Randy Lewis wasn’t the only member of his family to fulfill a lifelong quest today at the Masters Tournament.
Nicklaus Lewis, the 19-year-old son of golf’s Mid-Amateur champion, tracked down his namesake, Jack Nicklaus, moments after the six-time Masters winner hit ceremonial tee shots with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player to start the year’s first major tournament.
“I showed him my nametag and told him that I have the two best last names in golf, his and my dad’s,” Nicklaus Lewis said while watching his father play Augusta National Golf Club’s 11th hole. “It was brief, but it’s been something I always wanted to do. I don’t care about any of the other big names. I just care about my dad and I wanted to meet Jack, so I’m living the dream, too.”
Randy Lewis, a 54-year-old financial planner for Raymond James & Associates’ DLP Financial Group in Alma, Michigan, shot a 9-over-par 81 in what is believed by the club to be the oldest rookie appearance in Masters history.
He ended up in Augusta, Georgia, by winning last year’s Mid-Amateur, a championship staged by the U.S. Golf Association created in 1988 after the U.S. Amateur began to be dominated by college players. Mid-Amateur competitors must be at least 25.
“We all still have a hard time imagining what Randy has truly accomplished at the age of 54 -- for that matter -- at any age,” Daniel De Jong, who works with Lewis, said in an e-mail. “This couldn’t have happened to a nicer individual.”
Nicklaus Lewis, a student at Central Michigan University, walked the undulating fairways with his older brother, Christopher; their mother, Melanie; and a throng of the elder Lewis’s supporters. All wore green bracelets with the words, “We’re pulling for you Randy.”
Randy Lewis had visited the club numerous times to play practice rounds since winning the Mid-Amateur in September. On April 2, he played the course with five-time British Open champion Tom Watson, at 62 one of the few players in the tournament who is older.
Lewis had written Watson a letter asking if he could play with him, telling the 1977 Masters winner that his runner-up finish in the 2009 British Open had inspired him. When Watson responded to the letter, Melanie Lewis framed it next to her husband’s Masters invitation.
“I kind of have a shrine for him,” she said.
When he leaves the club, Lewis will also have a closet full of Masters-logoed clothes. He has spent about $800 on merchandise and said he plans to wear a hat or shirt from the tournament as often as he can.
“I’m going to be one of those guys always wearing something from here,” he said in an interview.
Lewis is unlikely to become the first Mid-Amateur champion to make the 36-hole cut for weekend play. Still, he plans to stick around as a spectator through the finish of the tournament on April 8.
“They’re probably going to have to get security to escort me out of here,” he said. “I wish things would slow down, this is going way, way too fast. It’s just a place that you, gosh, just want to be here as much as you possibly can.”
His son’s name can always serve as a reminder of the tournament.
“We kind of subjected him to a life of having a misspelled first name,” the father said of the son. “Jack was always my hero, so it’s pretty cool.”