DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Going to the Masters is great. Playing in the Masters is spectacular. Winning the Masters is unbelievable. Imagine how Bernhard Langer feels, then.
Langer is a two-time winner of the the Augusta National Invitation, enjoying the experience of slipping on the green jacket at two very different parts of his life.
There are two perks that come with being Masters champion that probably captivate the public's attention more than the others. During a private event with Adams Golf in March, Langer shared his memories of both the green-jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin and the annual Champions Dinner the following year.
For as long as I can remember, the Butler Cabin ceremony is the most awkward thing about the Masters. A lot of things make it strange. It's just dawning on the champion that they've won and how much it might change their life or mean to them to achieve a dream. The defending champion is disappointed, but corralled into the room, too, so he can do the first of two slip-ons of the jacket to the new winner. Jim Nantz is the anchor, but he's not really calling the shots because the man next to him, the Augusta National chairman (now Billy Payne), is. CBS airs the Masters each year on a one-year, handshake-type agreement that's a break-even source of pride for both parties. In exchange for getting CBS to work at cost, Augusta National gets to call the shots on every facet of the broadcast -- including inserting themselves into the winner's interview.
Langer described the immediate whirlwind of both his Masters wins similarly. Suddenly, he was whisked away to Butler Cabin and thrust on camera to answer God knows what kind of questions Nantz or the chairman might have.
Back in 1985, Langer's head was spinning. He was just 27 and winning the Masters was the crowning achievement of nearly a decade as a pro. Langer's sitting in the winner's chair, next to '84 champion Ben Crenshaw, when chairman Hord Hardin asked him what he was thinking as he was turning to the second nine.
Langer vividly remembered saying, "I was thinking, 'Jesus Christ, how am I four shots behind Curtis Strange?!" Langer birdied four of the final seven holes, while Strange, who was up three with six to play, made three bogeys to lose by two.
The German now recalls the absolute volume of mail he got from angry fans, incensed he used God's name in vain.
Eight years later, when he won again, Langer had become a more devout Christian. This time, he was asked about the magnitude of his win and earning a second Masters. Langer again referenced Jesus Christ, but this time, it was in gratitude. He swears -- wrong word, probably -- that he is the only winner to drop J.C.'s name in separate Masters wins.
Then there's the Champions Dinner, which Langer hosted in 1986 and '94.
In '86, Langer wanted a home-cooked meal, so he served a slate of German food, including wiener schnitzel and spaetzle. For dessert, he ordered up some black forest cake.
"It's the best German food I've had in the States," Langer said.
Did he have to provide recipes or hire someone to help?
"All I had to do was tell them what to make, and they made it amazing," he said.
In fact, the black forest cake rivaled what his grandmother could make at home.
The second time around, Langer went with the all-American meal. He served up Thanksgiving dinner.
"It's my favorite meal in America," Langer said. "And I thought it was appropriate to be giving thanks."
Nowadays, Ben Crenshaw, playing this year in his final Masters, is the host, taking over from the late Byron Nelson. Langer said not much has changed about the Tuesday tradition started by Ben Hogan in 1952. Crenshaw and chairman Payne are gracious, encourage great conversation and usually dig up some unique facts about the tournament and its history that still wow the champions.
And Langer knows where he will sit every year. Next to buddy Sandy Lyle.
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