Danny Edwards did not expect to play golf last week, much less in Augusta. What he planned to do after the Greensboro Open was fly home to Edmond, Okla. where he lives with his parents and spend the week playing a little tennis, then go to Florida for the Tallahassee Open. He figured he had a fair chance to win at Tallahassee, which he had never done in three years on the tour. His game was sharp and all the big-name pros would be out West in the Tournament of Champions.
But something pleasant happened to Edwards at Greensboro that made him change his plans. He won. Late Sunday afternoon he was handed a check for $47,000 that vaulted him to fifth on the season's money list. The victory gave him a year's exemption from having to qualify for tournaments. And it put him in the Masters. In Augusta a press brochure had already been published with thumbnail sketches of the 76 participants in alphabetical order. Now at the end a 77th was added. Danny Edwards.
Edwards received his official invitation to the Masters when he returned to his motel about 9:30 Sunday evening. In the stack of telegrams congratulating him was one from Bill Lane, the tournament chairman of Augusta National, saying Edwards was most certainly welcome. He stuffed the wire into his briefcase along with the $47,000 check, told the motel operator to hold the calls—"I was getting them from all the guys I used to play golf with at Oklahoma State"—and went to sleep.
He was up early Monday. He already had a plane reservation to Atlanta, having tempted fate by making it Saturday night when he held a four-stroke lead in the Greensboro. In Atlanta he rented a car, watched carefully as the clerk drew the route to Augusta on a map and headed east. Two hours later he had reached town and begun his search for the club.
April 18, 1977
"I saw a sign saying BOBBY JONES EXPRESSWAY," he says. "I figured that sounded right. Next thing I knew I was out in the tules." Finally Edwards found his way to Washington Road, saw the giant Masters signs and turned into the gate marked PLAYERS. A guard stopped him, and all Edwards had for identification was his PGA money clip, but that was good enough. He was waved on. "Suddenly I realized that this was the driveway, the one I'd heard about, long and straight with magnolia trees along the sides and the clubhouse at the end."
Edwards says that everyone treated him just swell. A room had been reserved at the Executive House in downtown Augusta. He was given tickets for his father, mother and 20-year-old brother David. They planned to watch Saturday and Sunday, never doubting that Danny would make the cut on his first try. An Augusta member named Phil Harison showed Edwards where to register, took him to the locker room and introduced him to Freddie the caddie master. Along the way Edwards bumped into the venerable Gene Sarazen who informed him that he was about to undergo one of the great experiences of his life—playing in the Masters. He also advised Edwards to shave off his mustache and cut his hair—this from a man who still wears knickers.
Edwards gobbled a sandwich at the clubhouse and hustled off at 3 p.m. with his caddie, Ulysses Brigham, for a practice round. Brigham had caddied for Edwards in the 1975 Atlanta Classic and had liked his game. Early in the week of Greensboro, Brigham had been offered a chance to work for another Masters participant. He turned it down. "I knew Danny was playing good, that he was going to win up there," he says. "I wanted to be waiting for him."
By the time Edwards reached the back nine it was late afternoon. Just as he drove on the 13th hole, a groundkeeper emerged from the woods and walked over. "How much longer do you plan to be out here?" he asked. "I was about to turn on the sprinklers."
"You go right ahead," said Edwards. "I'll just dodge in and out among them."
On Tuesday and Wednesday he played more practice rounds with his friends Bruce Lietzke and Gil Morgan, then shot a respectable 25 in the Par-3 Contest Wednesday afternoon, two strokes behind the winner, Tom Weiskopf. Wednesday evening he got the word that he was scheduled to tee off at 9:56 the next morning with Lietzke. "I've hesitated to mention this to anyone," the 25-year-old Edwards said as he contemplated his first Masters. "I don't want it to sound wrong but I'm not all that impressed with being in the Masters. You have to understand that I didn't play golf until I was 14 and didn't know there was such a thing as the Masters until three years later. When I was a kid in Oklahoma we used to set off firecrackers on the Fourth of July on this great big lawn. It wasn't until years later that I realized the lawn had been a fairway on a golf course."
Thus he was remarkably calm as he made his way through the gallery and onto the first tee Thursday. His drive was a monster—Edwards gets remarkable distance considering he weighs 155 pounds—and he knocked his approach close enough to give him a birdie. But on the next hole he made his first mistake, attempting to reach the green of the par-5 hole with a two-iron. "I tried for too much," he said later. "I should have laid up." Edwards hooked the ball into the woods and wound up with a bogey. That put him back to even par and when the round was over he was still there, having shot a 72, the same as Jack Nicklaus. Only 15 scores were better. The next day he added a 74 to make the cut easily, not that he or his parents had any doubt. They were there for the third round, which was his best. After a double bogey at the 12th, he seemed doomed, but then he ran off a glorious string—eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie—to finish with a 68. On Sunday he shot a 73 to tie for 19th with a one-under-par 287. As the top 24 finishers are invited back, Edwards is assured of another drive down Magnolia Lane.
Then it was off to Edmond for a day and onto another golf tournament. But not the Tallahassee Open. Danny Edwards was going to the Tournament of Champions.