s WHAT golfer isn't excited this week with the Masters going on? A lot of us have Georgia on our minds.
Ishii, Souza had taste
of the Masters
Even those with only a passing interest in golf watch it on television. Even botanists. After all, the Augusta National was once a nursery.
So you'll be hearing about dogwoods and azaleas besides birdies and bogeys. Sometimes, though, they would stick potted azaleas in the ground, as they did when I was there 10 years ago, because it was too cold a spring.
The occasion for my only visit to America's cathedral of golf occurred thanks to David Ishii, who qualified for the Masters by winning the United Airlines Hawaiian Open.
So, I'm sure that Ishii, who's competing in the Tsuruya Open in Japan this week, is giving the Masters more than a passing thought.
Another golfer who definitely will be watching is local pro Stan Souza, who's the local Izod and Zevo representative.
Souza was the first golfer from Hawaii to play in the Masters. That was in 1977, when he was a junior at Brigham Young University.
Back in 1976, the four semifinalists in the U.S. Amateur received invitations to the Masters. Souza lost his semifinal match, 1-up, on the 19th hole in a finish that broke his heart.
IT happened in a way that you'll never see today in match play because of a rule change.
On the first playoff hole, Souza missed a 15-foot birdie putt, his ball stopping short three inches left of the cup. His opponent, Parker Moore, had a 12-footer for his bird.
As the one now farther away, Moore had the option to insist that Souza leave his ball there, instead of marking it or putting out.
"I wanted to mark it or putt out, but I couldn't. I had no choice," Souza said.
You can guess what happened. Moore pulled his putt slightly, but his ball clipped Souza's and ricocheted into the hole for the winning birdie.
"I wanted to die. I walked off the green feeling numb," Souza recalled about the match at the Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
The rule was soon changed, but not soon enough for Souza. You could say, Souza was inches away from possibly being the U.S. Amateur champion because of a rule that begged to be changed.
Moore lost in the final to Bill Sanders, who played behind Souza on the BYU golf team.
However, all four semifinalists got to play at Augusta the following spring. And it has proved to be an experience that still remains with Souza.
He played the first round with Gary Brewer, the 1965 Hawaiian Open champion, and then with Joe Inman.
SOUZA missed the cut, but his greatest Masters "Moment" came when he birdied the three holes making up "Amen Corner," the 11th, the photogenic par-3 12th and the par-5 13th.
Naturally, Souza stayed around to watch the final 36 holes, walking in the gallery that followed Tom Watson, who beat Jack Nicklaus to win the first of his two green jackets.
"It's an experience that I will never forget," said Souza, who holds an annual Masters party at his Kailua home during Sunday's final round.
He feels that David Duval has to be the favorite because of his phenomenal recent showings, but Souza's dark horse pick is Nick Price.
Now 45, Souza recently turned professional again after regaining his amateur status after a three-year wait in 1988.
"I'm five years away from the Senior Tour," he said in explaining why he wanted to play professionally again. "I want to play more competitive golf here and on the mainland."