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The Long Goodbye
GARY VAN SICKLE
April 16, 2012
After six decades on the job, the dean of Masters storytellers sneaks in a final farewell
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April 16, 2012

The Long Goodbye

After six decades on the job, the dean of Masters storytellers sneaks in a final farewell

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Furman Bisher, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist known for his wit, energy and longevity, covered 62 consecutive Masters. He was as much a part of April in Augusta as the azaleas and dogwoods, until he died of a heart attack last month at 93. His passing leaves a void, but his legacy lives on. In 2007, at a used bookstore, I found Bisher's The Masters (Augusta Revisited: An Intimate View). He graciously signed the book, and in tribute I'm proud to share an excerpt and lucky enough to hear Furman's voice echoing in my head.

The gray hours of Sunday evening are closing in. The folding chairs still rest on the putting green, vacant now. Presenting rituals have been staged. Bowman Milligan, the keeper of the green coat, with all his plantation courtliness, has made his annual delivery from the clubhouse closet, and the winner has felt the jacket slip around his shoulders.

Lights shine softly from the windows of the old clubhouse and the trophy room, and inside, a few late stayers are reluctant to let loose of this moment. From the doorway of the press building, the hurried chatter of typewriters gushes forth. Men are poised over their machines as if about to spring upon them. Deadlines bear heavily on their racked minds.

Silhouetted in the doorway is the likeness of the champion. Nicklaus. Palmer. Player. Goalby. The year is yours for the picking, but 1953 is your limit. The press building was not there before that. The victor stands talking happily, willingly, animatedly, openly, sentimentally, draining every sugary drop of ecstasy from his hour. It is precious.

Further up the narrow road that runs between the hedges, the parking lot is virtually an open field now. A few cars remain, some in a cluster. The more unhurried stragglers are casual in deck chairs, having a last toddy to a good time about to slip their grasp.

A capricious breeze playfully kicks up little puffs of dust, and they dance around in the growing gloom and are gone. Somehow it seems a proper signature to the hour, for there are those for whom Augusta suddenly congeals on the banks of the Savannah for one week each spring, then just as abruptly fades away as if it had never been.

Another Masters has been played. Another champion ordained. Another classic filed away among the notes of American sport, and we all drive the other way down Magnolia Lane one more time, past the sentry at the white brick columns, out onto Washington Road, each to his own nest.

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