Last night, this football loving blogger, skipped the Champions League quarter finals and spent my time watching one of the funnest curtain raising events that you can see, the Par 3 Challenge at the Masters. Here are my reasons why this is so much fun:
Golf can often be a lonely job, but at the Par 3 Challenge players are encouraged to bring along the family and quite often make them caddie too! You get to see the brilliance of Jana Oosthuizen, Caleb Watson and many more. It is quite refreshing seeing these professionals who travel the globe have their support structure with them. Of course most of them give their kids a chance to have a putt or a drive.
This year we were treated to the tennis start Caroline Wozniaki carrying her boyfriend, and one of the favourites, Rory McIlory’s bag, but apart from family we do often see a few other celebs gracing the caddying world. Recent years have seen Chris Evert caddy for Greg Norman, Andy Roddick caddy for Zach Johnson, Matt Ryan (Quarterback) for Stewart Cink and the 7-foot David Robinson (NBA star) for Corey Pavin. Maybe there is a future in sport for Fernando Torres.
Is there a better trio in world golf than Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. And it was these three together that make the best scene of the par-3 challenge. Sure they have gained weight, lost distance and aged in a very respectable way, but these three giants (34 majors together) still have what it takes to pack the galleries. The jokes, the fan interaction and overall aura that comes along with the three icons is simply irreplaceable. A stand out moment was on the 9th hole, Palmer had sent his last ball for a swim, so as he sat and signed autographs, he gave a signed glove to a young lady to keep. Even at this age, the trio appreciate the value of the crowds and respect it too. And if scores mattered, which you know they do inside, it was Player getting the better of Jack and Arnie, shooting 1-over 28.
Hole in Ones
In 54 years of Par 3 Contest, there have been 77 hole-in-ones now after Nick Watney sank one on the 9th and 61 year old Ben Crenshaw sank one on the 7th. There might not be a lot, but the nature of the Par 3 contest means there is always a chance to witness an Ace. Crenshaw responded and celebrated in a relatively chilled way, but Watney went mad with the crowd and definitely spurred on by Jason Day!
No Par-3 winner has gone on to win the Masters that same week, ever. And this seems to weigh on the minds of players. Bo van Pelt was 5 under heading into No. 9 before sticking his final tee shot to about 8 feet. But instead of attempting the birdie for a chance to move to 6 under – that score would’ve won the competition – Van Pelt let his sons have a go with the putter. He would bogey the hole to wrap up an unofficial 4-under 23 and it’s that jinx that could explain why Van Pelt threw in the towel. The commentators even mentioned how often a player purposely drowns his ball at the 9th to avoid winning. Have you ever!
The Masters is arguably the hardest and most pressure fueled major that professional golfers will face. It is surely seen as golf’s equivalent to Wimbledon for tennis, playing at Lords for cricket and playing rugby at Twickenham. The Par-3 Contest is the perfect way to relax and de-stress a little bit, to have a bit of family time and to bond with what is a truly fantastic crowd.
Of course the real competition starts tonight. The pressure will be well and truly on. The 8 South Africans will have a little bit extra backing from us! Remember to check out Jabu’s Picks for Augusta too.