No Small feat for 57 Masters
Dick Hodgetts; Columnist
Masters Week is a time of joy in Madison. Spring is showing its splendor, nearby lakes and streams are full, and our favorite restaurants are filled with visitors coming and going to Augusta. A tall, elegant man from Madison will participate in his 57th consecutive Masters Golf Tournament this week.
Jim Small is a delight to know for scores of reasons: first, he was married to the lovely and talented Annie Lee Small, who created her own legend in the broadcasting industry, second he is the past owner of our local radio station WYTH 1250 AM (with you in mind), third, he was a tall dashing flight instructor for our Navy in World War II-which helped him catch the eye of Miss Annie Lee. This week he plans to be with family in Augusta along with son, Preston; and grandson: Dr. Jim Small III a physician with the US Air Force. And, as icing on the cake he will introduce grandsons to this fine family tradition of participating in the Masters.
My, the changes that have taken place over the nearly six decades in Augusta. Jim, in 1952 was entertaining clients for the Charleston & Western Carolina Railroad and thought a $20 tournament pass was a great way to snare some business for the railroad. Soon, his family had a motor home named: “Gulliver” and set a precedent by being the first to park an RV outside Gate 10 and enjoy the entire week with clients and friends.
Try to imagine the changes Jim Small has witnessed in nearly six decades of going to the same location: trees that were then ten feet tall, today soar 75 feet in the air, a few bright azaleas have exploded into a riot of color and become a world-famous trademark of the Augusta National Course. And, those modest cabins that housed railroad executives have become famous like the Butler Cabin where the world sees the annual Champion receive the coveted Green Jacket. The crowds in 1952 were such that they did not have to be roped off for control; and reporters could visit players in the locker room; security is tighter today. Jim made daily broadcasts from the Masters for years. He became popular not only with listeners, but with players and Tournament Officials. The week at the Masters was concluded with a round of golf played with the “press pool” on Monday. In addition, Jim walked the course each day of competition through the 2007 tournament.
In the 1950’s, the PGA was dominated by “Slamming” Sammy Snead and the fiercely competitive Ben Hogan. Also, President Eisenhower was playing the game and giving it greater acceptance. The game changes each decade and in the 1960’s TV viewer ship moved the sport toward what it is today. Partly, that was helped by the competition between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Americans watched “Arnie’s Army” roar with excitement as Palmer would charge on Sunday afternoon and win (or lose) with dramatic flair.
Masters Champions change as well. Today’s game is dominated by the son of Colonel Woods of the US Army Special Forces. “Tiger” Woods does it with the same focus and determination his Father demonstrated in his profession; and, he has the charm and charisma that we see in his Mother.
When asked how it felt to be a man of color and the reigning PGA player, Tiger responded: “I am a man of many colors, I have eight different racial heritages and reflect them all.” Can you be any more American?
One thing that has not changed is Jim Small’s generosity in introducing folks to the Masters. Scores of Madisonians first participate in this great event as Jim’s guests. For the past several weeks, Jim has been conditioning to again experience the Masters. If you see this World War II veteran, business owner, former railroad man, Father, and Grand Father, wish him well and ask him to encourage Preston to keep the family tradition-this is Preston’s 43rd consecutive Masters.
PRINTED IN THE APRIL 9, 2009 EDITION