Watson, accepting the key from Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver during the Mayor’s Masters Reception on Monday, asked whether the key might have helped a few amateurs avoid a sticky situation in the early 1970s.
“This key wouldn’t get me back into Augusta National when I was past the curfew, would it?” he said.
Thirty-eight Masters Tournaments later, Watson was the guest of honor at the 14th annual reception Monday at Augusta Common.
Thousands of tourists and area residents attended the reception, including Donald Hill, an Augusta National Golf Club caddie for 26 years who enthusiastically cheered as letters from Ray Floyd, Ben Crenshaw, Billy Casper and Jack Nicklaus were read aloud to Watson.
“You are the one of the best competitors in the history of the game,” Nicklaus wrote in his letter to Watson.
Copenhaver called Watson “a boyhood hero” whom he had admired since Watson played with his father, Bill Copenhaver, at the Olin Chemical Invitational.
“The way I conduct myself as mayor is the way I saw you conduct yourself on the golf course when I was growing up,” Copenhaver said.
Watson, 62, spoke about how he hoped to be remembered.
“I’m not into legacies,” he said. “I hope when my day is gone and I’m no longer around that my peers say that that Watson was a hell of a golfer.”
An all-volunteer staff from Walton Rehabilitation Health System sells refreshments at the event to raise money for area charities, organizer Vicki Greene said.
“We’ve been doing it for a long time; it’s a tradition,” Greene said.