THERE IS something about this time of the year in Augusta which makes me feel very mortal, more so than usual, I think.
Twelve years before I was born, Gene Sarazen hit perhaps the most famous shot in the history of golf, scored a double eagle on the 15th hole, and earned a first place tie in the 1935 Masters Tournament. He called the shot "just a piece of luck;" but the next day he beat Craig Wood in a 36-hole playoff to earn his first green jacket, and a prize of $1500. For 18 years Sarazen was one of the honorary starters for the Masters. Now he is gone.
Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player were the dominant players of the 1960s and they have won a combined 13 Masters titles. Try to describe those three careers in one sentence each. From 1960 to 1963, Arnie won 29 titles and collected $400,000 in prize money. Jack has 71 official tour victories, 58 second place finishes and was third 36 times. Gary Player, the only golfer in the 20th century to win the British Open in three different decades, amassed 163 career championships. Another Augusta National golf scene that likely will not be duplicated was the threesome Thursday and Friday of the "Big Three."
THIS CURRENT reminiscing began, not with a sportscast, but with an e-mail from one of my regular correspondents who passed along a news release from Ron Nief, public affairs director at Beloit College in Wisconsin. It really made me feel old -- almost as old as the time a friend went to the animal shelter and picked out a white spitz. When she asked me to suggest a name, I said, "Mark." My cleverness was rewarded with a blank look, so I said, "Mark Spitz. The Olympic swimmer?" And then I realized, he won his seven gold medals three years before she was born. Really old!
As the 153-year-old, liberal arts college welcomed the Class of 2003, the faculty and staff were reminded, by Mr. Nief and researcher Richard Miller, that most of these students were born in 1981.
"They are the first generation to be born into Luvs, Huggies and Pampers. Their lifetime has always included AIDS. There has always been a woman on the Supreme Court and women have always been traveling into space. They have never realized that for one brief moment Alexander Haig was `in charge.' They have never heard Walter Cronkite suggest, `That's the way it is.' They have never heard anyone say, `Book 'em, Dano,' `Good night, John-boy,' or `Kiss my grits' in prime time.
"They never knew Madonna when she was like a virgin. They never had to worry about the packaging of Tylenol. The moonwalk is a Michael Jackson dance step, not a Neil Armstrong giant step. They have always been able to get their news from USA Today and CNN. They don't understand why Solidarity is spelled with a capital `S.' President John Kennedy's assassination is as significant to them as Abraham Lincoln's or James Garfield's. They have never seen white smoke over the Vatican, and do not know its significance."
NOW IF ALL of that makes you feel old, you're really getting old when you don't care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don't have to go along. You are getting old when it takes longer to rest than to get tired. You are getting old when your cardiologist prescribes a diet which says, "If it tastes good, spit it out."
And then there is the story of the old man who dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into Heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I'll tell you how many points you've earned for each item. When you reach 100 points, you can get in."
"Okay," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter. "That's worth three points!"
"Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service."
"TERRIFIC!" says St. Peter. "That's certainly worth two points."
"Two points? I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."
"Fantastic, that's good for another point," St. Peter says.
"One point!" the man cries. "At this rate, the only way I get into Heaven is by the grace of God!"
"BINGO!" Saint Peter said. "That's 100 points! Come on in!"
The author is a local free-lance writer
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org