Wayne Mitchell was front and center on No. 2 green Sunday when he became a part of Masters Tournament history.
The 59-year-old chemical company vice president from Pennsylvania had been sitting beside his wife, waiting for something to happen for more than four hours.
“It would be kind of neat to see an eagle here,” he thought to himself.
Minutes later, South African Louis Oosthuizen recorded the tournament’s first double eagle at the par-5 second. It was the fourth albatross in Masters history, and the first since Jeff Maggert made one on the par-5 13th.
The gallery went wild around Mitchell.
After Oosthuizen pulled the ball from the cup, he turned toward the patrons and picked Mitchell.
“He caught my eye and threw it to me,” Mitchell said.
A quiet day at the Masters became a whirlwind. Patrons across the course were talking about the man who caught Oosthuizen’s ball. Journalists and photographers swarmed Mitchell, and a huddle of Augusta National Golf Club members arrived in a golf cart to escort him to the clubhouse.
“I came here anonymous and I don’t feel so anonymous,” Mitchell said.
With the ball tucked in his left pocket, Mitchell said he wasn’t sure what he’d do with it. He’s never been the type to keep souvenirs and couldn’t think of the last one he’s held on to.
Patrons around Mitchell said the moment was electrifying.
“When it fell into the cup, it was almost disbelief,” said Steve Ganz of Leesburg, Va. Ganz was two rows behind Mitchell when Oosthuizen tossed the ball.
Ganz said the reaction of the gallery was nothing rowdy. There was no scuffle to grab the ball or take it from Mitchell.
But Ganz wondered what Augusta National would offer Mitchell in exchange for the historic ball.
“Maybe a membership?” Ganz said. “It would be like, ‘Oh, there’s the CEO of IBM and there’s the guy who caught the Oosthuizen ball.”’
In the end, an Augusta National spokesman said Mitchell chose to donate the ball to the club’s archives. He did not have information about what Mitchell may have been given in return.
The spokesman said the club displays items that have historical value, like the double eagle ball by Gene Sarazen in 1935 that now sits in the clubhouse’s Trophy Room.
“Wherever it goes, it’s history,” Ganz said.