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Posted September 9, 2020, 3:28 pm
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Champions Dinner still on at 2020 Masters Tournament

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    Phil Mickelson, second from left, shakes hands with Bernhard Langer of Germany during the Masters Champions Dinner at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga on April 3, 2007. Also pictured are past winners Tom Watson, far right, and Fuzzy Zoeller. The defending champion hosts the dinner. The rest of the past Masters champions have to figure out their own seat at the table. [Chris Thelen/The Augusta Chronicle via AP File]

Former Masters Tournament winners were notified this week that the Champions Dinner will take place as scheduled on Tuesday evening of the event.

“I’ll be there,” said 1971 Champion Charles Coody. “(Augusta National) is going through all the steps and protocols to make it as safe as they possibly can, and everyone will be following their guidelines. I turned 83 in July and I don’t know how many of these I have left. It’s not something I plan to miss.”

Coody will take a private plane to Augusta in an effort to prioritize safety. When hearing the news, the Texan reached out to 1968 winner Bob Goalby, who like Coody expressed plans to come. Goalby, 91, is the second-oldest living Masters champion behind 97-year-old Jackie Burke.

Burke has not been to the Masters since 2011 and has stated that he would not return. The Masters was rescheduled to November because of the pandemic. Masters Week begins Nov. 9, with tournament rounds Nov. 12-15. The tournament will be held without patrons.

“When I got the memo, I reached out to Bob (Goalby) and he was excited,” Coody said. “We talk regularly and we’re both planning to be in Augusta.”

According to 1979 winner Fuzzy Zoeller, he was told Monday that the Par 3 Contest would not take place, nor would the annual members buffet dinner on Wednesday. As for his plans to attend the Champions Dinner, Zoeller said he’s leaning towards not coming.

“I’m one of those high-risk deals,” Zoeller said. “I had my heart surgery last year and I’m being very, very careful here. I might just eat dinner at home to be safe.”

Zoeller’s absence would mark the first time he’s not appeared in Augusta since winning the event in 1979.

“I don’t know what the hell to do,” Zoeller said. “From my understanding, we’ll have to be tested at home and then tested again on the grounds at Augusta. It’s a lot of work to go to one dinner, but then again, we’re talking about a very special dinner.”

Tommy Aaron, the 1973 Champion, is the same age as Coody, and has not made a final decision about whether to attend. According to Aaron, his wife, Jimmye, is recovering from a shoulder injury after a recent fall.

“If the dinner was tonight, I’d be there,” Aaron said. “I’m just concerned about my wife’s health. A lot can change over the next two months, but I want so badly to come. It’s truly the highlight of my year.”

Augusta native Larry Mize plans to attend, as well as compete in the November tournament. Mize, the 1987 winner, said he “would not blame” the non-competing former champions if they elected not to come.

Tiger Woods is hosting the dinner, which includes a menu of steak and chicken fajitas, along with sushi and sashimi.

“The Tour and the Masters are doing a great job of keeping us safe,” Mize said. “Everybody’s being tested. Everybody is taking precautions. If you did have to go do something, this is a relatively safe thing to go do.

“Still, to hear that Charlie Coody, Bob Goalby and those guys plan to come, it shows how we all feel about that night. It’s so special that we’ll go the extra measure to come.”