Larry Mize was born in Augusta, Georgia. As a teenager, he operated the large manual scoreboard that overlooks Augusta National’s third green. Then, in 1987, the local kid won the Masters with one of the most memorable shots in the tournament’s history.
From 140 feet away, Mize chipped in on the 11th hole to win a playoff over two Hall of Famers, Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.
Mize is teeing it up at Augusta National again this week, as well. The Straight Down ambassador has many fond memories of the tournament.
“My favorite thing about being a Masters champion? Getting to come back every year- it's incredible," he said. "It’s such a privilege to be in there with such great champions."
He added that the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night is one if his favorite parts. "One time I got to drive Gene Sarazen back to his hotel after dinner," he said. "Getting to know these great champions and hearing some of their great stories makes it such an exciting and a special night.”
Mize explained that Augusta National has the wedge he used for the chip-in, and believes that is where it needs to be. "The 1987 Masters was the very first week I used that club," he said. "Augusta National writes you a letter asking for a club that was instrumental in your victory, but they understand that you get attached to clubs and they’re willing to wait. I used that wedge for about a year-and-a-half until I wore the grooves down. It was a Jack Nicklaus Muirfield sand wedge.”
He said that Jack Nicklaus was his favorite golfer growing up. "For him to win it at age 46 in 1986 with his son caddying for him was very special," Mize said. "It was a great victory for him and it was a great victory for me because it meant that he put the green jacket on me the next year. There was no one else I would’ve picked to put the jacket on me. It can’t get any better than that. He said to me, ‘Well done, champion.’”
Mize said he loves to help the other guys and is flattered when they want to pick his brain about playing Augusta National. "I have a practice round scheduled with the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. I’m happy to do it because there’s a lot of local knowledge about Augusta National," he said. "There’s just certain places to avoid. For example, on No. 1, you just don’t want to fool with the left side of that green. It’s a very hard-up-and-down. But if you miss it right of the green, it’s a relatively simple shot.”
Mize emphasized that it's important to try to miss right of the 11th green. He was able to hit that chip shot one time to win. "I’ve never hit that chip shot again, though," he revealed. "I want to keep it a pure memory.”