Greeson: A family tradition unlike any other

Greeson: A family tradition unlike any other

April 11th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sportscolumns

Lee Westwood, of England, walks over the Hogan Bridge on the 13th hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The Masters is about so many things.

Tradition. Sure. Is there another place in sports where the connection 0f competitor, venue and patron are as deeply linked?

Beauty. Naturally. This place is a bucket-list destination for every casual golfer from Hixson to Helsinki.

Familiarity. Of course. The players and the course may change -- we're missing our most famous wood (Eisenhower's Tree) and Woods (Tiger) this week, and you'd never know -- but the images are cemented in time.

And all of this is wrapped in the emotion of the Masters.

Golf's grandest images here are equal parts triumph and tragedy, a blend of heartwarming and heartbreaking. For every celebratory hug there is a conciliatory pat on the bag. The ebb and flow of golf's great shrine is the give and take of the certain fact that there will be a winner and a runner-up wondering what if.

There are Bubba's tears and Norman's tears. And for every Tiger chip there remains a chip on DiMarco's shoulder. You'd be hard pressed to remember great accomplishment without matching anguish.

We experience those and remember them -- some better than others, sadly -- but when the stage and the game share the common life thread of the bond between fathers and sons and sports, well, the scenes match the moment and we all play along. All you have to do is cue the harp and Jim Nantz's Hallmark soliloquy.

"We might have missed a handful of them over the years, but we came most years," first-round Masters leader Bill Haas said of his family's annual trek to Augusta National for his father Jay's 22 appearances in the tournament.

Bill and his dad started the morning on the range. They finished it there, too, after Bill wrapped a bogey at 1 and a birdie at 18 around his best round ever here for the overnight lead at a major for the first time in his career.

He gushes about his family connection to this place -- he's had two uncles play in the Masters, as well as 1968 champ Bob Goalby, who is Jay's uncle -- and Bill's love for his father, who finished a tough-luck third here in 1995, is as clear as his reverence for this place.

"I never remember thinking, 'Man, I wish I could hit that shot for him,'" Bill said about the disappointment of 1995 before readily clarifying the father-son dynamic, "but I do know now that there's sometimes I'm like I wish my dad could hit this shot for me."

Haas was not the only legacy player to make his mark Thursday.

However, unlike Haas, who was bouncing ideas off his dad at the range before and after -- "He better still be there," Bill said, "he's my ride" -- another golfing son of a well-known player was taking his own stride around the grounds this week.

"I think he was really wanting me to find my way," Kevin Stadler said about his dad Craig after he shot a 2-under 70 in the first round of this Masters. "Not wanting to ...

"I suppose he's not wanting me to over-think everything out here."

Out here. Over there. Everywhere. It's Dr. Seuss meets the Swing Doctor, except the Cat in the Hat hardly gets the chance to take the grandest stage in his chosen profession with Cat in the Hat Jr. six groups behind him at Augusta National.

That's a father's job -- to help his boy find his way -- and that's the dilemma: What works for one is cat food for another.

"He shot 2 under. Good for him," said Craig Stadler, the 1982 Masters champ who carded an 82 Thursday. "I didn't get any [updates]. Couldn't watch him tee off. ...

"But we got to play a practice round Tuesday, and that was great. I could not have cared less who the other two guys were."

So it goes. The lessons of the father passed down in a litany of ways, the defining factor being the effects they have on the boy.

Still, as good as this Thursday was for this ESPN/CBS after-school special, it could have been better. It could have featured the Stadlers together, maximizing the history of being the first father-son tandem in the same Masters.

Maybe in the future?

"This could be [my last year], truthfully, the way I'm playing. It's not fun to go out there and shoot 82 or whatever," said Craig Stadler. "But if they were to call the week before and say they were going to pair us together, absolutely, I'd be back.

"I really can't think of anything better than that. It would be the icing on the cake, and I would love that."

Talk about putting the amen in Amen Corner.