Westin: Player diaries were part of coverage lore for the Chronicle
David Westin is celebrating his 40th consecutive Masters Tournament, and this week is looking back at some of the journalistic traditions involved
From 1989 through 2011, The Augusta Chronicle ran a player diary during the tournament week.
At the time, it was a popular feature for newspapers around the country, the idea being to gain some insight from the athlete about the event.
I started the diary and always told the players it was “their diary” and they could talk about whatever they wanted. Most stuck to golf, not personal matters.
I started ours with Blaine McCallister, and I did the bulk of them until the idea ran its course. Most of them were interesting and some were downright hilarious. More on a funny one later.
Each day, starting on Monday, I would interview the player and put his thoughts into words for the next day’s edition. Of course, if he missed the cut, there would be no Sunday or Monday diary entries.
There was an important ground rule before we started: The player had to agree to meet with me after each practice round and tournament round for an interview. If you missed a day, it would lose its continuity since the readers were now looking for it.
If you’re wondering -- no, they weren’t paid. I like to think most of them did it for the publicity it would give them. They didn’t have their own web sites at the time - social media was still in the distant future.
Among those who agreed to do the diary were Boo Weekley, David Toms, Larry Mize, Charles Howell, Vaughn Taylor, Dillard Pruitt, Olin Browne, Brett Ogle, Oliver Wilson, Tom Lehman, Brian Gay, Troy Matteson, Jhonattan Vegas and Paul Stankowski.
The ones I did were cooperative except Ogle, which was too bad. He had one of the funniest entries -- he talked about how he needed to use the bathroom while on the course so he ducked into the woods to the left of the fourth hole for some privacy -- only to look behind him to see fans following him to see what he was doing.
Later, though, after the bad round that cost him making the cut, he wasn’t having anything to do with talking to this reporter. When I mentioned our agreement to talk no matter what he shot, he said “you saw it (the round), you write it.”
Well, I hadn’t seen much of his round at all. I was busy talking to players after their rounds for other stories, not to mention keeping track of the tournament in order to write the front-page lead story.
The best diary entry came on a day when I totally dropped the ball. Toms was one of the bigger names I ever got, mainly because he and I had always hit it off and he agreed to do the diary as a favor, I guess.
Toms was totally cooperative and would no doubt talked after a round even if he shot 110.
But during the final round, I was walking the course when I realized Toms had already finished his round and was long gone from the course. Fortunately, I had gotten the phone number for the rental house where he was staying (I don’t think cellphones were around then so if he was on the road by then, I was out of luck). And when I called, he was still there.
He related the story that not only had he closed with a bad round, he had a flat tire on the way to the house. Of course, that was the opening of his diary entry the next day and carried the piece.
If I had met with him like I should have, I would have never had that story.
My editors never questioned how I got that story when I should have talked to him before he left the course, but hey, it was a great diary that day.