AUGUSTA — Much is made of the dreaded “Par 3 Curse” surrounding the Par 3 Contest at the Masters.
Not a single golfer has won the exhibition event – played on the smaller course on the grounds at Augusta National Golf Course since 1960 – and went on to win the Masters the same year. Not Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Vijay Singh or Luke Donald, among other big names to win the contest like 1998 Masters champion Mark O'Meara.
Only Singh and Ben Crenshaw went on to win the Masters at all once they won the shorter event. Palmer, O'Meara and Snead won their eight combined green jackets before showing their short-hole prowess.
So why do so many golfers play in the event the Wednesday before the year's first major? Because it's so much fun.
“The Par 3 Contest is a good time,” said Rickie Fowler, the No. 28 golfer in the world. “A Wednesday afternoon around Augusta is pretty special.”
Fowler's afternoon was made even more special by who was holding his golf bag. One of the traditions surrounding the event is the honorary caddie, often a member of the golfer's family or a close friend. For Fowler, that was his grandmother, who hadn't been in the best of health but found a second wind for the unique opportunity.
“She did great,” Fowler said. “I think she's actually supposed to have knee surgery at some point coming up, but all of a sudden her knee felt pretty good today.”
Others, like three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, had their children help carry clubs and walk the course. Defending champion Bubba Watson was escorted by his wife, Angie, and 1-year-old son, Caleb.
Even golfers with famous significant others had accompaniment. Rory McIlroy's girlfriend, tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki, was carrying McIlroy's bag, as expected.
The good times weren't limited to golfers and their families, though.
As two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer and former world No. 1 Martin Kaymer left the sixth tee on the Par 3 course, 9-year-old patron Malachi Bowen of Senoia, Ga., asked Langer for an autograph. Langer obliged, but he also let Malachi come under the ropes and walk a stretch of the hole with him while he signed the boy's items.
“It was amazing,” Malachi said. “It was really cool.”
His father, Jason Bowen, said that he had been to the Masters before but never to the Wednesday exhibition.
“This is my first time to the Par 3, so this is another dream come true,” he said of the opportunity.
As for the experience of watching his son walk alongside one of the greats of the game at one of golf's most storied venues, Jason said it was “sentimental” just having his son at the course.
“So it's especially just brilliant to have my son here with me,” he said. “And that right there was just the sugar on top.”
Langer seemed to enjoy allowing Malachi, who also took a chance and came under the ropes to get an autograph from South Carolina native Dustin Johnson, to join him for a few steps.
“The Par 3 contest is just entertainment, entertaining the people, make sure the kids have a good time,” Langer said. “That's what it's all about really.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
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9:17 a.m.: Brandt Snedeker, Ryo Ishikawa, Justin Rose
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10:56 a.m.: Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington
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Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Malachi Bowen, 9, walks with two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer at Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Jason Day and wife Ellie walk with son Dash at the Masters Par 3 Contest on Wednesday.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Defending Masters champion Bubba Watson walks with wife Angie and 1-year-old son Caleb at Wednesday's Par 3 Contest.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Former world No. 1 Luke Donald leads daughter Elle away from the sixth tee box at the Masters Par 3 contest on Wednesday.×