A round with a Masters champ

A round with a Masters champ

Pepto, please: The author, left, with Weir, battles to keep down his morning waffles.
Patrick Giardino

I’m not clutch. Never have been. Show me a
meaningful three-footer and I’ll show you a
blind chimp with a better chance of holing it.
Which made the prospect of playing in the PGA
Grand Slam of Golf pro-am with 2003 Masters
champion Mike Weir Exorcist-scary. Fitting, given
I saw this breezy day at Poipu Bay Golf Course on
Kauai, Hawaii, as a chance to exorcise my duffinducing

When Weir appeared, with a parade of
fans trailing him, I froze on the tee like
a slumping placekicker moments before a game-winning
attempt. Weir is unimposing, but in a
black shirt and hat he appeared on his way to a
funeral. Mine.

He was up first. “Top it! Skull it! Sing a show tune!”
I secretly pleaded. Anything to relax me. Instead,
Weir unleashed a booming draw to a chorus of
oohs. Next, a sturdy kid from the island pulled
driver and smashed one past Weir. More oohs.
Then me. My stomach quaked and my arms felt
like mashed potatoes. I glanced at Weir. He was
still on the back tee, muttering to his cadre of
coaches, uninterested. Still, I was convinced that
he and the gallery were ogling me as they would
a bearded lady. From the start of my jittery takeaway,
I was doomed. Off the ball went. Really off.
High. Right. Weak. Humiliating. No oohs this
time, or a single boo. Something far worse: silence.
I peeked back at Weir, expecting a look of disgust,
or pity, but his back was turned. He’d missed it.

Weir didn’t watch my next shot either, or the
next. Truth is, he cared more about the weather
in Peru than my swing. For my second shot at the
par-5 third—a 3-wood off the deck—Weir finally
took note, and offered some advice. “Think about
creating a specific shot and shaping the ball,” he
said. “Never just hit and hope.”

Made sense, even if I could sooner sculpt a
teapot than a golf shot. As I stood over my ball, the
Masters champ peering over my right shoulder, I
gave it a go. I picked two bunkers about 50 yards
shy of the green and envisioned dropping a high,
soft fade in-between, into a grassy slot the size of
my office cube. Then I swung. My backswing felt
long and loose, my contact crisp. High! Soft!
Fade! It might be! It could be! Uh-oh—too much
fade! Abort! Abort! My ball disappeared into a
bunker, right of my target.

“Good shot,” Weir chirped. And it was a good
shot. Airborne, straight-ish. I employed Weir’s
technique for the rest of the round, and it worked.
He returned to not caring, and the gallery cared
even less. After all, I finally realized, they weren’t
here to watch me, and neither was Weir.