Isao Aoki and Norio Suzuki of Japan brought a large store of rice, noodles, seaweed and other Japanese foodstuffs with them to the Masters Tournament, the better to fortify their golf games with a familiar diet, cooked by their wives in the homes they have rented for the week.
Defending champion Severiano Balesteros of Spain, one of two overseas players to win the Masters in its 44 years, brought his eldest brother, Baldomero, and some other Spanish friends to help combat the homesickness he always feels when playing away from Europe.
Welshman Duncan Evans, the British Amateur champion, took time away from his job at his father's modest fish-and-chips shop, where he fries, serves and helps clean up, to play in his first Masters. His mum and dad came along to watch him, closing the shop at considerable financial hardship. Evans had fretted about the $30 per night it would cost him and his wife to stay at the Masters Economy Inn here, and was relieved when a local family invited them to stay at their home instead.
Australian Greg Norman, also making his Masters debut, didn't have to worry about pinching pennies, or adjusting to an unfamiliar environment. An ascending fifth-year pro with matinee-idol looks and hair the shade of white gold, he has fun everywhere he goes. He has own 17 tournaments, finished high in the European Tour standings for several seasons and last year won more than $200,000 world-wide, plenty to indulge his passion for the good life.
"I don't think there is any adjustment at all for me coming to America, because the conditions and life style are very similar here and in Australia . . . The Big difference is that elsewhere, there may be eight guys you have to beat to win a tournament. In the United States, there are 60. Anybody who makes the cut can win, so you have to play better and concentrate harder. That's why it's important to play over here," Norman said before today's opening round of the Masters.
Apparently Augusta -- the seventh American city in which he has played since 1977 -- suits him, because by day's end he was tied with Americans Johnny Miller, Curtis Strange and Lon Hinkle for the lead at three-under-par 69.
Foreign players with diverse and fascinating backgrounds, some famous around the world and others virtually unknown outside their homelands, are part of the Masters' enduring charm. The Augusta National Golf Club, a flower- and tradition-laden bastion of Old South gentility, has always remembered that golf is an international game.
This year there are 11 foreigners in the field of 82: Norman and fellow Australians David Graham, Jack Newton and Bruce Devlin; Aoki and Suzuki from Japan; Ballesteros from Spain; three-time champion Gary Player from South Africa; Welshman Evans and Scotsman Sandy Lyle from Great Britain, and Dan Halldorson from Canada.
Unlike American players, who must meet any of 13 specific qualification requirements to merit an invitaton to the Masters, players in the "International Section" have no fixed eligibility standards. They are invited, according to the tournament committee, "based on our judgment of ability to provide competition for the U.S.A. players."
This is not well understood. Norman, for instance, was asked today at a press conference under what category he was invited. "I don't really know," he said. "I think it was because I won last years' World Match Play, and the Australian Open." A Masters committeeman interjected that foreigners are invited at the tournament's discretion.
Some foreign entries, such as Graham, Newton, Halldorson and Devlin, are regular participants on the PGA Tour. Others, including Ballesteros, Player, and Aoki (who dueled Jack Nicklaus majestically in last year's memorable U.S. Open, and shot 70 today, the only foreigner besides Norman to be under par) are part of the golf's elite: strong contenders for practically every major title.
Still others, such as Suzuki and Evans, are rather quixotic invitees -- recognized for stout performances in certain tournaments abroad, or on the European or Japanese tours -- but interesting characters nonetheless.
Evans, 22, the first Welshman to with the British Amateur and play at Augusta, is a perfect example.
He works daily from 9 a.m. until 1:30 and from 6:30 to midnight slinging fish and chips in his dad's shop in Leek, England, a dying Staffordshire textile town of 25,000, and plays golf in the afternoon at the local club. He is 6-foot-5, 206 pounds, with a thin blond moustache, boyish good looks and a prominent tattoo on his right forearm. Easygoing, likable and amusing, he named his 3-year-old son after Jack Nicklaus, and wanted to spell the first name "Nicklaus." Wife Christine insisted on "Nicholas" instead.
Evans had "a fabulous time" today, despite his unsightly score of 81, nine over par. "I enjoued it out there, even though I played badly. It's an honor just to be part of this," he said cheerily, explaining to an anxious group of six British reporters how he "clanged a shot into the trees" here here and "dribbled the ball into the bunker" there and "made a general mess of my putting."
His father, Dave Evans, was nevertheless proud, and understanding. He knows athletes have bad days. A former professional soccer goaltender, he once allowed 13 goals in a single game, and knew it was time to start frying cod, whiting and potatoes for a living.
Though not financially subsidized, foreign players at the Masters are made to feel important and welcome, which is especially important to the European, South American and Far Eastern players who frequently have cultural and communications barriers to overcome.
Asked what the peculiar problems confronting foreign players here are, Ballesteros smilled broadly and said, in English that has become quite serviceable, "The language. The food. To be alone in the hotels. That's all."
Aoki and Suzuki -- who prefer Japanese cuisine to Southern cooking, and have wives willing to cook it for them -- also speak and understand enough English to get by. Aoki's wife was previously married to an American, lived in this country for several years and speaks perfect English. Still, both Japanese players have interpreters from a local college assigned to them all the time during the Masters.
"They are there, outside the ropes, and the caddie can call on them any time. It's to make sure there's no breakdown in communication," said Frank Stokes, who is Suzuki's caddie this week.
It wasn't so last year, when Stokes worked for Toru Nakamura, a diminutive Japanese player who spoke not a word of English. Stokes, who is 6-foot-1 and weighs 287 pounds, taught him two phrases: "Big Man" and "Little Man."
"He knew when I said 'Little Man,' I was talking to him, and it was time to get the interpreter," said Stokes.