One of the first things I remember about my Masters Tournament victory is wearing green on Sunday. That's supposed to be a no-no, a real unlucky thing to do.
Well, with my mind-set that day in 1967, I don't guess it mattered. When I walked into the locker room all of the contenders were sitting in there real quiet, not saying a thing. It was like a funeral. I asked, What's the gloom, boys? We're playing for the Masters today.
Then I thought about it and went out on the back lawn and just sat by myself, meditating, getting my mind focused on the game. I sat there for nearly an hour, and nobody bothered me. My wife said she'd never seen me do that before and rarely has since then.
I was in a state of close concentration all day. I gave myself a pep talk when I got the lead late and told myself not to do anything stupid.
My game was sharp, thanks in part to a driver that Ben Hogan gave me in 1966. I appreciated that coming from a man who was so great. The year I won was also the last year Hogan played there and shot 66 in the third round so it was doubly memorable.
In the final round, I was tied with Bobby Nichols at 5-under par going to the 13th hole. I hit a 4-wood to 20 feet there and two-putted for birdie to gain a one-stroke lead, while Bobby made par. We both birdied Nos. 14 and Nos. 15.
My key hole may have been No. 17. I caught Ike's Tree off the tee and had about 220 yards to the green. From there, I hit a 4-wood into the gap between the bunkers, chipped to 3 feet and made par. I made a routine par on No. 18 to beat Bobby by one stroke. That made me forget 1966, when all I needed was a par on 18 to win, but three-putted and then lost in a three-way playoff to Jack Nicklaus, who won, and Tommy Jacobs.
It's a goal of all pros to win one of the major championships. It's something I'll cherish the rest of my life. You get recognition all over the world. Plus, you get a lifetime exemption into the Masters.
I just turned 68 on March 19 and said I'd 'retire' the first of April. I've been playing 20 to 25 tournaments a year on the Senior Tour, but my wife passed away last year and I only played about 10 tournaments. This year, I'll probably play about 12 to 15 events. The rest of the time I'll spend at my Delray Beach, Fla., home, playing a little golf, bass fishing and just relaxing.
But, as long as I can still walk the course, I'll come back and play in the Masters. I've got bad knees arthritis in both of them and it kills me to walk the course, but it's an experience to walk Augusta National with some familiar faces looking out at you every year.
I always bring my family with me the daughters, sons-in-law, grandkids, the whole group. We rent a house and have a great time. Nothing could beat it.