Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sunday at the Masters: Keep Your Expectations!

I've learned more than I ever thought I would from the Notre Dame Women's basketball team's National Championship. Their win reminded me—once again—of how much more I enjoy life when I hold no expectations. Holding low to no expectations allows a person to receive events, people, places as a gift. When I hold on too tightly or want an outcome too much, invariably I am disappointed. So after feeling joy and elation all week from the Irish win, I couldn't help but tread lightly into the 2018 Masters. 
Patrick & Justine Reed at Notre Dame Stadium. Fall, 2017
Undoubtedly my favorite sports week of the year, I was so afraid that Sunday at the Masters might be sleepy. Last year, was truly one for the ages and I was fearful that this year would be but a whimper....or a whisper. As anyone who watched the 82nd Masters Tourney knows: it never disappoints. Here are but a few thoughts...

Amen Corner
For the past two years, I have watched the first of the four Majors at what might be my favorite party of the year. The host family hangs a Masters flag outside, decorates their homes with Azaleas and we eat and drink the traditional food found at Augusta National. I love that the gathering begins with Mass and I should have known it was going to be a great day when the priest, a friend of the host family, sat in one corner of the living room and welcomed us to Amen Corner. I loved his nod to the treacherous though beautiful twelfth hole. It was a quick round, excuse me, Mass and a wonderful way to gather 
for "Divine Mercy Sunday." 

No need for the golf gods to descend their mercy on the players today, a championship round is always a gift. And despite my fear, today was no exception.
I honestly think my favorite moment of the entire tournament was when Jordan Speith cleared the water on that illustrious and infamous twelfth hole in Amen Corner. I think you can both see and feel trepidation. I wasn't there, so I don't know, but coming to the tee box with his score—five under par—I have a sense you could smell the trepidation, too.

In "Masters 2018, Jordan Spieth comes up short, but adds to his Augusta aura with Sunday 64," Spieth said
“What we did on 12 today was really cool,” began the 24-year-old Dallas native, who smiled when he saw his 9-iron reach dry land. “I mean that hole, even when I didn’t hit it in the water in previous years, I three‑putted in 2015 for bogey. So, to play a disciplined shot, probably the most pressure‑packed shot I’ve ever hit. Again, I had no idea where I stood, but still the Sunday pin at Augusta, and I know what I’ve done, and my history there. To stand in that kind of pressure and hit the shot to the safe zone, [and] to knock that putt in was massive for me going forward.”
Though golf is not a great spectator sport, moments like this—experienced in the flesh—are electric. Spieth gave his caddy, Michael Greller a strong high five. Knowing his history, the crowd breathed a sigh of relief, gave each other high fives and celebrated as Spieth threw that monkey off his back.

On this hole, even a par for Jordan Spieth on Sunday at the Masters is a victory. Instead, he sank a 30-foot putt from off the back of the green, marking what was his sixth birdie on the day. That's great golf.
The Collective, Communal Experience
As I have written before, so much about the Masters is counterintuitive to life today. One spends a whole lot of money to attend a tournament where you don't have to pay for parking. Yes, you read that right. And, as a sign of hospitality, the prices are kept low inside the concessions stands. You will wonder if you read those signs correctly, too. One won't find a cell phone in sight, a fact that is nearly impossible for my students to believe. Consequently, other than a whole lot of gear one can only purchase at Augusta National, all I carry with me from the 2016 Masters are the memories. No photos...no selfies...no tweets on site, nothing. 

The upside of walking the course hands-free is that people look up, out and above. Instead of gazing at a screen for scores and player profiles, I talked to others. We smelled the Azaleas, referred to the printed schedule and reviewed the map and kept eyes and ears on the hand opereated leaderboard. 

That's right, the sounds of Augusta don't come from an electronic device or a pre-recorded sound session. There is nothing digital about it. What you will hear at the Masters are birds, the crowd clapping and cheering and from time to time a roar when a golfer makes a magnificent feat or as was the case on Sunday, the leaderboard reveals a player is moving. After back to back Birdies on 15 and 16, the scorekeeper made the adjustment. Spieth was moving....his new score? 9 under par. (the red is intentional!) 

In today's world, any fan on site gets the information as it happens. For those at the Masters, some saw Spieth's shot. Other may have heard rumors. But, the collective experience meant that fans learned about the great competition together. There's something to be said for it.
Patrick Reed
Though I was hoping for Jordan Spieth or Rickie Fowler to emerge victoriously, I was happy for the first-time champion Patrick Reed. Most golf fans know Reed from his performance as "Captain America" in the 2016 Ryder Cup. This showdown of great golf put Team USA in the lead as he defeated his Sunday pairing, Rory McIlroy. However, 
I have been a quiet fan since I watched his interview on Feherty, a spot he earned—no doubt—after a win for the Red, White, and Blue. 

Reed is an aggressive golfer. His style is fun to watch. His wife, Justine served as his caddy for years. Time on the road and the demands of golf must tax even the strongest of relationships. Knowing they worked together in this way, made me appreciate something more about this bold and brash superstar (mostly in his mind). Mrs. Reed handed the bag over to her brother, Kessler Karain when she became pregnant with their first child. To David Feherty, Reed offered wonderful remarks about Justine's knowledge of the game and the support she has provided both on and off the course.

When I saw them both at the Notre Dame vs. Georgia game, my tacit approval changed into true fandom. He could have worn Red and Black. Instead, he made the wiser choice: Blue and Gold. Too bad he went with that fuschia pink on Sunday!!

Thank You
Early this week, countless people have said to me "I think of you when I see the Masters." Thank you! That insight and personal sharing mean a lot to me. But, I get just as excited to hear sports fans and non-sports, golfers and non-golfers discussing the greatness that is this wonderful tournament—an event that lives up to its expectations and its name. I'm already excited for next year...!

Photo Credits
@ND: Thank you Don!!
Jordan Happy/Spieth and Greller


  1. I enjoyed this piece. Always an different take on the sports news of the day

    1. Jules, Thanks for your continued support. Would love to have you at that Masters party...! Hope you and Barbara have a great summer!

  2. Reed is definitely a polarizing figure in golf. Lots of folks on opposite ends of the spectrum. While I'm still not a big fan, it is refreshing to see his positive attributes highlighted here. Not every athlete belongs on a box of Wheaties, real humans have flaws -- golf royalty can use a little more diversity in that sense. Nice work Stricherz.

    1. A thoughtful outlook on diversity—I appreciate thinking about its many forms. Did you see Reed at the Houston Rockets playoff game last night wearing his green jacket? Some say it was cocky...I think if I had one, I might wear it to Trader Joe's, not to mention a playoff game. I have to say comments on his character have blown up since the W. Time always reveals the truth...Thanks Kev!!