'A perfect Georgia evening'
Columbus St.'s Immelman, Mize have ties to Masters
HERSHEY, Pa. -- Their blood might actually run green since Columbus State redshirt freshman Robert Mize and head coach Mark Immelman both have strong connections to the most famous professional golf tournament of them all.
Robert’s dad, Larry Mize, hit one of the most famous shots in golf history when he miraculously sank a 140-foot chip shot to win the 1987 Masters at the famed Augusta National Golf Club. Trevor Immelman, Mark’s younger brother, won his own green jacket in 2008.
Augusta is golf’s Fenway Park and Wrigley Field -- it’s the place where there’s history on every fairway and green and in the sand of every bunker. To win there is to become part of one of the most exclusive clubs in professional sports. Taking home a green jacket from Augusta makes any golfer’s career complete.
Five years after the fact, the memory of his kid brother’s victory is still a vivid one for Mark Immelman. So much so, he very nearly chokes up recounting the tale of that magical day.
For years, the brothers had watched the Larry Mizes, the Greg Normans, the Seve Ballesteroses, the Jack Nicklauses of the world do their thing on the luscious Augusta greens. And now here Trevor was, officially a Masters champion.
And yes, Mark got to try on the jacket… but not until after leaving the champions’ party in the wee hours of the next morning. It was lighter and silkier feeling than Mark Immelman could ever have imagined.
“I just remember sitting on the putting green there on the Sunday evening after they had the prize-giving ceremony,” said Immelman, a native of South Africa. “It was a perfect Georgia evening and the sun was setting over those pines. As kids we would wake up at 12 a.m. because of the time difference and [watch golf on television].
“For me to be sitting on this putting green and watching my brother put on the green jacket was something I still cannot describe. For me personally, it proved anything is possible if you dream big enough, you get a few breaks, you work hard enough and you work with some focus, you can achieve these goals. Stuff isn’t out of reach.”
Robert was born well after his dad’s Masters win, so the course and its legend have been a part of his life since birth. Soccer was his favorite sport as a youth, and the rail-thin and tall youngster also played basketball.
But it was golf that won out, finally, when he was a junior in high school. The offspring of successful professional athletes have always lived with expectations, be they fair or not.
Robert Mize knows all about such things, and it doesn’t seem to bother him. He just deals with whatever people might think and move on.
“[Expectations] are there. They’re always there,” said Robert, who finished tied for 19th out of the 108 players who participated in three days of stroke play this week. “If you look for them, they’re there. I’m used to it. I probably expect more of myself than anybody else expects of me. You get used to it. I don’t really focus on it at all.”
To his great credit, Larry Mize now runs a lot of suggestions about Robert’s game through Immelman before he actually makes them.
“Whenever he sees something with Robert if they’re playing together, he always comes and runs it past me before he says anything,” said Immelman, who went on to add that Larry has actually come to him for help with his chip shots. That’s especially impressive when you consider that it was a stunning chip shot that gave Mize his Masters win.
“Unbelievable…it’s hard for me to fathom,” Immelman said. “He will call me up or text me, ‘I’m playing with Robert. I’ve seen this. Can I say this? What do you think?’”
That hasn’t necessarily always been the case between father and son. Larry wanted to help…a lot…and Robert wanted to figure it out on his own.
“I had a pretty bad attitude as a kid,” Robert said. “It was tough for me. We’re both super Type-A [personalities]. He really wanted to get in there and help, and I really wanted to do it by myself. We eventually came up with a system where he wouldn’t tell me any swing things unless I asked. We get along great now. We play together all the time.
“I beat him some of the time, which is fun,” he said with a smile.