AUGUSTA -- Whitey Adams of Rock Hill is legally blind, but his 20/800 vision does not stop him from playing golf three times a week and certainly did not prevent him from attending the Masters for the 53rd consecutive year Thursday.
"It's amazing how much everything has changed," Adams said Thursday. "When we first started coming, (fans) would follow the golfers down the fairway, and (marshals) would pull a rope across to stop them when they were ready to hit their next shots."
Adams introduced himself to Jack Nicklaus in 1962 and periodically sent the Golden Bear a blue tee for good luck. Nicklaus always wrote back.
"We had another fellow, a big Arnold Palmer fan, come with us one year, and we told him we would introduce him to Nicklaus," said Terrell Wiggins, Adams' classmate at Erskine College who lives in North Augusta and has an even longer Augusta National history.
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"Of course, he didn't believe us. Then, heading to the 11th tee, Nicklaus saw us and said, 'Hi, Whitey.' Our friend almost collapsed."
They can talk about watching Dow Finsterwald play a practice round with no other fans in sight on the third, fourth and fifth holes. They recall watching Deane Beman, Sam Snead and Tommy Bolt match divots during the par-3 tournament, and, Adams said, "We were the only ones with them."
They vowed never to return for a (since-discontinued 18-hole) Monday playoff after 1962.
"There must have been 15,000 people trying to watch three golfers (Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Finsterwald)," Adams said. "That wasn't much fun."
Adams, who spent 18 years in the golf business and built the Cooper's Creek course near Pelion in the early 1970s, came to his first Masters in 1956, the year Jack Burke Jr. took advantage of Ken Venturi's final-round collapse to prevail. Wiggins started attending the Masters in the late 1940s and had his picture taken with Sam Snead after his 1949 victory.
"I have missed one since, in 1960," Wiggins said. "I couldn't get loose from Fort Jackson."
The best tournament? Adams, said the 1975 epic featuring Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf "would be hard to beat." Wiggins said Nicklaus' final Masters win, in 1986, belongs in the same category.
"But we enjoy them all," Adams said.