1987 champion Larry Mize makes decision about his future ahead of 2023 Masters

Larry Mize is saying goodbye.

The 1987 Masters Champion has confirmed that the 2023 Masters — his 40th consecutive — will be his last.

Mize, an Augusta native who lives in Columbus, Ga., hinted last April that 2023 could be his final competitive appearance, but after missing the cut with a Friday 78, he remained noncommittal about his future.

“Will next year be my last?” Mize said in 2022. “I don’t know. I really don’t. That decision will come, but I can’t say for certain right now.”

A year later, he’s certain.

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For a final time, the local kid who spent teenage years operating No. 3 scoreboard will enter the field at Augusta National.

“It’s going to be an emotional week, but it’s time,” Mize, 64, said. “I know it’s time.”

In addition to winning in 1987 – which earned Mize a lifetime exemption to the Masters – he finished third in 1994 and tied for sixth in 1992. His last made cut came in 2017.

When asked about his silver-medal memory at Augusta National, Mize thought back to 1994, where he slept on the lead Thursday and Friday, but after Sunday bogies on Nos. 12 and 14, his chances had evaporated as he walked to No. 18 tee box.

“I hit my drive and a stranger shouted, ‘Thank you, Larry,’” Mize said. “I wasn’t going to win the tournament. José (María Olazábal) had pulled away. But that appreciation I felt, I’ll never forget it.”

Which leads to his gold-medal memory.

The 140-foot chip.

A purple shirt leaping into Georgia lore.

No, Mize’s body of work won’t be stamped among the all-time greats: One win. Three top-10s. Nineteen missed cuts. As Larry admits, “I don’t belong in the same sentence as most of these guys.”

But what Mize owns is a moment. A MacGregor sand wedge that bounced twice up the bank, hopped once on the green, rolled 60-feet and vanished. Sure, Mize’s resume isn’t the most decorated in Masters history, but he may be responsible for the tournament’s most iconic shot.

“It’s the greatest shot ever, and I’ll tell you why,” said Carl Jackson, who caddied at the Masters for 54 years. “It was a walk-off. It won the tournament. People talk about Tiger’s chip (in 2005) or Sarazen’s double-eagle (in 1935) but neither of those won the tournament. Mize walked ’em off.”

Larry Mize reacts to holing out his chip off the 11th green during a playoff to win the 1987 Masters Tournament.
Larry Mize reacts to holing out his chip off the 11th green during a playoff to win the 1987 Masters Tournament.

Added 1971 Masters winner Charles Coody: “The two greatest shots ever are Mize’s chip and Sarazen’s double eagle, and I don’t know which is No. 1. Larry’s won the tournament and Sarazen’s allowed him to win.”

A day before turning 100-years-old, Jackie Burke was asked if Mize’s chip was the greatest ever. “You’re damn right it is,” the 1956 Masters winner said.

Charles Mize witnessed every shot on April 12, 1987, except the chip. Looking back, Charles, 95-years-old, claims his anxiety peaked on the 72nd hole when his son needed birdie to join a playoff with Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.

“I’m still nervous that putt won’t go in,” Charles said.

When the six-footer fell, Charles turned to wife, Elizabeth, who died in 2018, and asked for medication.

“I thought I was going to faint,” said Charles, whose wife of 67 years provided a Valium. “We were watching with our friends, John and Tammy Hurley, and I said to John, ‘If I pass out, you better not call a doctor. You throw me over your shoulder and walk me down No. 10.’”

Charles admits that Larry’s best chance should have been on the first playoff hole. In a three-man sudden death, Norman and Ballesteros (who was eliminated with a bogey) had already missed birdie chances, and Mize had an uphill putt for victory.

The putt on No. 10 slid left, causing Mize to lower his head.

“When Larry lowered his head,” Charles said. “I lowered mine, too.”

Charles and Elizabeth raced toward No. 11, but only reached the fairway. With Amen Corner flooded with patrons, Mize’s parents didn’t try to move closer out of respect for those who had waited.

“I knew Larry hit a poor second shot, but that’s all I could tell,” Charles said. “Next thing I remember is that roar.”

That roar. That moment.

Thirty-six April’s later, the author of arguably the greatest shot in Masters history will bid farewell. Larry Hogan Mize will likely never become an Honorary Starter or have an Augusta landmark named on his behalf. But for a final week, the crowd will serenade its hometown champion with his second-favorite memory.

They’ll tell him, “Thank you.”

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Larry Mize makes decision about future ahead of 2023 Masters