MAJOR MAGIC

April 17, 2011

My sister and I were thrilled to play in our first Masters, without leaving home

Golf is a novel and surreal concept for my sister, Michelle, but she loves to play. She swings hard and has a natural lefty's slice. One recent morning she shanked a ball so badly that it sailed onto the next fairway. Most players in such a situation would have run across the tee box screaming "Fore!" at the top of their lungs. But my sister didn't. She was born with severe cerebral palsy, which prevents her from walking and talking.

When she hit her hosel rocket, we were sitting in our living room, playing the Nintendo Wii. There is something transformative about playing golf on the Wii. Although not quite the real thing, the Wii provides an ever-so-satisfying alternative. It's great for people like my sister, whose physical condition precludes them from hitting the links, and for those who simply can't take a trip to the golf course, whether money or geography is the problem.

Recently EA Sports rolled out a new version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour that includes Augusta National as one of the courses available to play, marking the first time that the hallowed layout has been accessible in a video game. Playing Augusta isn't a realistic option for most golf enthusiasts, but now, for roughly 50 bucks, everyone can buy a lifetime membership to Bobby Jones's course. And they can get a tee time whenever they want, even if it's 3 a.m. and they're wearing a Snuggie.

This is a particularly joyful development for me. Since I first started playing golf, every time I've swung a club I've felt a familiar sensation, one that goes beyond the twinge in my lower back. It's the same feeling I had when I climbed into the limo for my senior prom or when I boarded my first overseas flight. The feeling is guilt—guilt that I can do these simple things, yet my sister cannot.

At least once a week Michelle uses sign language to say that she is sick and tired of being stuck in the house. Sometimes I take her to the mall. Other times we go to the movies. But on those days we do stay inside, it's a comforting thought that within a few minutes our couch can become a tee box. This is the real beauty of video golf. For me, it trims my 25 handicap down to a few strokes. For my sister, it makes her handicap nonexistent.

Last week, while the world's best vied for the green jacket, Michelle and I were there with them. It put a new twist on Amen Corner.

SI GOLF RANKING

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RANK PLAYER (FIRST-PLACE VOTES) POINTS LST. WK.
1. Luke Donald (9) 138 2
2. Martin Kaymer (1) 113 1
3. Lee Westwood (1) 92 4
4. Charl Schwartzel (4) 86 --
5. Graeme McDowell 73 3
6. Matt Kuchar 68 6
7. Phil Mickelson 60 5
8. Rory McIlroy 51 10
9. Tiger Woods 35 --
10. Nick Watney 24 7

GOLF MAGAZINE TOP 100 TEACHERS POLL

WILL TIGER WOODS BREAK JACK NICKLAUS'S RECORD OF 18 MAJOR WINS?

Yes 63%

No 37%

PHOTOJASON GROW (CLARK)SISTER ACT A Nintendo Wii lets the author and his sister spend time together.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)