My first Masters was in 1981. The press building was an old, dark green quonset hut, and I sat at space number J-3 on a folding chair in front of a green wooden desk.
It was a cramped work space, and next to me was a British gentleman, David Davies. Everyone called him Dai. He was still using a manual typewriter in those days, hammering out stories not with a machine-gun staccato as much as the "tap-tap-tap" of a mason efficiently building a solid wall, brick by brick.
Dai wrote for The Guardian in Britain. He was balding, wore glasses and had a bit of a belly. His voice was commanding, proper and, like most writers on deadline, occasionally impatient.
I watched him work in Augusta for years, at least until they built a huge media auditorium to replace the tiny old airplane hangar and we were seated in different area codes. I’ve seen Dai at pretty much every major championships since — until this year.
Dai was missing this year because he was found to have inoperable cancer. He passed away a few days ago, a great loss to our profession, and I was struck by this yesterday when I belatedly discovered this note from Dai on the Golf Writers Association of America in which he thanked friends for their support during his illness.
Here’s what he wrote:
In Damon Runyon’s almost unbearably sad little tale, "The Lemon Drop Kid," the author creates a character called Rarus P. Griggsby, an older man who is "nothing but a curmudgeon and by no means worthy of attention." Well, as a fully paid-up, press-tent curmudgeon — Tim Glover recently offered the opinion that it was the best of my qualities — I have been overwhelmed by the amount of attention colleagues and others in the golf world have thought "worthy" since my cancer was diagnosed. Patricia and I have been all but inundated by flowers, notes, cards and emails, not to mention visits, all of which have helped me to cope more cheerfully with what, right from the start, has been a very difficult situation. This kindness should not have come as a surprise given the nature of the golf world, which has always been generous, almost to a fault. But we curmudgeons don’t always realise, or appreciate, the good things that surround us, which, in this case, are the people. I now do and instead of a Rarus P Griggsby we now have a converted curmudgeon. That’s the good news. The bad is that the cancer continues to progress and while no one, not even my oncologist, knows how many holes I have left to play, I suspect I am on the last hole, and maybe even on the last green.But no matter. Bill Elliott asked the other day if I am angry at what has happened to me and the answer to that is no. I have lived the life I always wanted to, working for a newspaper I always wanted to, going to lovely places around the world, populated in the main by people I would have chosen to be with. Surely no journalist could ask for more? Some years ago I was chatting with Mark Wilson, who, apropos of nothing much, suddenly came out with the observation: "You know, Dai, these ARE the days of wine and roses."He was right then and would be even more so now. So enjoy them. Despite appearances, I did.
Can you imagine facing a terminal diagnosis and handling it with the dignity, grace and eloquence that Dai did? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me running his note. What writer doesn’t want to be read? It’s worth a trip to The Guardian’s site to look up Dai’s work, his legacy.
Someone else will step into the void left by Dai’s passing, but the man from J-2 in the Masters pressroom will never truly be replaced.