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Indeed a Masters for the ages
The author was thrilled at Augusta by events on the course and astonished by the efforts of the club officials off it... and also sorry to suffer the passing of a triumvirate of friends

Now that the dust from this year’s Masters has finally settled, and the hundreds of thousands of words written and spoken about the magical event have been digested, I thought I’d offer you my ‘two pennorth’ regarding those four extraordinary days in April.

In my opinion, it was one of the best Masters we’ve had for a number of years, and for a variety of reasons. The weather was delightful, the play was brilliant, the crowds were their usual colourful selves, the golf course was in immaculate condition (nothing new there). But the thing that was staggering and not really noticeable for the millions of television viewers round the world was the conversion of a car park into one of the most magnificent practice areas it has ever been my pleasure to see. Also there, nestled alongside the main teeing area, was a superblooking property, rivalling the grandeur of the Butler Cabin, which turned out to be the hospitality pavilion for the caddies. Remarkable when you think it will only be used for one week a year. At the other end was another splendid property, housing three television studios, all wonderfully equipped, perfectly functional and very handsome, the architecture blending in with every other structure on the property. How could all these additions have been put in place in less than a year? There were 30 or 40 big trees positioned around the practice area, apparently to give it a feeling of age and grandeur. Every one, I was informed, cost $75,000 – yes, $75,000 – to transplant. And there were dozens of blossom trees and bushes, all enhancing this extraordinary venue known throughout the world. The overall effect was wonderful.

The new range at Augusta, naturally, is as good as it gets
From car park to forecourt: the new range at Augusta, naturally, is as good as it gets

I have no idea how much more the club can possibly do to improve the Masters. Many dusty internal roads had been tarmacked while many houses adjacent to the club had been bought, demolished (an area again approaching 20 acres) and turned into a car park for the ‘patrons’.

One thing seemed to have escaped the scribes’ eyes. Television stations, news programmes and the like round the world stopped broadcasting what they were doing in order to bring you ‘live’ Tiger Woods’ first tee shot in a competitive environment for five months. Wow! His opening shot was a good ‘un, but hardly worth breaking into the world’s broadcasting systems. Quite extraordinary. I wonder what the next ten years will hold for Woods and his fractured family?

On to other matters. The last few weeks have seen the passing of some dear friends – Harry Carpenter, Sir Alec Bedser and George Cooper (Henry’s brother) – a pair of twins and the mischievous “wee gnome”.

Harry Carpenter was a joy to work with and as good a presenter as television has ever seen. It never ceased to amaze me how quickly he slipped from our view. I felt he had a lot more television in him, but it wasn’t to be.

I spoke to Alec Bedser just ten days before he died. His health had deteriorated quickly since an accident where he scalded his right foot very badly. A lovely, true, honest man. His twin brother, Eric, died four years before, and both funeral services were held at All Saints Church, near Woking. If there can be such a thing, it was a ‘beautiful’ funeral. Ken Schofield, former chief executive of the European Tour, delivered the eulogy, which should have been recorded for posterity. Ken was magnificent; a man of small stature, with possibly the worst haircut in the history of hairdressing, but someone with a command of words equalled only by the great rugby star, Cliff Morgan. It was simply stunning.

And then a few words of commiseration for Sir Henry Cooper, whose brother had died while I was at the Masters. Henry’s not enjoying the best of health at the moment. A heart that’s not working very well means he can’t walk far, but he can still enjoy a game of golf as long as he has a buggy. George, who fought under the name of Jim Cooper, had been seriously ill for some years, so you could say it was a blessing when he passed.

Henry spoke of him, as only twins can, ending with the words: “You know, Peter, he was never jealous of my success.” That was equally true of the Bedsers. They were people from a different age, an age long before super gymnasiums, sporting psychologists and psychiatrists, dietary experts and the like – they just kept going. I think there’s a lesson in there for many young sporting stars of today.

June 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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