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The Masters While unseasonable snow and hail storms absolutely ruin Spring hopes for many parts of the country, the weather in Georgia yesterday was like high summer up north. A few colleagues and I had the pleasure of escaping winter’s return and joining tens of thousands of pilgrims on the trek to Augusta. Truly, The Masters each year must be like the great pilgrimages of history. Believers come from all over the world, dressed in golf shirts showing logos from home courses listed on Golf Digest’s Top 100, or they wear Masters attire purchased in years past that shows their devotion to the Faith. They descend en masse on an otherwise quiet city, tying up traffic for miles and marching in perfect step and long lines toward hallowed gates, to see the best golfers in the world compete for the championship they most want to win. It’s an impressive scene.
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Come to think of it…. I’m sure Chaucer could write an incredible Canterbury Tales sequel about this. For his “Augusta Tales” he could just recycle his CT Prologue, with its indelible description of the earth’s re-birth, as April pierces the drought of March to the root. All he would have to do is change the “tendre croppes” reference to Azaleas, and add in astoundingly perfect turf, and it’d be good to go. This year, the “Secretary of State’s Tale” and the “The 14 Year Old’s Magical Mystery Tour” would be among the best stories, I’d bet.
Yesterday was especially unforgettable for the Allen Edmonds sojourners. Colin Hall (our SVP of Marketing, Golf and International) and Jim Kass (our SVP of Operations) and I waited patiently (why would we not?) at a sun-soaked table, behind the ropes around the back of the world-renowned clubhouse, for Jack Nicklaus to finish speaking with the 14 year old Chinese phenom who qualified for this year’s Masters. The prodigy was seeking wisdom from The Oracle of the Six Green Jackets. After their conversation about how to play key shots on the course, and after several pictures of the boy’s family with Jack – Andy O’Brien, our host and everyday partner in our relationship with Nicklaus Companies, ushered us into the living room of Jack’s cabin for the week. Barbara was there, son Steve checked in to drop off purchases from the ANGC pro shop, son Gary came in with a couple of his kids to say hello to Grandpa… and we sat down with Jack to talk for over an hour! Instead of a quick meet and greet, it was all about soles, no-tie laces, golf swing support requirements, Jack’s view of the future of golf shoes, shoe construction, lightweight materials and the challenges of finding a perfect-fitting golf glove. Now I know how he remembers his championship rounds across the decades shot-by-shot. The man has incredible attention to detail and extreme standards of excellence.
We presented Jack with three of our new golf hats with the icon of his “Yes Sir!” birdie putt on 17 in 1986, without any expectation that he would wear one of them. For years, he has worn a “Golden Bear” logo hat at his appearances. But his grandson took one of the three for himself to wear, Gary grabbed another, and then (to Andy’s surprise) Jack said he’d wear the third for the Par 3 Tournament. It was a white hat with a blue “Jack on 17” logo. He joked, “I’m always wearing a black hat in some people’s eyes when I play with Arnie, so I’ll wear the white hat today.” I chuckled at how the good friends still compete so intensely — Jack at 73 and Arnie 10 years older. Jack also wore our green and white “Muirfield Village” golf shoes that we’ve developed together over the past 18 months.
Andy O’Brien and I met later in the afternoon to head to the Par 3 course, where we bumped into Golf Digest’s Mr. Fashion — Marty Hackel. It was Marty who first introduced Andy, Colin and me to each other two years ago, which set our relationship with Andy and Jack in motion. After the Par 3 Contest introductions and opening tee shots, Andy headed off to catch his plane back to Florida and I was able to watch the Big Three (Gary Player, too) play the first three holes before I, too, had to leave for home to get back to work.
While waiting at the airport, my wife called and let me know that she had just heard on TV someone yell: “Cool logo, Jack!” to him. She also alerted me that our other great partner in our foray in to the golf business — Ben Crenshaw — had made a Hole-in-One during the Contest. Ben represents us on the Honors Collection – the classic, and more traditional spiked golf shoes that he prefers. Very appropriately for golf’s greatest historian and keeper of the traditions of the game, Ben was wearing our LEGENDS model shoe as his high wedge spun out of the ballmark and perfectly followed the sloping contour of the green to drop into the front of the cup. It was a great ending to the day for me, and a great start to the tournament for Ben.