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From Hulk To the Bear

The Vent

By W. STEPHEN Venable

It was the best spring break of my life.

I came home from school that Friday fifth grade afternoon, excited beyond belief.

I was probably the biggest professional wrestling fan in the world at the time, and I had somehow convinced my dad to take me to the big wrestling card downtown that Sunday night.

I just couldn't wait until Sunday.

At home, though, my mom had a different treat for me. It seems a friend from our church had offered us two passes to the third round of The Masters the next day.

Although golf, in my mind, was by no means the equal of rasslin,' I still agreed to make the hour and a half trip to Augusta with my step-father and her the next morning. After all, I'd be back in plenty of time for the main event--the wrestling.

She said that it would be an experience I would never forget. I believed her.

That Saturday morning I was up bright and early, rearing to go. My excitement was not tempered by the fact that the only golf I had ever played was an annual round of putt-putt on family trips to the beach--I was decked out in all the golf attire I had.

We got to Augusta National by mid-morning, and after a long search for a parking place, my mom and I made our way inside the gates of the legendary club.

My step-father stayed outside to try to buy a third pass. My mom had agreed to switch with him every hour or so if he could not find an additional badge. I, however, was allowed to watch the whole day.

I was amazed as soon as I saw the first signs of the golf course. The grass was so green, the flowers so vivid.

My mom and I wandered around for a while before I found a seat at the 16th hole, a beautiful par-three, which, I later found out, had been the sight of some of the greatest putts in Masters' history. The year before, Jack Nicklaus had clinched his record sixth green jacket with a huge putt at the hole. In 1975, Nicklaus sunk an even bigger putt, a ridiculous 60-footer, to win the golf tournament.

The history did not matter to me though. I was interested in the golf that I was watching. I sat at the 16th all day long, loving every minute of it.

I sat wide-eyed when Nicklaus played the hole. He was not even on the tournament's leader board, but he still got the biggest cheer of the field.

The legend, wearing bright red pants, hit a solid drive over the small pond and onto the green, much to the crowd's approval. And then he waved, acknowledging the gallery as he walked to his ball.

My mom's favorite golfer, and thus mine too at the time, was Ben Crenshaw. So I was thrilled when he was leading the tournament up to that point.

He was one of the final players to come by the 16th, and my mom--who luckily had come back on the greens to complete the final rotation with my step-father--and I followed him through the end of his round.

On our way out, I stopped and bought an authentic Masters golf hat from a souvenir stand. We ate dinner at The Green Jacket restaurant, across the street from the club.

The next day, I went to the wrestling match, probably more excited than ever. But on the way there I heard the Masters' results on the radio. Larry Mize, a local Georgian, had won the green jacket with a 120-foot chip shot in a sudden death play-off.

It's funny. I think my mom was right. Even though I loved wrestling so much, the thing I remember about that weekend is the Masters.

The green grass, Nicklaus's red pants, Ben Crenshaw and the results on the radio. I don't think I could tell you a single thing that happened at the wrestling match.

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