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Larry Mize's Last Masters

Larry Mize's Last Masters

We watch sports to see improbable dreams fulfilled. Incredible athletic achievements inspire us and imbue us with a sense of hope.

Larry Mize’s victory in the 1987 Masters was one of those moments that makes all of us reconsider what is possible.

Mize grew up in Augusta, Georgia. When Larry and his father, Charles, would play the neighboring Augusta Country Club, Larry would peer through the fence to see golf’s most famous venue.

“Somehow,” he told himself, “I have to get in there.”

He first attended the Masters as a scoreboard operator, placing the green and red numbers on the large, white scoreboard overlooking the third green. He held that post for 12 years, undoubtedly dreaming of what it would be like to win the tournament.

His dreams came true in 1987 when he defeated two Hall of Famers, Steve Ballesteros and Greg Norman, in a storybook ending. Mize chipped in from behind the 11th green, holing the 140-foot shot to stun Norman and end their sudden-death playoff.

“I’m just about speechless,” Mize said at the trophy ceremony. “Y’all don’t know how unbelievable this is.”

Now, 36 years after that incredible victory, Mize is ready to call it a career at Augusta National. The 87th Masters will be the final one for the 1987 champion.

“It’s time,” said Mize, now 64. The Masters was one of four PGA TOUR victories for Mize. He had two other top-10s at Augusta National, finishing sixth in 1992 and third in 1994. He made the cut as recently as 2017.

The local kid, the only Augusta native to win the Masters, is a permanent part of Masters lore because of his connection to the tournament’s hometown and his historic shot. One former Masters champion said Mize’s chip is one of the two best shots in tournament history, marking Gene Sarazen’s albatross in 1935 as the only other shot in the same class. Sarazen’s shot was longer, but Mize’s ended the tournament.

The wedge that Mize used for his most famous shot is still displayed in the Augusta National clubhouse alongside other clubs used by past Masters champions. The 1987 Masters was the first week he used the wedge. He held onto it “until I wore the grooves down” and then donated it to the club.

"I’ve never hit that chip shot again, though," he revealed. "I want to keep it a pure memory.”

Mize said his second favorite Masters memory came as he walked up the 18th fairway in 1994. His chance to win had slipped away but a fan shouted, “Thank you, Larry” as Mize finished his round.

“That appreciation I felt, I’ll never forget it,” Mize told the Augusta Chronicle.

He’ll undoubtedly feel it again this year. Not only because of his Augusta ties but also because of the grace he has exuded throughout his career. He personifies the genteel nature of this tradition-bound tournament.

In recent years, he’s also dazzled with his ability to compete alongside younger players whose drives carry well past his tee shots. He shot an opening-round 70 just three years ago. In 2009, at the age of 50, he shot 67 in the first round. Even after his playing days are done, he’ll continue to be a part of the Champions Dinner, that select gathering of winners that was originally known as the Masters Club. One of his fondest memories is driving Sarazen, the 1935 Masters champion, back to his hotel room after the dinner. The men who hit the two greatest shots in Masters history were sharing a car and swapping stories.  

“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."

That one last walk around Augusta National in the Masters will surely be a time for reflection. As he passes the third green, he’ll see the scoreboard that he operated as a kid. The eleventh hole will remind him of the greatest shot of his career. And that final trip up 18 will surely elicit the deepest emotions as he recalls the realization of a dream that came true.

 “It’s going to be an emotional week, but it’s time,” Mize said. “I know it’s time.”



Thanks for the memories and the dignity that came with it. Truly a walk well done!

Dana Dresser

Total class! This story keeps golf in perspective. Good on you Larry Mize! Congratulations on being a true champion in life.

Dennis Parker

It’s great to see that there is still a sport that appreciates history and manners. Thanks, Larry.

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