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Posted April 10, 2019, 10:13 pm
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Golfers have one last bit of fun at Par 3 before Masters tension sets in

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    Matt Wallace holds the winner's trophy after defeating Sandy Lyle in a playoff during the Par-3 Contest. This is Wallace's first trip to the Masters. [ANDY NELSON/FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

The Masters Par-3 Contest affords the competitors’ nerves a respite before the rattling, an opportunity to forge memories with family while entertaining the patrons before the real show begins.

Small children in white jumpsuits capture the attention and, Wednesday afternoon under brilliant blue skies, they again followed the familiar script.

Masters rookie Matt Wallace won with 5-under-par 22, making an ace on No. 8 and defeating Sandy Lyle in a playoff to deny the 1988 Masters champion a third Par-3 crown.

The scores are a sideshow, and for the most part it’s the rare tournament that golfers don’t want to win. Many say there’s a jinx because no player has won the Par-3 Contest and the Masters in the same year, although Raymond Floyd nearly pulled it off in 1990, losing to Nick Faldo in sudden death.

PHOTOS: Masters Par-3 Contest Gallery

Wallace felt otherwise.

“I wanted to hole that putt on the last, and I didn't, and then went to a playoff and it got a little bit more serious than how the nine holes went, and I guess I just wanted to win this,” Wallace said. “I want to break history somewhat.”

Still, the day revolved around the smallest swingers, who splashed balls into Ike’s Pond, sank putts with plastic putters and slapped fives with patrons lining the ropes.

Wednesday at other major championships can be stressful, said Shane Lowry, who aced No. 2, spinning a lob wedge shot of 74 yards into the cup. 

“It was special because my wife (Wendy) and baby (Iris) were with with me,” he said. “I just wanted to make a one here. It was cool. In my opinion this is one of the best parts of the week. It’s nice to be out here before all of the tough work begins the next couple of days."

Kevin Kisner’s wife, Brittany, was his caddie, and kids Kathleen and Henry James tagged along. While they might not be old enough to remember bounding around the course, Kisner looks forward to the day he can share the stories with them.

“It’s a interesting way to start the week. It’s different than any other major or big tournament,” he said. “It’s a relaxing way to come hang out with the family and enjoy a few hours with them before the madness begins.”

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Devon Bling and 1998 champ Mark O’Meara also made aces Wednesday, raising the total to 100 in tournament history.

None of the caddies delivered a magical moment on par with last year, when Jack Nicklaus’ grandson, G.T., made an ace, prompting his six-time champion grandpa to call the experience the greatest day he’s had at Augusta National.

“I think it’s cool especially if you’ve got family. It’s part of the Masters experience,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “It’s one of those days you only get once a year. I think that’s the special part of it. You’ve seen Jack say it was his most special time on a golf course last year. You just get moments like that that you can’t get anywhere else. I think it’s got it’s own place in golf.”

The time to grind will arrive soon enough. Photographs and laughs were the par-3 antidote.

“The whole week leading up to (Thursday) I always feel like it’s pretty relaxed out here. Just getting out with the kiddos here, having fun, letting them hit some putts and let them experience something they may never get to do, it’s pretty cool,” Jimmy Walker said. “It’s a cool gift to be able to give your kids. We’ve taken some great pictures. We’ve got some great videos of the days we’ve done this, and it’s just pretty special.”