However you feel about the pomp and circumstance of the Masters, its fabled Champions Dinner — on the Tuesday evening of tournament week — is among the great traditions in all of sports: Thirty or so green-jacket holders breaking bread and sharing tales from Masters past? Ah, to be a fly on the silverware.
Some players are reluctant to share much color about the tribal gathering — what happens at the Champions Dinner… — but thankfully others are more forthcoming. Raymond Floyd has spoken of how Claude Harmon would own the room with his hilarious storytelling. Fuzzy Zoeller has reminisced of his first dinner, in 1980, when he brought gag gifts to lighten the mood. Tom Watson, just last year, spoke of how Jack Nicklaus regaled attendees with memories from his epic 1986 triumph.
On Tuesday, it was Adam Scott’s turn. Speaking at the Sony Open, the 2013 Masters winner gave golf fans a peek behind the Founders Room curtain.
“Generally, I sit next to Trevor most years,” Scott began, referring to Trevor Immelman, the 2008 winner and International Presidents Cup captain in 2022. “We have been mates since we were junior golfers, and after my year of hosting the top of the table, I quickly bee-lined that next dinner down to Trevor’s corner to post up next to him.” (It is customary for the defending champion to sit at the head of the table flanked by the dinner’s resident host, two-time champion Ben Crenshaw, and Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley.)
“[Immelman] sits on my left most years and Mark O’Meara sits on my right,” Scott continued. “It’s not assigned seating, but a lot people sit in the same chairs. I like that, to be perfectly honest. I like the fact that you kind of feel like that’s your spot. I enjoy the whole thing. I enjoy hearing what everyone has to say that evening.
“Like, Fred Couples does a great job needling some of the older players into telling stories. He’s a very good facilitator, Freddie, of those kind of things. It’s good fun. I get to share it now. Now I’ve been out here so long a lot of these guys I consider friends, and I get to share the evening with a few friends. Even leading up to this. I often see Zach Johnson like in the workout trailer or something a month away and we both are already excited about Tuesday night.”
Last year’s dinner, hosted by Hideki Matsuyama, provided one of the more stirring moments in the gathering’s recent history when Matsuyama, who is far more comfortable speaking in Japanese, rose and addressed his fellow champs in his second language.
“He rehearsed his speech and spoke English, and I think the room really appreciated that a lot,” Scott said. “Even though it was three minutes or something, probably felt like an hour for him. But I think the room really appreciated that and showed how much it meant to him to be a part of that club.”
The dinner’s not all gravity and goosebumps. Far from it. There are jokes and laughs (some of which — in Sam Snead’s heyday, anyway — are too blue to repeat on these pages), and sometimes even a little awkwardness.
“Bernhard Langer getting sat down by [former club chairman] Billy Payne at one dinner was a memorable one for me,” Scott said, beginning to laugh. “Having a suggestion about something. Kind of was a mood killer one night. Good stuff.”
Scott said he couldn’t recall which year this happened, “but that was the gist of it. You can sit down.”
What had Langer lobbied for?! A different centerpiece? Widening Augusta’s fairways? The freedom to wear the green jacket wherever he pleases? The mind reels! Then again, not all Champions Dinner secrets should be revealed, lest the get-together lose its mystique.
Scott, who is 42, still has many Masters starts ahead of him. But when the day comes to hang up his spikes, he said a certain tradition will still draw him back to Augusta come tournament week.
“I’ll look forward to going to dinner forever,” he said.