They are going home again this week, home to the dogwoods that bloom paper-white each spring and to the brilliant red azaleas that glow like embers on the lawns of Augusta National. They are going home to the cathedral of tall pines, to the deacons in green jackets, to the old-time religion at Amen Corner. Front yard, backyard. Home.
They are going home again to the Masters, golf's only major tournament that comes back to the same place every year. But for Raymond Floyd, this year's Masters will be different, very different. This year Floyd will be going to the only home he has. Early in the morning of Feb. 19, while Floyd was in San Diego for the Buick Invitational, the sprawling, 12,000-square-foot house on Miami's Biscayne Bay in which he and his family had lived for 14 years was destroyed by a fire.
"House is not the right word," says Maria Floyd, Raymond's wife of 18 years. "It was our home. It was big and grand, but you could come in our house and put your feet up in any room and feel at home. It was the basis for our whole lives. All of our memories were there." The house was built of stone and cement, so while it burned, it was the interior—not just the furniture but also the pictures, the mementos, the awards, the very soul of their lives—that fueled the fire. "We woke up one morning, and it wasn't there anymore," Raymond says.
When Maria called Raymond in San Diego at 1:08 a.m.—he says he will always remember that time on his hotel clock—and told him their house was burning, he asked her how bad it was. "They say they'll have it out shortly, but the roof's fallen in," she said.
"She called me back an hour and a half later while I was packing," Raymond recalls, "and she was not hysterical, but she was very upset. She said, 'We're going to lose the house. It's roaring.' "
The Floyds' housekeeper, Aurelia Kaselin, had been awakened in her room by the crackling of fire on the patio outside. Maria, whom Kaselin had called on the house intercom, thought the fire was so insignificant that she only roused her three teenage children so they wouldn't be startled by the sirens of the fire trucks. When Kaselin rescued the family parakeet from the window overlooking the patio, she noticed that glass was spitting off the window from the heat. "By that time there were firemen pounding on the front door, saying that everybody had to get out of the house," says Maria, who stood on the front lawn and watched throughout the early morning as the fire fighters battled the blaze. "It wasn't until we were driving away in the station wagon that I could sec how big the fire was."
The facade of the house remained standing, lending an air of unreality to the whole episode. When Raymond got home later that day, he said it was as if he were standing on a movie set. "I couldn't believe it," he says. "You feel so violated, like everything's been taken away from you."
Investigators think the fire may have been caused by a faulty electrical outlet. The Floyds' first decision was to rebuild on the same site, and in the meantime, they have moved into a house up the street, where they'll live for the next year during construction.
A lesser casualty of the fire was the huge party Raymond and Maria threw every year during the Doral Ryder Open for just about everyone connected to the Miami tournament. "It didn't matter that we had white carpets, or what you spilled," Maria says. "Everybody came, and everybody was comfortable." Raymond grilled steaks, and there was an Italian buffet. The Floyds made everyone feel at home.
Before the fire, it had been six years since Floyd had won a Tour event, and at 49, he felt himself marking time until he would be eligible for the Senior tour next September. "I'd been playing well, I just didn't score," he says. "Maybe the fire woke me up, I don't know, but at the Doral [two weeks later] all of a sudden I started scoring." He finished the tournament at 17 under, a winner by two shots over the white-hot Fred Couples and Keith Clearwater. The victory made Floyd the oldest player to win a Tour event since Art Wall won the 1975 Milwaukee Open, at 51. Moreover, it made him only the second player, along with Sam Snead, to win a Tour event in four different decades.