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2-time winner returns thanks

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

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If he'd had no other experiences in his life but the ones in Augusta, Ben Crenshaw told throngs of fans gathered at the Augusta Botanical Gardens, he would have lived a full, rich life.

Ben Crenshaw (left) hugs his longtime caddie, Carl Jackson, at the Mayor's Masters Reception. The two-time Masters champion received the key to the city and was honored by the governor. (Mike Adams/Staff)

Monday evening's affair made it easy to see why.

The two-time Masters Tournament winner known as "Gentle Ben" was the guest of honor at this year's Mayor's Masters Reception, a tradition for the city since 1999.

He seemed at a loss for words when he took the podium after receiving honors from Gov. Sonny Perdue and U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, and after Mayor Deke Copenhaver gave him a key to the city and declared it Ben Crenshaw Day.

"I've had the nicest things that have happened to me in this city," he said, choking up. "This place gets in your blood quick."

Copenhaver said his father and Crenshaw's mother grew up in the same small town in Virginia, and he recalled the golfer, as an amateur, once eating dinner with his family. The mayor called him a "true gentleman of the game."

As a condition for attending Monday, Crenshaw had his longtime caddie Carl Jackson seated beside him on stage. He credited Jackson with guiding him to his second Masters win in 1995, which came a week after the death of Harvey Penick, his golf instructor since youth.

"You talk about a blessing," said Crenshaw, 56. "And only a friend like Carl could help me get through that. I'm convinced to this day that the good Lord had a hand in that championship."

Crenshaw is also noted for being the second player in tour history to win his first tournament after turning pro -- the San Antonio Texas Open in 1973 -- and sinking a 60-foot birdie shot while on his way to winning the 1984 Masters.

He is a partner in Coore & Crenshaw, a course-design firm.

Also at his side Monday were his wife, Julie, and three daughters, along with Jackson's family.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

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