AUGUSTA, Georgia — While severe weather canceled the Masters’ popular Par 3 Contest for the first time in history, was able to get on the course with his two children before it was shut down.
The two-time Masters champion enjoyed every moment.
Watson and former U.S. Open champion were first off the tee at Augusta National’s par-3 layout in between major storms that first cleared the course at 10 a.m. — then closed it for good about 3½ hours later. The start of the Par 3 Contest was delayed, but the two major champions made it through the nine-hole course, along with their wives and a total of six children: the Watsons’ two and the Simpsons’ four.
Watson had 5-year-old son Caleb as his personal marshal, the youngster extending his arms skyward whenever his father or playing partner Simpson would putt.
“There was hardly anyone making noise,” Caleb reported to Watson.
Watson just smiled and pointed the boy to the next tee.
“This is a dream come true anytime you can come out here with your kids,” Watson said.
Caleb ate with his father in the champion’s locker room before the par-3 event.
“I might have gotten a picture of us in the champion’s locker eating lunch,” Watson said with a grin.
The storm siren sounded soon after the Watson-Simpson group finished, and officials called off play and evacuated the grounds for the rest of the day. No winner was declared, meaning no one was saddled with the dreaded curse — no Par 3 Contest winner has ever gone on to capture the green jacket.
Augusta National club chairman Billy Payne said the approaching weather gave officials no choice but to get people off the course.
“We share in the disappointment of our patrons, but the safety of everyone on our grounds is always our primary concern,” he said.
Before the day ended, competitive golf took a back seat to family for Simpson and Watson.
Simpson looked like he might compete for the top prize with two birdies on his first three holes. But he, too, soon became distracted chasing three of his four young children — his wife, Taylor, had 10-month old daughter Mercy in a front-facing carrier. The other Simpson children routinely skirted close to Ike’s Pond. At one point, 6-year-old James tossed an empty water bottle into the pond.
“That’s not my kid,” Watson quipped.
Watson got in on the fun, too. He took about five swings with a wedge on the fourth green trying to get the ball in the hole. On the sloping seventh green, Watson tried four times to putt his ball well past the hole to the green’s peak, hoping to watch it slide back down into the cup.
By the third try, Simpson putted his ball in as Watson’s pink ball slowly edged by the cup yet again.
“Today’s the type of thing I’m going remember my whole life,” Simpson said.
On the final green, both of Watson’s children used a mini club to make lengthy putts — before a little youthful hijinks. The children of both families grabbed any ball they could get their hands on, then began tossing them into the water.
It’s good to be young — even on a stormy day at the Masters.