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File photo of azaleas in bloom on the 16th hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament (HANS DERYK/REUTERS)
File photo of azaleas in bloom on the 16th hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament (HANS DERYK/REUTERS)

Rubenstein: Many elements make Masters week special Add to ...

The Masters is a major social event as well as a major tournament. The calendar fills up quickly with engagements, and often more than one a night. It’s a scheduling nightmare (just kidding).

But let’s see. Here are some of the events I’ll attend next week. Canada Night takes place Tuesday night, when Golf Canada hosts its annual barbecue at the house it rents. There’s also a reception that night to introduce Slammin’ Sam craft beer into Georgia. Slammin’ Sam Snead won three Masters. The reception will occur at the Windsor Club in the James Brown Arena in downtown Augusta. Brown, “The Godfather of Soul,” was born in the area and called Augusta home for most of his life. There’s a statue of him downtown.

I won’t be able to get to that event, though. Nor will I be able to attend the cocktail reception and dinner that the British-based Association of Golf Writers will host Tuesday evening at the Augusta Country Club, which is next door to Augusta National. I’m a member of the AGW and have enjoyed the evening over the years. It’s always held the same evening as Canada Night, and I’m going to be with my friends and colleagues from my home and native land this year.

Wednesday night is when the Golf Writers Association of America hosts its biggest social event of the year. The GWAA will hand out its writing awards during the evening, and other significant awards as well. The reception and dinner take place at the Savannah River Pavilion. I’m looking forward to hearing John Hopkins address the gathering when he accepts the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. I’ve known John for more than 30 years. He wrote with depth and understanding of the game for The Times of London, for many magazines, and is now a correspondent for the fine weekly digital publication Global Golf Post.

Then, on Friday night, the United States Golf Association will host its annual dinner. The Augusta Country Club will again be the venue. Jacket and tie, please, and that’s always good policy at the GWAA dinner too. These are hardly the only social events on the Masters calendar. The PGA of America will host its annual get-together. Gary Player hosts a fabulous Braii, or South African barbecue, at the home he rents for the week. The Irish Tourist Board hosts a lively party at an old, regal Augusta home. Then there are the casual encounters that occur minute by minute under the massive old oak tree between Augusta National’s clubhouse and the practice green by the first tee.

On a serious note, I’m sure that the most emotional moment of the week on the social calendar will occur when David Meador accepts the GWAA’s Ben Hogan Award. It’s given to a person who has remained active in golf despite a serious illness or physical handicap. Meador’s 2010 book Broken Eyes, Unbroken Spirit tells his story, and it’s an astonishing tale of a brave man.

Meador was 17 when he lost his sight in a car accident while helping a police officer; Meador was attending junior college and working the second shift from four PM to midnight as a radio dispatcher for his local police department. After his shift ended, he was in a cruiser with a police officer when the officer tried to stop a driver who was speeding. But the driver sped away. The accident occurred during the chase. Their car careened into a soybean field in southern Illinois. Meador’s optic nerve was crushed. He learned four weeks after the accident that he would never see again.

Meador learned Braille. He graduated from college. He was 29 when, in 1977, he won the U.S. Blind Golfers Championship. For the next 25 years he played very little golf while raising a family with his wife Connie and working in the insurance business. In 2003 he was diagnosed with stage three advanced colorectal cancer, and had most of his lower intestines removed. He resumed playing golf and in 2011 he won his second U.S. Blind Golfers Championship. He won again last year.

Robert Cable, a Mississauga, Ont. businessman in the investment business, and an avid golfer, first made me aware of Meador late last fall. He put me in touch with Stuart Smith, a friend of his and of Meador’s. Smith and Cable were championing the cause of Meador for the Ben Hogan Award. Nobody knew Meador better than Smith, so I contacted him at his home in Nashville.

Smith first met Meador in 1976 on the first tee of a local public course. A fellow was helping Meador tee off. Smith was 16 then. He saw Meador hit a shot. They soon started golfing together.

“Little did I know how much impact he would have on my life,” Smith told me. “There’s not a person in Nashville who has met him and who isn’t struck by his kindness and generosity.”

Everett Davis, Meador’s coach, told Smith that he didn’t think Meador would make it through the last round of the 2011 U.S. Blind Golfers’ Championship. He has only about six to seven good hours a day. But he made it through, and he won his second national championship. Then he won again last year. Amazing.

“The Ben Hogan Award is a huge, huge honour,” Smith said. “When I told David he had won, his first words were ‘What have I done? Why should I win this? I’m just doing what anyone else would do. I’m just living my life.’”

I’m looking forward to the Masters on and off the course. Many elements make the Masters so special. The social events play their important role. It wouldn’t surprise me if, when the tournament and the week end, and time passes, I’ll remember David Meador at the GWAA dinner more than anything else.

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at rube@sympatico.ca . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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