If memories are priceless, no dollar amount could replace the moment Owen Lockaby shared with a national television audience on the final round of the 2017 Masters golf tournament.
“Just seeing a hole-in-one, I mean, I literally couldn’t believe it,” said the 8-year old’s mom, Tracy. “This was the first time we’d seen a hole-in-one.”
It was the first time Owen had been on the front row for history. An ace is hard to come by in any tournament. At the Masters, the PGA Tour’s first major championship of the year?
That’s extra special.
With the tournament winding down on a Sunday, and Matt Kuchar on the tee box at the tough 16th hole, Owen stood out in the crowd with his bright orange shirt and Sam Snead-style hat.
“We’ll remember this the rest of our lives,” said his father, Jay.
The ball soared through the air. Hundreds of heads turned in unison to watch the flight path.
“He’s posing on it,” the TV commentator uttered in hushed tones. “He likes it….”
Kuchar’s ball landed softly and trickled back toward the cup. It found the edge and dropped in for a hole-in-one.
The Augusta National crowd went crazy.
“I’ve been 33 times and I think 31 in a row,” Jay said, recalling his Masters tournament history.
“This one stand out a bit?” I asked, somewhat rhetorically.
Kuchar strolled to the green to retrieve his career-highlight at the Masters. The roar of the crowd grew with each stride. He bent down and pulled the ball out of the cup with a smile on his face.
Then, he saw Owen.
“When I saw him walk to the hole, take the ball out and pull a pen out of his pocket, I was like, ‘he’s going to sign that ball,” said Tracy, who was a few spectators behind her son.
“He signs it and starts walking over to Owen,” said Jay, in astonishment.
Kuchar strode to the beaming child in the front row and handed him the autographed golf ball.
The smile still hasn’t faded.
“It was really amazing and so cool to hold it and think how someone actually hit, a pro golf player, hit that ball,” said Owen. “It’s hard to put into words.”
The ball is extra special to the Lockaby family because of their rich history with Augusta National. Jay’s father, Joe, was one of the original Arnie’s Army members, a group of fans dedicated to supporting one of the most popular PGA players ever, Arnold Palmer.
Joe missed just one Masters in nearly five decades and started taking Jay to the annual event when he was young.
“The Masters is like Christmas and New Year’s and Thanksgiving for us. It’s that important,” said Jay.
Photos of the two of them are proudly kept in the Lockaby’s Bradenton home. Joe passed away in 2000 but his love for the Masters lives on in Owen’s eyes.
“The family tradition it is for us, what it means to us as a family, it really makes you wonder was Jay’s dad looking over?” said Tracy. “You know, it makes you wonder about that kind of thing.”
Now, Owen has a Masters memory that tops all the Lockaby memories.
“He gave me a high five and said nice job buddy,” Owen said, recalling the moment he shared with his dad after Kuchar handed him the ball. “For him to give me this is just hard to put in words.”
For the 8-year old who attended his first tournament while in diapers, that prized, Kuchar keepsake will always remind him of the family tradition that grows with each new Spring in Augusta, Georgia.
© 2017 WTSP-TV