The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 10, 2014

Courrier: Masters is first sign that winter has been conquered

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Don’t know if anybody noticed but it’s been a tough winter, with brutal cold and piles of snow that are now just disappearing.

If not for an exciting season of local basketball and hockey, it would have an unbearable four months.

Minnesota State had another great men’s basketball season, setting records with 30 victories, while the women had a frustrating end to what could have been a promising postseason run.

In high schools, local fans may never again have the opportunity to watch such a talented player as Carlie Wagner, who scored nearly 4,000 points and led New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva to consecutive state championships.

Mankato Loyola continued its progress toward playing for a girls basketball state championship. One more basket is all the Crusaders needed to reach the final game, and with several key players returning, a state championship is a realistic goal.

The Minnesota State men’s hockey kept its fans indoors until the last two weeks, when one of the most successful seasons in program history ended in Massachusetts.

But now that the big snowpile in front of the house, which has melted slowly, is all that remains from the winter. The grass is greening up and the local ball fields are nearly ready for the season.

It’s finally spring, and that means The Masters.

Golf’s most dramatic weekend began Thursday at Augusta, Ga., with 97 golfers trying to win a green jacket. There are some great story lines, even though Tiger Woods is laid up and isn’t participating for the first time in his professional career.

Phil Mickelson is trying to win his fourth Masters’ title, which would tie with Arnold Palmer and Woods.

Adam Scott is trying to win back-to-back championships, something accomplished only by Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Woods.

Jason Day spent much of the spring recovering from a thumb injury, and it could be his time.

Rory McIlroy once seemed destined to win big at The Masters, and while that could still happen, there are more questions about if he’ll win, not when he’ll win.

Bubba Watson’s victory in 2012 is starting to look more like a fluke than trend.

There are several young players who could become part of the lore of The Masters. Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Harris English could surprise the more experienced players.

The Masters is the weakest field of the four major tournaments, but the winner is generally the most spectacular and precise player for four days. The dramatics of Sunday never disappoints.

That snowpile out in front of the house should be gone by today, which means that it’s time to forget about the brutal winter and enjoy some sun and warmth. Watching The Masters on TV is the first step of winter rehab.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.