During this week of remembering a South Carolina icon in the late U.S. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, we also celebrate the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
The Masters here is bigger than golf. Even those with little or no interest in the game are prone to watch the Masters or visit Augusta National if fortunate enough to have a badge for the practice or tournament rounds.
With the course laden in azaleas and other springtime color, as is Orangeburg and much of the South, Augusta National is spectacular. It is a place where scarcely a blade of grass seems out of place, where thousands can roar in approval or be deathly quiet. Good manners and behavior are expected -- and are the norm.
There's nothing quite like the Masters. And one late Orangeburg man knew that better than most. Every Masters week, we remember Alan McC. Johnstone, who died in 2006.
During his 95 years, Johnstone established quite a legacy in the arena of public service as leader of Orangeburg’s Department of Public Utilities.
But Johnstone’s connection with golf and The Masters is a story that deserves retelling on this tournament eve.
It’s a recognized part of Johnstone’s history that he was a member of Clemson University’s inaugural golf team. As much as that would indicate an obvious interest in the game, many of today’s players will be envious to know that Johnstone attended the very first Masters in 1934 — and most every one after that until missing the event in his final years.
None of his visits is more famous than the 1935 tournament and what Johnstone witnessed in Augusta.
The official Masters record book calls the late Gene Sarazen’s double-eagle (albatross) a “near-miracle.” It may be the most celebrated shot in golf history.
Sarazen went on to win that second Masters tournament in a playoff. There to see it happen was none other than Alan McC. Johnstone.
Johnstone told of witnessing Sarazen’s famous shot, standing adjacent to what is now the No. 15 green. It was No. 6 then; the now-famous back nine was the first nine holes of the fledgling event played on a new golf course that was the dream-become-reality of the game’s most famous amateur, Bobby Jones.
Of the famous shot, Johnstone’s reaction was typical of his down-to-earth manner. “It got us excited.”
The ball landed on the green and went into the hole. A score of two on a par-five hole. It’s that simple — as special as it was, Johnstone said.
So many will be watching again in coming days for special shots, special scenes, special people.
So, too, will Alan McC. Johnstone. He will be there in spirit on yet another April day in Augusta.