Willett honors Arnie, England at Champions Dinner
A toast to Arnie.
A traditional English dinner.
A few questions on “how’d you do that?” to past Masters Tournament champions.
Defending champion Danny Willett said he hoped to add an English flavor as host of the annual Champions Dinner on Tuesday night, along with relishing the time spent in the same room with other Masters winners.
“To be a part of that group,” the Englishman said, his voice oozing with respect, “I think the evening is going to be tremendous. … there’s been a lot of thought going into it. Obviously, we want to make it so where, hopefully, the guys would eat what we’re serving and it’s not too different.”
Willett will serve a traditional English family meal with Yorkshire flavor, reflecting his Sheffield upbringing.
The opening course will be cottage pie (ground beef, onions, carrots and cheese), served with Henderson relish, followed by roast beef and classic Yorkshire pudding with gravy trimmings. The dessert will be apple crumble.
“The menu, I think, is pretty well set for what most people would have probably guessed,” Willett said. “It’s nothing really off the wall. It would have been what most people would have thought, if they were to come to Britain and sat in a pub on Sunday and have their dinner.”
Willett said he hopes everybody simply enjoys the meal, but he knows how special being the newest member of the green jacket club is and plans to soak it all in.
Willett said he will toast golf legend and four-time Masters champion Arnold Palmer, who died in September.
“To not have him here, it’s going to be a sad week,” Willett said. “People have been kind enough to help a little bit and have the idea of toasting with Arnie’s favorite drink tonight.”
That would be, of course, a lemonade-and-iced tea combination, a drink Palmer made famous throughout the U.S.
Willett is aware of the special history of the Champions Dinner and plans to take full advantage of being so close to some legendary golfers.
“I think 34 guys will sit in that room,” he said. “You know, we see each other as fellow golfers and friends. But to be a part of that group, you know, this is the 81st Masters. … to be able to sit in a room with the legends of the game, past and present, is going to be something special.”
Willett said the past 12 months have been a joy watching the reaction on people’s faces when they see a Masters green jacket in real life. The only negative? It seems his game has changed a bit because he wants to perform like he did on the final back nine last year when he won by making three birdies over the final six holes.
“I think the last 12 months have probably made me a little more impatient,” said Willett, who tees off at 12:24 p.m. in Thursday’s opening round in a grouping with Matt Kuchar and amateur Curtis Luck. “It’s a difficult one, I think, achieving what I achieved last year performing under pressure as I did on Sunday. If you don’t do that every time, you get a bit annoyed.”
Still, Willett said the days leading up to this year’s Masters have been magical.
“To drive down Magnolia Lane with a green jacket in your car and to come back and be announced as defending champion is something special,” he said. “To be able to do it here at Augusta, words can’t really describe. So far, this week has been amazing and all the feelings you get from this place.”