Nate Lashley was waiting for this April week in Georgia since he secured his first Masters invitation on the last day of June.
The first Nebraska high school graduate who will play at Augusta National in almost 30 years now knows his chance isn’t gone because of the coronavirus outbreak.
It will come in mid-November. So what if the azaleas won’t be in bloom? The 2001 Mitchell High graduate still will have the thrill of those first drives — up Magnolia Lane and down the first fairway — unique to Augusta National.
This week’s announcement that the Masters was rescheduled for Nov. 12 to 15 removes most of the disappointment Lashley last week said he was experiencing.
“You just feel like the Masters should be played in April,” he said.
Lashley has been at his Scottsdale, Arizona, home since the PGA Tour suspended its season after the first round of the Players Championship last month in Florida.
“You hope things can settle down in the next month or so,’’ he said. “And obviously for every aspect, not just golf, people can go out and resume their lives.”
A Masters invitation was one of the plums from his win at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. Lashley was in the FedEx Cup playoffs until the finals. He was in his first Tournament of Champions and his first Players Championship.
That’s where the PGA Tour came to a halt because of the pandemic. Lashley was tied for seventh after the first round. The tour won’t resume until mid-May at the earliest.
He hadn’t been planning to play again until Masters week. He had shoulder and toe surgery in late fall and he said he still was experiencing shoulder pain.
“So the three weeks (after the Players) I was staying home anyway,” he said. “But then they started canceling more tournaments. When we come back I won’t have many expectations for the first few weeks. This could be eight, 10 weeks, who knows how long before you play a tournament and not playing a tournament for that extended period of time you never know exactly how you’re going to come out and play.
“So I think I’ll just kind of take it easy, try to play quite a bit in the first couple months, five or six events, and then kind of reassess. Look at how the season’s gone and what I can accomplish, then I got to get ready for the next season just because that’ll be my year when I need to perform and get enough points to stay in that top 125 and maintain my PGA Tour card.”
Lashley received a two-year exemption — for 2020 and 2021 — for winning. He’s sitting 52nd this season in FedEx Cup points and 81st in the world rankings.
Before Detroit last year, he was 126th on the FedEx list. So the win, he said, boosted his confidence, created job security and fueled good “mojo” for going into this season.
He’s still OK telling his life story, which includes the death of his parents in a plane accident after they watched one of his tournaments when he was at the University of Arizona. It went national with Jim Nantz and the CBS telecast of his win. Lashley said he’s heard from people who found inspiration in it.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,’’ he said. “There’s always those time you really wish your parents were there and it could be anything that triggers it, like being at a golf tournament. I’ve gotten to play Pebble Beach now four times in the last three years, three times in the (AT&T Pro-Am) and once in the U.S. Open. That was a place that I feel like my parents would have just been amazed and ecstatic to go watch it all. Playing in the U.S. Open was definitely a time that I remember wishing that they could have seen that.”
Augusta would have — and still will be — another such moment.