Originally created 11/15/00

Local player qualifies for Masters



It's a long way to go from working on a scoreboard at the Masters Tournament to having your name on it.

Former Augustan Larry Mize made the improbable journey from above the ropes at the Augusta National Golf Club to inside them. Now, so has Franklin Langham.

Langham, who grew up in Thomson and now lives in Peachtree City, Ga., has been high enough on the PGA Tour money list for the past four months to know he'd qualify for the 2001 Masters at the end of the season.

It became official Sunday after the season-concluding American Express Championship in Spain. Langham finished 26th on the money list with $1,604,952.

The top 40 money winners each season earn invitations to the Masters.

With a second-place finish in the Greater Milwaukee Open on July 16 -- his third runner-up finish of the season -- Langham had stockpiled enough money to live out a dream and make the Masters for the first time.

"To play in the Masters, that's what he's always wanted to do," said Langham's father, Jimmy, who got his son the job on the scoreboard through one of his friends, the late R.B. Baker. "He's so excited he doesn't know what to do.

Invitations to the Masters will go out soon after the new year.

"It's really going to hit me when I get the invitation," Franklin Langham said. "I really don't know what to expect. I'm going to prepare myself to have every emotion in the book -- excited, nervous and sentimental because it's a dream come true for me."

Prior to this year, Langham's best finish on the money list in his three other years on the PGA Tour (1996, 1998 and 1999) had been 76th in 1999, when he won $535,652.

"For a guy like me who grew up near there (the Augusta National), to go there and play, the only thing better would be like Larry Mize and win it," Langham said.

"I just want to go out and enjoy the walk," Langham said. "I know it will be hard. It's a very historic place and it means so much to me. It's the place I most want to play and I've done that. I've accomplished that. I want to try to enjoy it and play the best I can."

Langham, 32, worked a scoreboard at the Augusta National's 16th hole during his final three years of high school (1984-1986).

Langham would work half-days. The rest of the time he spent watching the tournament and dreaming of playing in it.

When he does play in the Masters, "I'll look up there every day," Langham said of the scoreboard where he worked on No. 16. "It was a special time in my life and lot of fun. I got to see a lot of people I really admired as people and as players."

At the Greater Milwaukee Open, Langham made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to claim second place.

"I'd just had a tough hole on No. 17, and then I saw the scoreboard," Langham said. "I said `let's pull up our belt buckle and see if we can birdie this thing. You never know, it could be for Augusta.' It was nice to come through and make a birdie there."

Making it more special was that Langham's parents were in attendance that week.

"After he made the putt on No. 18, Franklin asked me if I'd come to the car with him and help him get his clubs and clothes out of the courtesy car," Jimmy Langham said. "I said I would. We went around and he looked at me and smiled and said, `Daddy, I think that did it.' I said `What?' He said, `I'm going to play in the Masters."'

At that point, Langham said he "realigned" his goals and set his sights on qualifying for the Tour Championship, which is limited to the top 30 money winners.

Langham easily made the Tour Championship, played in early November at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club. He was 24th on the money list at the time.

The key to Langham's strong year was his final-round scoring average, which was set up by his superb putting. Langham has been in the top 15 in putting all season, and his final-round stroke average is right at 69, which ranks in the top five on the PGA Tour.

"I had a year similar to this on the Nike Tour (1995)," Langham said. "In the press, they nicknamed me "Mr. Sunday" because my final round average was 66.6 or something like that."

As for his putting, fellow pro Steve Flesch calls Langham one of the top three putters on the tour.

"He makes a lot of putts," Flesch said. "It seems like this year he made the ones he had to."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.