The teeing of of yet another Masters golf tournament means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To the 95-year old John Derr, it means the very beginning of a lifetime of journalist integrity, it means tradition and, interestingly, it means schmoozing with the most famous men and women in the world for decades.
As the 2013 Masters approaches, the Augusta Chronicle caught up with Derr, who was in attendance the second time this Tournament was ever held. He was just a wide-eyed 17-year old back in 1935, and no one could have foreseen another 69 Masters as either a patron or fan.
Derr was covering a Duke football game at Georgia Tech as an unpaid journalist for the Gazette in Gastonia, N.C. He was taken to the Masters afterwards — which at the time did not have nearly the pomp and circumstance as it does today, obviously — and the rest is history.
Still young at heart, Derr has stories piled on top of stories from his days covering the wide world of sports. There is the time that he had to turn down a round of golf with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in order to be there for the birth of his child. He and Sam Snead often met up for lunch. Derr was regular guest at table No. 2 at Toots Shor’s in New York. Who sat at the No. 1 table? Gentlemen such as Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra, no big deal.
One of the stories Derr told that caught our eye here at Gamedayr was the time Derr spoke to none other than Albert Einstein about the game of golf.
Derr was at Princeton in order to provide the Ivy League Championship’s radio broadcast. Who was out near the 14th hole but the legendary Einstein?
He was said to be out taking his evening stroll — which is really awesome because you just don’t think of guys like Einstein taking evening strolls, but we digress.
“Mr. Einstein, do you play golf?” Derr asked.
“No, no,” Einstein said. “Tried it once. Too complicated. I quit.”
“So if Einstein said it was too complicated, what the hell are we doing looking at it?” Derr said.
Wow. Something “too complicated” for Einstein seems almost impossible for us to even imagine.
The folks at Augusta National still send Derr a badge every year for free entrance to the Tourney, but he stopped attending in 2009. Instead, he sends one lucky Eagle Scout in his stead.
That, Gamedayr Nation, is legendary.
It’s stories and traditions like these as to why sporting events like the Masters hold such a special place in American history.