AUGUST 7, 1967
Gay Brewer, who won the Masters 30 years ago and, as author of a golf instructional, was on our cover four months later, might well have become the first man to win at Augusta two years in a row. In 1966, Brewer arrived at the 18th tee on Sunday needing only a par to win, but after reaching the green in two, he three-putted and fell into a tie with Jack Nicklaus and Tommy Jacobs. The next day Nicklaus, the '65 champion, easily won the 18-hole playoff, which made him the first to win back-to-back Masters. In '67, Brewer again came to the 18th on Sunday needing a par to win. "Experience means everything at Augusta," he once said. "That first year I thought all I had to do was knock it anywhere on the green. So I left myself a terrible 40-footer and three-putted. The second time I made sure to keep my approach below the hole." An easy two-putt gave him the title.
Brewer never won another Masters, but he had other memorable Augusta moments, both bad and good. On the eve of the '72 Masters he had pains in his midsection and passed out. "I thought I was dying," he says. "They gave me hormone shots to revive me." Doctors diagnosed bleeding ulcers and gave him a transfusion. "I was bleeding to death and didn't even know it." He recovered and a year later returned to Augusta, where he finished tied for 10th, his best Masters finish since winning in '67.
Today, at 65, Brewer lives in Mission Hills, Kans., with his wife of 38 years, Carole Lee. He still plays the Senior PGA Tour but with increasing difficulty: In 27 events last year, he had only two top-25 finishes. "The ligaments are gone in both my knees," he says. "Walking is tough. If I'm in a deep bunker, I need my caddie to pull me out."
Nevertheless Brewer was back in Augusta last week, exercising his right as a past champion to compete. "I'll play as long as I can walk the course," he says. Last Thursday the pairing of Brewer and 1971 champion Charles Coody followed the ceremonial tee-off by Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. When Brewer hit the first official shot of the '97 Masters, his swing looped up and around in the same curious way it did 30 years ago, and his ball sailed down the fairway. On the first green he hauled out his 48-inch putter—he was a pioneer of the long stick—and took three putts for a bogey. At day's end he had shot 84. He followed that with a 79 on Friday, missing the cut. Would he be back next year?
"Of course," he said.