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and that was very special given my relationship with the former president.” With the exception of the defending champion, who is wedged between the chairman and the host (Crenshaw), seating for the event is largely on a first-come, first-serve basis, but there is a hierarchy.“People get their spots and just stay there,” Immelman said.“Last year, [Adam] Scottie was kind of asking me where he should sit and I kind of dragged him down to our side on the far corner.
The club is limited to winners of the Masters and Augusta National’s chairman, who is granted a honorary membership, and the annual dining options – Angel Cabrera, for example, served grouper ceviche over plantain chips in 2010 – are the only real public glimpses most ever get into the Tuesday tradition, but last year’s Champions Dinner was different.
By all accounts, the annual gathering was transformed in 2015 from a largely understated affair into exactly what one would expect from the game’s most exclusive cocktail party.
“I’d only been to two, but it was very different from my first dinner where nothing was really said by anyone and it was just dinner and everyone left,” Adam Scott said.
“But what broke the ice last year was a presentation was made to Arnold [Palmer] in the middle of the dinner and he felt he should speak and it was a very emotional speech.” The presentation was a piece of the iconic Eisenhower tree on the 17 hole, which was lost in an ice storm in 2014.
Normally, Ben Crenshaw serves as the emcee of the event and he introduces the defending champion, who makes a few comments, followed by chairman Billy Payne who gives an overview of the club and any changes that may have been made since the previous year’s tournament.
Last year’s dinner, however, took an emotional turn when Palmer was persuaded to speak after being given his piece of Augusta National history.“Arnold stood up and started speaking and you could tell it was straight from the heart. It was pretty emotional and then he nudged Jack [Nicklaus] to get up and help him out,” Trevor Immelman said. Everyone in that room has won the Masters, so they know how they did it.“In the true spirit of those two, Jack was like, ‘Nah, you’re doing alright.’ It was a tremendous moment.” Eventually, Palmer was followed by Tom Watson who then convinced Doug Ford, the 1957 winner and at 93 the oldest Masters champion, to speak. But it's always fun to listen to other players describe how they did it.” Fuzzy Zoeller talked, or depending on who you ask, did a few minutes of standup, doling out jokes and entertaining anecdotes as only the 1979 champion can.“I wanted to have Doug Ford talk about the great shot that he hit, that the kids didn't know about,” Watson said. One by one, nearly every Masters legend spoke, but the impromptu moment began with Palmer, who announced last month he wouldn’t be hitting the ceremonial first tee shot on Thursday but did plan to attend the Champions Dinner.“The significance of the tree is the remembrance of President [Dwight D.] Eisenhower, a part of the history of Augusta,” Palmer said.“It was a very important part of the dinner, which was wonderful, with a lot of stories and so on ...