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Don-Cherry-Masters

A copy of the CD Don Cherry and Willie Nelson did of the song “Augusta” along with a medal received by Cherry as a participant in the exclusive tournament

By Tom Ward

Special Contributor

This weekend when you’re watching the Masters golf telecast on CBS you’ll hear hauntingly beautiful music playing in the background during the opening introduction of the tournament. This serene melody will be sprinkled in throughout the network broadcast. What a lot of people don’t know about that song, called “Augusta”, is that there are two very talented Texans singing the words, paying homage to all of the great players that have passed through those hallowed grounds of Augusta National. Recently I spoke with one of the two men that sang on that CD, who is a friend of mine named Don Cherry. Don lives in Las Vegas with his darling wife Francine. Cherry, who turned 90 in January, has the unique distinction of being the only person to have a top 10 record (Band of Gold) on the music charts and a top 10 finish in a major golf championship (1960 U.S. Open). Also, Don was the voice behind the iconic Mr. Clean commercial jingle, which became one of the most popular in TV advertising history. Don could hold his own on the golf course with the likes of past Masters Champions Jack Nicklaus, his close friend, and his longtime buddy Arnold Palmer. Cherry played in the Masters as an amateur an unforgettable 9 times, making the cut in 6 of them, from 1953 to 1962.

Don said, “They never charged us amateurs to stay there in the Crow’s nest which was upstairs on top of the clubhouse. They were so good to us there it was unreal.” In this years’ tournament there are 6 amateurs competing.

I asked Don to tell me about the song “Augusta” that he recorded with his old friend Willie Nelson.

“You can hear the beautiful melody being played during the tournament itself,” he said. “The words to me are like a love song. A great singer and songwriter named David Loggins wrote the music and lyrics to the song back in 1995. Most of the players mentioned in the song I knew very well and had the honor of playing golf with them many times.” He continued, “Willie Nelson is the fellow who helped me sing this song and we played golf and recorded many other songs. Together we put a lot of feeling and meaning into the words of this song ‘Augusta’ and all the other beautiful songs on the album.”

Click the media player to hear the song as preformed by Don Cherry and Willie Nelson

 

Here are the lyrics to the song that is magnificently sung by Don and Willie Nelson:

Well, it’s springtime in the valley on Magnolia Lane
It’s the Augusta National and the master of the game
Who’ll wear that green coat on Sunday afternoon?
Who’ll walk the 18th fairway singing this tune?
Augusta, your dogwoods and pines
They play on my mind like a song
Augusta, it’s you that I love
And it’s you that I’ll miss when I’m gone.
It’s Watson, Byron Nelson, Demaret, Player and Snead
It’s Amen Corner and it’s Hogan’s perfect swing
It’s Sarazen’s double eagle at the 15 in ’35
And the spirit of Clifford Roberts that keeps it alive
Augusta, your dogwoods and pines
They play on my mind like a song
Augusta, it’s you that I love
And it’s you that I miss when I’m gone.
It’s the legions of Arnie’s Army and the Golden Bear’s throngs
And the wooden-shafted legend of Bobby Jones.

I told Don it’s a shame they don’t use their voices that were recorded for the song.

“I feel the same way and we sent it to them, but they didn’t use the part with us singing,” he said. “It’s a beautiful song and I can’t believe they don’t play the whole song as Willie and I recorded it because it means so much to anyone who has ever been there.”

During my phone call I asked him when he’s watching the Masters telecast does that bring back any special memories for him. 

“I’ll tell you something. The first time I got to Augusta I didn’t realize what was happening,” Don answered. “I used to play with Jimmy Demaret as my partner against Ben Hogan and Sam Snead during our practice rounds there at Augusta. We used to play for quite a bit of money. Once we came to through the front 9 and were 3 down and Jimmy walked over to Ben Hogan and said, ‘Ben, you know he is an amateur so would you guys give him a shot on the back 9?’ Ben said, ‘Let him learn to play something else.’ I always thought that was a great answer.” He went on to say, “Right now I’m watching the tournament on TV and I can’t believe the way these people dress. It’s a whole different world now. I remember one year I made about an 80 foot putt on the par 4 11th hole when I was playing with Jimmy Demaret. You know you watch this on TV and you can tell these players are very good, there is no question about it. The equipment sure has changed a whole lot over the years as well.” Before we ended our phone call, Don mentioned two more things about the Masters tournament.  “Augusta National was my favorite golf course I ever played and co–founder of Augusta National Bobby Jones was a very nice man. Also, I fondly remember what an honor and pleasure it was being invited to play in one of the greatest golf tournaments of all time,” he reminisced.

If you want to hear the song “Augusta” sung by Don and Willie check out his website www.doncherry.us. Don’s website is chock full of great videos from his days playing golf with a who’s who of famous friends, as well as his singing performances on some of the top TV shows of the day like the Ed Sullivan show. It was music to my ears listening to all the wonderful stories from such a great gentleman who was so kind to take time out of his day to reflect back to the days when he took that drive down Magnolia lane to play in the Masters.

Tom Ward can be reached at www.teetimewithtom.com

 

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