With the exception of slipping on the green jacket after winning the 1968 Masters, he said the thing he has enjoyed the most in his 53 trips to Augusta is spending time under the Big Oak Tree.
For those who have had the opportunity to attend the Masters, the Big Oak Tree is as much a landmark as Amen Corner, Bobby Jones’ cabin and the recently departed Eisenhower Tree that protected the left side of the 17th fairway.
For those who haven’t seen it up close and personal, the oak was planted in the 1850s. It’s limbs are so large and heavy that steel cables are needed to help keep them upright, and the shade it creates right outside the back door of the Augusta National clubhouse covers at least 50 yards.
At any time during the days leading up to the beginning of the tournament, a couple hundred people can be found under it conducting business.
“Right here, right now,” the 85-year old Goalby said. “Just like what we are doing right now. This is where you get the pulse of the tournament.”
Goalby admits things have changed under the tree. What was once a meeting place for players to meet and have a drink, or a spot to sit and talk with a writer at one of the tables a few steps away, has become an area for the power brokers of sports.
In a 20-minute period Wednesday afternoon, a Who’s Who of sports notables could be seen under the tree.
On the north side were NFL commissioner and Augusta National member Roger Goodell; Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, international golf’s governing body; and Chubby Chandler, a former European Tour player who has become one of the most powerful sports agents in the world. Chandler founded International Sports Management, which represents players like Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
Turn left, and there were Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez, two of the most successful LPGA Tour players of all time. Sitting down doing and an interview nearby was Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion.
Turn right and there was ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt chasing down an interview. Former PGA champion Paul Azinger and U.S. Open champions Curtis Strange and David Graham talked with family and friends, and three-time Masters champion Gary Player held court for anyone who would listen.
“You have the golf architects, older golfers and business people all right here,” Goalby said. “You see friends, you renew relationships and craft business deals. If it’s happening at the Masters, it’s happening here.”
MORE FROM GOALBY: In his playing days, Goalby said his best friend was Sam Snead. For 30 years, they played together every practice round at the Masters, and they would play recreational rounds together in Florida.
“One time, I told him we had played together over 300 times,” Goalby said. “And he looked at me and said, ‘Hell, we’ve played a lot more than that.’ He was my best friend and best player I ever saw.”
Goalby’s great-nephew, Bill Haas — the son of Champions Tour regular Jay Haas — is playing in the Masters for the fifth time. A golfer needs a certain amount of experience to win at Augusta, and the fifth time may prove to be a charm for the former FedEx Cup champion.
Bill Haas’ best showing to date in Augusta is a tie for 20th last year.
NO SAVING THE EISENHOWER TREE: During Augusta National chairman Billy Payne’s annual media address Wednesday morning, he was asked about the ice storm that did in the Eisenhower Tree.
“When (ice) was in the forecast, was there ever a plan of taking any pre-emptive measure to save the tree?”
Payne said no.
“The tree, it (was) too large to have done any kind of corrective work like that,” he said. “So, no. I don’t think it was even considered.”
SORRY, RYAN: It doesn’t matter how well Ryan Moore is playing right now. After Wednesday afternoon, he may have done in any opportunity he has to win this week.
No player has ever won the Masters’ annual par-3 tournament and gone on to win the Masters in the same week.
Moore shot a 6-under par 21 to win the nine-hole tournament by two shots over Kevin Stadler and 1979 Masters champion Fuzzy Zoeller.
ACE IN THE HOLE: There were three holes-in-one during the par-3 tournament.
Mark O’Meara, the 1998 Masters champion, and Florida golf coach Buddy Alexander each aced the second hole, while Masters rookie Matt Jones aced No. 3.
AFTER YOU: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Player will get the tournament started this morning when they fulfill their duty as the honorary starters.
The trio won a combined 13 Masters during their careers, including one stretch from 1960-66 in which they traded the title amongst themselves. Palmer won in 1960, then exchanged titles with Player and Nicklaus over the next four years before Nicklaus won again in 1965 and ’66.