SO BOB GOALBY walks over. "Jackie Burke," he says, extending a hand. "Damn, nice seeing you. How you doin'? Always great to see you." Jack Burke Jr., who is sitting on a sofa in the Augusta National clubhouse, grins and shakes his old friend's hand. ¶ It's Tuesday morning, and a biting wind is keeping the old men indoors. They're bundled up in windbreakers, but come evening they'll slip on their green jackets and go upstairs for the annual champions dinner. "I really want to talk to you," says Burke, who at 86 is the second-oldest living Masters winner. "I need some war stories."
"Hey, I've got some!" The 80-year-old Goalby, the 1968 winner at Augusta, chuckles and then leans a little closer. "How are you doing? Heard you haven't been feeling too good."
"I got a little stroke hit me, that's all. That guy had me zeroed in in his scope, but he missed."
Goalby smiles at the Grim Reaper reference. "After all you went through with the Marines? All that?"
Burke, who saw action in World War II, nods emphatically. "He missed!"
Missed so badly, in fact, that ol' Jackie looks fit enough to play. He walks without a cane, reads scoreboards at 100 yards and dispenses the famous critiques and aphorisms with his usual vigor. "I've got 133 employees and a thousand members at Champions Golf Club," he says, reminding everyone that he still runs the private club in Houston that he started a half century ago with three-time Masters champ Jimmy Demaret. But if you ask Burke to talk about his one-shot victory at the 1956 Masters—the first televised Masters—he'll tell you he doesn't dwell on the past. "Owner," he explains, "comes from the word owe. You're constantly making payroll, so it's pretty hard to think about a tournament you won 50 years ago."
But now 87-year-old Doug Ford walks over, triggering memories of a stormy Sunday in April of '56, the day Burke became a lifetime member of the ultraexclusive Masters club. "I'm telling them the story where you and I are standing on the putting green before the final round," Burke says, giving the '57 Masters champ a two-handed handshake. "It was blowing harder than it is today, and raining. I said, 'I'll take 77 and pull these shoes off right now!'"
Ford smiles and nods. "I played with [Cary] Middlecoff that day. On the par-3 4th he hit driver. Hit the back of the green and lost his ball in the woods."
"I couldn't get to the green," Burke says. "I had to hit a wedge to the back edge."
It's only in dribs and drabs, then, that you get Burke's version of the '56 Masters. He doesn't mention that he began the day eight strokes behind the third-round leader, amateur Ken Venturi. He won't brag about his final-round 71—or mention Venturi's closing 80. What he does instead is watch the Mickelsons and the Furyks, icons of the modern game, glide through the clubhouse in their logoed sportswear.