family gathered for an informal ceremony at Southview Cemetery to put a name on a place where none existed for 32 years. Just 100 yards away rests Willie “Pappy” Stokes, the five-time Masters winning caddie, twice for Ben Hogan, and the Augusta National caddie corps’ “godfather.” He has a military marker because of his service in World War II. Peterson is buried four miles away in Cedar Grove Cemetery. The total number of Masters wins: 14. It’s an inner city of caddie royalty.

A Fitting Memorial

Henry Avery Jr., unearthed what was probably his uncle’s final Augusta National caddie card, a collectible ID passed along from uncle to nephew that “I keep in a safe place,” he said.

If you ever have a moment, it would be worth a stop at Southview Cemetery, 1102 Nellieville Road. It’s quiet, about five miles away from the bustle of the Washington Road area near Augusta National. It should be a Masters golf landmark.

“This could be a museum, not a cemetery,” Will Avery said.

It’s also an appropriate memorial. I’m proud to say we were able to make happen.

By Ward Clayton

In the Loop

Guide to The Masters

A new documentary takes an inside look at the relationship between golfer and caddie.

Centuries old and enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, golf is seen by many as more than a sport. Yet, not much is known about the man or woman carrying the bag behind the golfer.

A new documentary, Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk, explores the deep, personal bond that a golfer and a caddie develop through their time together. The film is narrated by actor and former caddie Billy Murray, who starred in the 1980 comedy, Caddyshack, which was written by his brother, Brian Doyle-Murray.

Loopers is a must-watch for documentary film lovers, avid golfers and anyone interested in the history of sports. The storyline reaches back more than a century to explore how caddies came to be in Scotland and Ireland and then migrated to the United States and went from a disrespected craft into a well-respected occupation.

The film includes interviews with World Golf Hall of Famers Sir Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Fuzzy Zoeller, Lee Trevino and Curtis Strange. Professional caddies who participated include Steve Williams (Tiger Woods’ former caddie), Carl Jackson (Crenshaw), Fanny Sunesson (Faldo), Pete Bender (Greg Norman and others), Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and Jariah “Jerry” Beard (Zoeller at the 1979 Masters).

Loopers was filmed at some of the most iconic locations in golf such as Augusta National Golf Club, Pebble Beach (California) Golf Links, The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland and numerous other vaunted courses in Scotland and Ireland.

A trailer from the documentary can be seen on our website’s Home page or on Columbia County Magazine’s Facebook page.

2019 Masters Predictions

Guide to The Masters

Local golf pros share their picks for Masters glory – or heartache.
Every April any number of storylines unfolds at the Masters Tournament, and this year will be no different. Rory McIlroy still needs a green jacket to achieve a career grand slam. Once again Dustin Johnson is poised to arrive in Augusta in elite form and at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking. And a pivotal hole on Sunday afternoon is bound to swing the outcome of the event.

We asked local golf professionals to give us their fearless predictions for this year’s tournament, and they were happy to oblige. But there’s only one thing we all know for sure – the Masters will not disappoint.

Kirk Hice
Director of Golf, West Lake Country Club
(Kirk’s correct 2018 predictions: Low Senior, Toughest Hole)

2019 Masters Champion: Rory McIlroy. He’s been playing great so far this year, and I think he’s due to win.

Dark Horse: Xander Schauffele. He’bs been playing great, and I think he’s going to have a good year.

Low Newcomer: Eddie Pepperell

Low Senior: Bernhard Langer. It’s hard to not pick him.

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Adam Scott

Toughest Hole: Gotta be No. 11

Pivotal Hole: No. 13

Highest 18-Hole Score: 80

Highest Score on One Hole: 9


Tommy Brannen
Head Golf Professional, Augusta Country Club
(Tommy’s correct 2018 predictions: Low Newcomer, Toughest Hole)

2019 Masters Champion: You gotta take DJ (Dustin Johnson). He’s having a great year, and he’s off to a great start.

Dark Horse: Rickie Fowler. Is he a dark horse?

Low Newcomer: Michael Kim

Low Senior: I’ll take Vijay Singh.

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Paul Casey

Toughest Hole: Probably going to be No. 5

Pivotal Hole: Let’s say No. 11.

Highest 18-Hole Score: 85

Highest Score on One Hole: 9


Dan Elliott
PGA General Manager/Director of Golf, Forest Hills Golf Club
(Dan’s correct 2018 predictions: Low Senior, Toughest Hole)

2019 Masters Champion: Justin Rose. He’s good, and he’s played well there so many years in a row.

Dark Horse: Tiger. He knows how to play there, and he’s hitting the ball well. It’s just a matter of time before he puts four rounds together.

Low Newcomer: Andrew Landry

Low Senior: I’m going with Bernhard Langer. It’s hard not to take him.

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: It’s hard to pick any of those guys, but I’ll go with Jon Rahm.

Toughest Hole: No. 5

Pivotal Hole: It’s always, to me, No. 13.

Highest 18-Hole Score: 83

Highest Score on One Hole: 9


Spike Kelley
General Manager and Golf Professional, Goshen Plantation
(Spike’s correct 2018 predictions: Low Newcomer, Toughest Hole)

2019 Masters Champion: Dustin Johnson. He’s playing well.

Dark Horse: Phil Mickelson. He’s been playing well, too.

Low Newcomer: Andrew Landry

Low Senior: Bernard Langer

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Jon Rahm

Toughest Hole: No. 2

Pivotal Hole: It’s gotta be 15. What’s great about the course is it could 13, 15 or 16.

Highest 18-Hole Score: 84

Highest Score on One Hole: 8


Scott Penland
Director of Golf, Hickory Knob State Park Golf Course
(Scott’s correct 2018 predictions: Low Senior, Toughest Hole, Highest 18-Hole Score)

2019 Masters Champion: I’m going to say Rory McIlroy. He’s doing better, so he’s picking up his game. He should be in prime form for the Masters.

Dark Horse: Let’s say Jon Rahm. I think he has a chance of winning it.

Low Newcomer: Let’s go with Adam Long. That’s the only name I recognize out of them.

Low Senior: I’m going to say Bernard Langer again. He seems to be consistent at the Masters.

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Jason Day

Toughest Hole: No. 11

Pivotal Hole: No. 15

Highest 18-Hole Score: 81

Highest Score on One Hole: 7


Chris Verdery
Director of Golf, The River Golf Club
(Chris’ correct 2018 predictions: Low Senior)

2019 Masters Champion: Dustin Johnson. It’s his time, and he has the length to take advantage of the par 5s.

Dark Horse: Haotong Li. He has an exellent all-around game, and he’s very under-rated.

Low Newcomer: Michael Kim

Low Senior: It’s going to be Fred Couples.

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: I won’t go on the rankings, but I’ll say Patrick Reed.

Toughest Hole: No. 4

Pivotal Hole: It’s going to be No. 12.

Highest 18-Hole Score: 82

Highest Score on One Hole: 9

By Todd Beck

Picture Perfect


Augusta Symphony’s season draws to a close with an innovative performance.

Opera, ballet and cinema. All of these art forms will have a presence in Augusta Symphony’s final concert of the season, Musical Pictures, on Saturday, April 27. In a cutting-edge presentation, the orchestra will perform masterworks by some of the greatest composers in history.

“This year we made an effort to branch out a little bit and reach some new demographics,” says Dirk Meyer, Augusta Symphony music director.

In the first half of the concert, featured pieces will include Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes and Stravinsky’s The Firebird. “Four Sea Interludes is an operatic story, and The Firebird is a ballet story,” Meyer says.

The second half of the performance will feature Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with animated films that originally were commissioned for New World Symphony in Miami. “It’s a collection of several short pieces, and the music was composed about the paintings,” says Meyer. “The animated movies were inspired by the music, and they will be synced to the music.”

Meyer says the symphony has had a successful season with its efforts to show that classical music can be fun and appeal to a wide range of people. He expects Musical Pictures to connect with the audience as well.

“The musical selections are really incredible. All three of the pieces are top-notch, and the video is usually the showstopper of the evening,” Meyer says. “Orchestra music can have a stigma that it’s stuffy and boring. People sometimes think it’s something that only their grandparents would enjoy, but nobody will leave this show thinking that the symphony is stuffy and boring.”

If You Go:
What: Musical Pictures

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27

Where: Miller Theater

How Much: $22 – $67; walk-up tickets for military personnel and students with valid ID will be available for $10 at the box office beginning an hour before the concert

More Info: