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GOING BACK
John Garrity
April 21, 1997
For 50 years, Herman Keiser has made a journey to Augusta that's partly a pilgrimage, partly a trip down memory lane
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April 21, 1997

Going Back

For 50 years, Herman Keiser has made a journey to Augusta that's partly a pilgrimage, partly a trip down memory lane

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"Is that all?" the son interrupts.

"Maybe 30 feet," the old man allows.

"Everyone says you hit a four-iron on your last approach, but it was a seven-iron." The son turns in his chair. "They've got Dad's seven-iron in a glass case at Augusta National. You can still see the ball mark from that last shot—right in the middle of the face."

The old man smiles, remembering how it felt to beat Hogan. He left Augusta, he says, with $2,500 for winning and perhaps $1,000 more from the bookmakers. He left, as well, with a thousand eyes looking daggers at his back.

The afternoon miles go quietly, with country and western music on the radio and long pauses between stories. Spring has come to North Carolina, laying lavender blossoms on the median and turning the hardwoods pale green. The Cadillac stops in Statesville for gas, barrels through downtown Charlotte around four o'clock, and exits onto I-20 West. The day's drive ends at 5:15 p.m., at a Days Inn in Columbia, S.C., about 70 miles shy of Augusta. In the motel office the old man opens his wallet and lays out $99 for two nights, ignoring his son's offer to pay. A sign on the counter reads ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS AFTER 15 MINUTES.

In their room the old man discusses his plans for Tuesday: coffee, drive to Augusta, check in, breakfast or lunch on the veranda, walk a few holes, sit for hours under an umbrella with his daughter's family...and finally, the champions' dinner. Afterward they will return to this room, the young man and the old, and early the next day, 24 hours before the tournament gets under way, they will head back to Akron. The door is open, and the nose of the Cadillac is visible just beyond the threshold, its bumper a mirror in the sunlight, the engine clicking as it cools.

"I don't know where they came up with that 'dark horse winner' stuff," the son says, still thinking of '46. "I've never liked that. You were the ninth-place guy on the money list, and you lost a playoff to Hogan
earlier that year in Phoenix."

"Hogan was the greatest player in the world," the old man says. "In that Phoenix playoff we tied two holes, and then Hogan went over the green on the third. I had 12 or 15 feet for birdie, and he pitched the son of a bitch in. Of course, I missed my putt."

The two men are silent for a moment. "We won't start too early," the younger man says. ;'You don't want to get too tired."

The journey ends, as it always does, in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Augusta's Washington Road. "Park, five bucks," the old man says, reading a sign by the roadside. "That's cheap, if you stay all day."

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