Reflections on Dustin Johnson’s Masters win

Published 9:30 am Thursday, November 19, 2020

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A little boy’s dream was fulfilled in the afternoon sunshine of the Augusta National Golf Club late Sunday as he broke down and shed tears following the highest moment of his life when donning the Pantone 342 jacket, which is known as Masters Green.

The details of where that jacket is made (Hamilton Tailoring, Cincinnati, Ohio, from tropical weight wool manufactured by the Forstmann Company in Dublin, Georgia, which is 96 miles southwest of Augusta) are not important to the current Masters champion—except for what it represents. The reality of being a Masters champion overwhelmed him. His feelings on his sleeve confirmed that. The reason he couldn’t manage his emotions and stop the flow of tears was being awestruck at winning a championship that he most wanted to win all his life.

There are countless players on the tour, who probably have had the same dream, but did not see it come about. In May 1979, I remember standing at the 18th hole of the course on which Fuzzy Zoeller grew up, and he said: “I can’t tell you how many times I have putted on this green and would say to anyone around me, ‘This putt is to win the Masters.’ I’m sure other kids have said the same thing, but it came true for me.” Same with Dustin Johnson.

What we see in the new Masters champion is a big man, at least for golfers, at 6-4, 190 pounds. He has the size of a tight end or linebacker who likely would have excelled in football. Maybe a little short for basketball, but his grandfather, Art Whisnant, was outstanding on the court for the University of South Carolina and was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in round five of the NBA draft in 1962.

His father Scott, taught him how to play golf so it is easy to conclude that there are good genes in his makeup. A player with power who has short game acumen and competitive toughness, Dustin belongs to the new breed of golfers who can go long with the ball and stop it on a dime.

He is one of those latter day players who are making golf courses obsolete; those Gary Player talked about on Thursday after fulfilling his role, with Jack Nicklaus, as an honorary starter.

It is interesting to reflect on the size of today’s golfers and the ease with which they can fashion stunningly low scores. Just compare Dustin Johnson’s size with that of Ben Hogan, known at Bantam Ben. Hogan stood 5-9 and weighed 146. Even Hogan, recognized as the greatest shot maker in the history of the game by many, would be hitting two and three irons today while today’s best players would be hitting nine irons. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who would have the advantage.

For those who know Dustin, there is high regard for him for not only his athletic prowess, but his good nature and anxiousness to take up time for charities and kids.

While Irmo, S. C., was his home, he spent considerable time in the Myrtle Beach area where he has the “Dustin Johnson Golf School.” His college coach at Coastal Carolina, Allen Terrell is one of his instructors.

“DJ” as his friends call him, is certainly not a golfing blueblood. The first place he learned to develop his powerful swing was the “Weed Hill Driving Range” in Irmo, which is just 12 miles west of Columbia. Says his friend Brian Payne, “The game always came easy for him. He always excelled at golf, dating back as far as I remember. We were classmates at Coastal Carolina and all his friends thought he could be very successful on the PGA Tour.”

Already Brian has introduced his grade school son, Wells, to Dustin who has signed autographs for him and has encouraged him to work on his game, noting that there is nothing like hard work for a person to succeed. Maybe Wells will go out to his home course and imagine that he is putting to win the Masters.

For Dustin on Sunday, he is one of the few who was not pressed to win his first Masters. The Masters, for a change, did not start on the back nine on Sunday, a phrase coined by the late Ken Venturi.

Usually the winner at Augusta pulls off victory in a photo finish. With the Masters date falling with the autumn leaves, it was a different tournament except for the competition. It was as good as it has ever been, even though Dustin Johnson had the field playing for second place early on.