Best of SI: Masters and COVID-19, Love and Loss at Augusta

Justin Grasso

Daniel Hall Jr. started dying right before the resurrection. It was a Wednesday, the day before the 2019 Masters, and what seemed at first like vertigo turned out to be a massive stroke. He was whisked to an Augusta, Ga., hospital, and that is where the passionate golf fan would stay all week—unresponsive, unaware and unable to sit with his two sons and watch the breathtaking comeback of Tiger Woods.

The boys watched without him, even when they were with him. Only one family member was allowed in the intensive-care unit at a time, so Chris, then 29, and Nick, 25, took turns in the room, along with their mother, Angela. They spoke to Daniel—“kind of like a ‘hope he can hear you’ thing,” says Nick. “You can talk, obviously. But you’re not looking for a response.”

Golf was on TV all day. The Masters, a preview show, highlights, whatever. It seems incongruous, a sporting event on the screen and their 60-year-old dad dying next to them. You could understand why they would turn off the golf. But they did not turn it off. Even when one of them was back at their home, the golf was on.

You hear stories about fathers and sons who can connect only through sports. This is not one of those stories. At the time, Nick Hall was happily living with his parents while he attended grad school; Chris called his dad every night. Sport was not the language the Halls needed; sport was the language they loved. Their conversations were peppered with talk about South Carolina football, basketball and, especially, golf. Their story from last April is America’s story today: a smoke cloud of death, so overwhelming that you feel like sports shouldn’t matter at all. And then you realize they do.

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