Augusta native, Larry Mize completes boyhood dream
By: Claudia Mazzucco
On April 12, 1987, Larry Mize hit a miracle chip from 140 foot that bounced twice up a grassy bank and once on the putting surface before it rolled halfway across the 11th green directly into the hole to win the 51st Masters Tournament in the second hole of playoff with Greg Norman. Severiano Ballesteros watched the shot on television from the Champions Locker Room. He dropped out by three-putting for bogey at the first hole of the playoff. Mize became the first champion to come from Augusta itself. They finished with a 285 total (-3), which was the highest score since Jack Nicklaus shot 286 to win in 1972.
Fact: Larry Mize was born in Augusta and played his junior golf on the Augusta C.C., the course next-door of Augusta National. When Larry was 14 he got his first job, working the scoreboard at the third hole during the Masters week. He is the youngest child of a retired telephone company executive. His father took up golf at 35 and led his three children into the game.
It was a spectacular Sunday afternoon at Augusta National. Nine players were within a shot of each other with nine holes to play. Ben Crenshaw, who has won the Masters in 1984, hold the lead or a share of it for eight holes, striving heroically all the while, only to lose it by missing an easy five-foot putt for par at the 71st hole. Seventeen was the hole where Ballesteros and Norman both made the birdies that moved them into a tie for the lead at 3 under. Mize had dropped from the lead with two bogeys at 14th and 15th, but got a birdie on the 72nd hole after he hit a perfect nine-iron to six foot from the hole and made the putt for birdie. He was the first in the clubhouse.
Norman hit his tee shot at the 18th as if he intended to drive the green. He measured the distance to the far side of the two-part bunker on the left side of the fairway, concluded it was 285 yards, and told his caddie, Pete Bender, “I know we can hit over it.” (That bunker was built in 1966 to discourage players – Nicklaus in particular – from driving to a plateau left of the fairway, about 280 yards off the tee, something only Nicklaus could do in those days, from where he would have an easy wedge shot to the green.)
Indeed, Norman hit his driver over the bunker, and a sand-wedge to the green from 91 yards, leaving himself a 20-foot putt for a birdie that would have won the tournament. The ball trickled over the left lip of the cup. He just couldn’t believe he missed it.
In 1986, Norman had won the British Open but lost the Masters by a single stroke, the PGA by two, and the U.S. Open by six shots after having led through three rounds.
Claudia M. Mazzucco is a researcher at Golf Channel and teacher of History of Golf at the PGA of Argentina, in Buenos Aires. She is the author of Legendary Lessons (2016), El Golf de los Tiempos, A Novel (2002) and The Guide of Golf Courses in Argentina (2003). She received the PGA Award from the PGA of Argentina in 2005