Ever wonder what it’s like to report on the US Masters?

David Westin at Augusta National. Image: Augusta Chronicle
David Westin at Augusta National. Image: Augusta Chronicle

 

Before last weeks US Masters I spoke with David Westin, Augusta Chronicle’s chief golf correspondent who has been covering the US Masters for the publication since 1979.

After Tiger Woods epic comeback last Sunday, I wonder would he revise his favorite Masters moment (Q12) ?

Last year Westin was honoured by the Augusta National with a Masters Major Achievement Award.

The award, a handmade plaque made out of wood from a hickory tree that stood at Augusta National for years, is presented to media members who have covered the tournament for 40 or more years.

This year marks Westin’s 41st year covering the major tournament.

David Westin at Augusta National. Image: Augusta Chronicle

Q: Tell me a little about your background and how you got into golf reporting for the chronicle?

A: My Dad lived in Augusta when I was in fourth grade, so that was the first time I ever came. I went to University Georgia for four years and got a job with the Chronicle when I came back and I’ve been covering the Masters for the paper ever since. 1979 would have been the first one I covered and Fuzzy Zoeller was the winner.

Q: Describe the first Masters you covered

A: Well it was interesting because they had just instituted the sudden death playoffs to break the tie, it used to be an 18-hole playoff on Monday so it was Fuzzy Zoeller, Ed Sneed and Tom Watson. It started on number 10 and Zoeller won it with a birdie on 11.

Q: Where does the Masters rank in comparison to golfs other majors?

A: I’ve been to other majors but after being at the Masters or being or any other PGA tour event it’s such a let-down. The way they just run it so impeccably and its funny they set a standard, people see it and nobody can match it.

Q: Do you think that is still the case today?

A: I do, as far as covering it for the media they make it less stressful to cover than the other majors just in everything they do because of the history and tradition. They love print media, which is not a popular thing these days but they feel appreciated because they like the way we tell stories. And so this is probably one of the last sporting events in the world where the print media is kind of fed up on another pedestal.

Q: What does the Masters mean to you?

A: Good question! Former champions can play on Sunday’s so I caught Nick Faldo after for a chat and he was referring to the Masters being the greatest sporting event in the world.

And that’s what it means to me when I’m writing a story which millions of people are going to read. The eyes of the sports world are focused on Augusta National this week. It’s the first major of the year for a week long experience it’s definitely the greatest sporting event in the world.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: Well part of it is the history, it was started in 1934. The characters too and the players. It’s not only that but there’s something about this tournament, it always seems to have a very dramatic and thrilling finish on Sunday.

For the winner it’s going to change their career, it’s a life changing event. They may never win another event but it doesn’t matter they’ve won the Masters and you’ll be forever famous for that reason.

Q: Do the Masters unique traditions contribute to this?

A: Yeah Augusta National have those kind of outside things like the Green Jacket, the Champions dinner and the Par 3 tournament. Nobody else has a Par 3 tournament the day before the tournament.

The Champions Dinner was started by Ben Hogan because he thought it would be a good idea. Other tournaments have picked up on that idea but nobody has the tradition where the winners that are going to show up. Jack Nicklaus always comes, even in 2017 Tiger Woods was injured with his back and the guy could hardly walk but he made the effort to come to the Champions Dinner.

Q: Describe your week?

A: I do a lead story every day even on the practice rounds. For Thursdays paper I wrote an advance story on who the favourites are and why and what to expect. Then for yesterday I wrote the lead on whose leading and I’m always doing side bars on players.

For example I’m doing one on the new compressed PGA Tour and how that’s affecting player’s schedules in the lead up to the Masters this year.

Q: What will be the most challenging aspect of your week?

A: The weekend stories because starting with Saturday’s round players are paired by score and the leaders don’t finish until about seven o’ clock and then you’ll have a nine o clock deadline so you’re really pressed for time.

That’s the big challenge because those nights you can’t even interview the guys, they’re not going to finish until after seven o clock and then especially the Monday story, the final round winners stories that’s a historic.

50 years from now people are going to be reading that story, looking back at clips and on the website so that’s probably the one that’s difficult to write because your pretty exhausted by that time in the week.

Q: What’s your most enjoyable part of the week?

A: You’re going to laugh at this but when all the pre-tournament stuff is over, after Friday, and when they start playing golf that’s my favourite part. We were in Florida for two weeks about a month ago for two tournaments to work on our 60 page preview section. So for the last month and a half I’ve been writing nothing but what’s going to happen so it’s a relief and refreshing to finally start writing about what’s happening.

Q: What’s your least enjoyable part of the week?

A: Those deadlines and coming up new angles and ideas. It’s the same event every year and sometimes it’s just difficult coming up with different angles. It’s a lot of the same players and same characters every year.

Q: What’s your favourite Masters moment?

A: The 1987 Masters because that was the first year I wrote the lead story and Larry Mize won. I had been doing side bars on him all week because he was our local guy and came into that final round two shots off the lead, but Norman and “Sevi” were ahead of him and no one gave him a chance. I remember that Saturday after the third round walking to the parking lot with him, I was the only person interviewing the guy because nobody gave him a chance and then he won and because I used to live here as a kid and he grew up here that would be the highlight for me.

Q: Do you have a favourite Masters golfer?

A: Nick Price is always one of my favourites because when Price was the number one player in the world print really meant something to these guys. Back in the early 90s, we would go to Florida for pre-Masters interviews and he would be glad to see you, he was excited about being in the Augusta Chronicle and he would always tell me, “when I see you I know what that means, the Masters is not far off,” and he called me the “face of spring.”

Q: Describe the atmosphere in Augusta this week?

A: I equate it to Downtown Orlando or International Drive where all the hotels are and people are happy on vacation and excited. That’s what people are like here except it’s a sporting event. It’s a hard ticket to get and so they feel very special that they’re here.

Q: How important is it for the local economy?

A: It’s great for the local economy. People rent their houses out, a lot of hospitality make money off these things. There are two Christmas’ in Augusta, regular Christmas and this one

David Westin is the Augusta Chronicle’s chief golf correspondent and has been covering the US Masters for the publication since 1979.

Last year Westin was honoured by the Augusta National with a Masters Major Achievement Award.

The award, a handmade plaque made out of wood from a hickory tree that stood at Augusta National for years, is presented to media members who have covered the tournament for 40 or more years.

This year marks Westin’s 41st year covering the major tournament.

Q: Tell me a little about your background and how you got into golf reporting for the chronicle?

A: My Dad lived in Augusta when I was in fourth grade, so that was the first time I ever came. I went to University Georgia for four years and got a job with the Chronicle when I came back and I’ve been covering the Masters for the paper ever since. 1979 would have been the first one I covered and Fuzzy Zoeller was the winner.

Q: Describe the first Masters you covered

A: Well it was interesting because they had just instituted the sudden death playoffs to break the tie, it used to be an 18-hole playoff on Monday so it was Fuzzy Zoeller, Ed Sneed and Tom Watson. It started on number 10 and Zoeller won it with a birdie on 11.

Q: Where does the Masters rank in comparison to golfs other majors?

A: I’ve been to other majors but after being at the Masters or being or any other PGA tour event it’s such a let-down. The way they just run it so impeccably and its funny they set a standard, people see it and nobody can match it.

Q: Do you think that is still the case today?

A: I do, as far as covering it for the media they make it less stressful to cover than the other majors just in everything they do because of the history and tradition. They love print media, which is not a popular thing these days but they feel appreciated because they like the way we tell stories. And so this is probably one of the last sporting events in the world where the print media is kind of fed up on another pedestal.

Q: What does the Masters mean to you?

A: Good question! Former champions can play on Sunday’s so I caught Nick Faldo after for a chat and he was referring to the Masters being the greatest sporting event in the world.

And that’s what it means to me when I’m writing a story which millions of people are going to read. The eyes of the sports world are focused on Augusta National this week. It’s the first major of the year for a week long experience it’s definitely the greatest sporting event in the world.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: Well part of it is the history, it was started in 1934. The characters too and the players. It’s not only that but there’s something about this tournament, it always seems to have a very dramatic and thrilling finish on Sunday.

For the winner it’s going to change their career, it’s a life changing event. They may never win another event but it doesn’t matter they’ve won the Masters and you’ll be forever famous for that reason.

Q: Do the Masters unique traditions contribute to this?

A: Yeah Augusta National have those kind of outside things like the Green Jacket, the Champions dinner and the Par 3 tournament. Nobody else has a Par 3 tournament the day before the tournament.

The Champions Dinner was started by Ben Hogan because he thought it would be a good idea. Other tournaments have picked up on that idea but nobody has the tradition where the winners that are going to show up. Jack Nicklaus always comes, even in 2017 Tiger Woods was injured with his back and the guy could hardly walk but he made the effort to come to the Champions Dinner.

Q: Describe your week?

A: I do a lead story every day even on the practice rounds. For Thursdays paper I wrote an advance story on who the favourites are and why and what to expect. Then for yesterday I wrote the lead on whose leading and I’m always doing side bars on players.

For example I’m doing one on the new compressed PGA Tour and how that’s affecting player’s schedules in the lead up to the Masters this year.

Q: What will be the most challenging aspect of your week?

A: The weekend stories because starting with Saturday’s round players are paired by score and the leaders don’t finish until about seven o’ clock and then you’ll have a nine o clock deadline so you’re really pressed for time.

That’s the big challenge because those nights you can’t even interview the guys, they’re not going to finish until after seven o clock and then especially the Monday story, the final round winners stories that’s a historic.

50 years from now people are going to be reading that story, looking back at clips and on the website so that’s probably the one that’s difficult to write because your pretty exhausted by that time in the week.

Q: What’s your most enjoyable part of the week?

A: You’re going to laugh at this but when all the pre-tournament stuff is over, after Friday, and when they start playing golf that’s my favourite part. We were in Florida for two weeks about a month ago for two tournaments to work on our 60 page preview section. So for the last month and a half I’ve been writing nothing but what’s going to happen so it’s a relief and refreshing to finally start writing about what’s happening.

Q: What’s your least enjoyable part of the week?

A: Those deadlines and coming up new angles and ideas. It’s the same event every year and sometimes it’s just difficult coming up with different angles. It’s a lot of the same players and same characters every year.

Q: What’s your favourite Masters moment?

A: The 1987 Masters because that was the first year I wrote the lead story and Larry Mize won. I had been doing side bars on him all week because he was our local guy and came into that final round two shots off the lead, but Norman and “Sevi” were ahead of him and no one gave him a chance. I remember that Saturday after the third round walking to the parking lot with him, I was the only person interviewing the guy because nobody gave him a chance and then he won and because I used to live here as a kid and he grew up here that would be the highlight for me.

Q: Do you have a favourite Masters golfer?

A: Nick Price is always one of my favourites because when Price was the number one player in the world print really meant something to these guys. Back in the early 90s, we would go to Florida for pre-Masters interviews and he would be glad to see you, he was excited about being in the Augusta Chronicle and he would always tell me, “when I see you I know what that means, the Masters is not far off,” and he called me the “face of spring.”

Q: Describe the atmosphere in Augusta this week?

A: I equate it to Downtown Orlando or International Drive where all the hotels are and people are happy on vacation and excited. That’s what people are like here except it’s a sporting event. It’s a hard ticket to get and so they feel very special that they’re here.

Q: How important is it for the local economy?

A: It’s great for the local economy. People rent their houses out, a lot of hospitality make money off these things. There are two Christmases in Augusta, regular Christmas and this one.

 

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner on April 13th, 2019. The copy of the original is seen above.