As everyone else was taking in the sights of Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday, David Meador was listening to the sounds.
The 64-year-old, totally blind since age 18 when his optic nerves were crushed in an auto accident, was at the course as a guest of the Golf Writers Association of America. He was honored that night by the association at its annual banquet.
“We were blessed to have a glorious day, just wonderful,” Meador said while holding court near the first tee. “Sun, a little breeze, clear sky. The sounds out here are magnificent. You can hear the birds, the trees are rustling, the ground under foot feels so nice. The sound of the golf ball is a beautiful sound. We got to hear it a lot and people applauding. I could go on and on.”
Meador spent time under the “Big Oak,” where he met Augusta National and Masters Tournament Chairman Billy Payne; Augusta National member Condoleezza Rice; and past Masters champions Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Gary Player, Mark O’Meara and Bob Goalby. He also met four-time major champion Ernie Els, 1976 U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate and Brandt Snedeker, who had attended one of Meador’s golf clinics in Nashville, Tenn., and remembered him.
“It was incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime, never-will-happen-again experience,” Meador said about his Masters Week.
The golf writers’ group presented Meador with the Ben Hogan Award, which goes to someone who has remained active despite a physical handicap or illness.
Meador, who lives in Nashville, more than meets that criterion. The two-time cancer survivor is a three-time U.S. Blind Golf Association national champion, winning in 1977, 2011 and 2012. He is a former president of the association and is still on the board of directors.
Meador, who grew up in Illinois, was an avid golfer when he lost his vision, so any time he plays or visits a golf course, it brings him back to his youth.
“Every course looks like Augusta to me,” he said. “I’m just as happy on a little nine-hole public course as I am at Augusta. I’m a little spoiled because golf is beautiful in my mind all the time. When you’re on a golf course, you’re in a good spot.”
The fact that he was at the home of the Masters for the first time did make it a bit more special, Meador said.
”I have felt the electricity in the air,” he said. “It’s going to be different starting Thursday. Right now, people are laid-back, taking it all in. People loving people.”
A relaxed atmosphere is something Meador has gotten accustomed to since losing his vision.
“It’s a fast-paced world, and a blind person is just not able to run with it like other people,” he said.
He felt right in step Wednesday.
“Cellphones, they’re not with us, so people have been a lot more accommodating,” he said, referring to Augusta National’s ban. “Nobody’s in a rush. Probably like it was in the old days. It’s a good thing.”
At the banquet, Meador said, he planned to speak about “the importance of the game (of golf) for my life and for a lot of other disabled and blind people. There is a growing movement because golf is very accessible to blind and other disabled people. Sixteen continents are playing blind golf.”
Meador has a catch-phrase he likes to use during his golf clinics for blind children.
“I tell them the great thing about golf for blind kids is it’s a stationary ball, but by no means a stationary future,” Meador said.