A Night Unlike Any Other

Written by Charlie Epps on 01 May 2010.

Every golf fan follows the Masters Tournament. It's the best, most popular golf event in the world and also has the most tradition. One of those is the Champions Dinner, which happens at Augusta on the Tuesday night before the event begins.

The previous year's champion picks the menu. Only past champions are allowed to attend. Other than club chairman Billy Payne, if you haven't won the Masters, you aren't getting in that room.

As such, every true golf fan would love to be a fly on the wall at the Champions Dinner. A select number of passionate fans got as close as any humans ever will to attending the dinner. Defending champion Angel Cabrera hosted a "Masters Champions Preview Dinner" at Shadow Hawk Golf Club on the Monday before the Shell Houston Open.

Redstone and the Houstonian turned a simple idea into a night that benefited hundreds of people in the tiny town of Villa Allende, Argentina. Cabrera agreed to help raise money for his charity back home, the Angel Cabrera Foundation, which aides financially challenged caddies and golfers in his hometown.

He also made sure we had the exact menu he'd share with the Masters champions at Augusta. It included authentic Argentine "Asado," or barbeque, along with a couple different Argentine salads and plenty of vino rojo from Argentina.

The night began with a clinic by two of the premier Argentine professionals, "El Pato" and Andres Romero. It was a pure demonstration of tempo, timing and rhythm. As my good friend Bob Toski says, "Effortless power instead of powerless effort."

Cabrera and Romero hit low shots, high shots, 300-yard drives and rainbow-like flops. The best swing tip of the night was simple: "When you step to the ball, have a clear mind and just swing the club."

We then moved to the putting green. Cabrera demonstrated with the teaching aide that changed his life: the "Inside, Down-the-Line" putting track from Momentus Golf. At one point, El Pato made 48 of 50 putts from 8 feet. Repetition is key.

Ping President John Solheim presented him with an 18-karat gold putter head. Cabrera was overwhelmed by the generosity. He couldn't believe Americans would be so supportive of his fellow countrymen.

Near the end of the night, Shadow Hawk head pro Paul Marchand surprised me with a recorded message from Jim Nantz, who couldn't attend because he was covering the NCAA basketball tournament. He congratulated Cabrera and Redstone for putting on such a great night. Then he spoke to me. By the end, I was choked up to say the least.

"As a University of Houston student who wasn't a very good golfer, it always amazed me that Charlie would spend as much time with me as I wanted, working on my game," Nantz said. "Charlie was one of the people who encouraged me to follow my dream. Charlie, I love you and wish the best to you, your lovely wife Judy and the girls."

I was humbled and embarrassed, but also very proud. It was a night that Redstone Golf's late chairman, David Shindeldecker, would've truly loved. It was a night about passion for golf and fellowship with good people. It was night no one in attendance will ever forget.