Let’s, for a moment, think of the young lady working at The UPS Store counter in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Wearing a blue quarter-zip UPS Store shirt and a nose ring, she clocked in at some time Tuesday morning, went about her day. Maybe had a coffee. Or one of those healthy smoothies. Another shift.
That is, until two people, Scott and Jenny Stallings, approached the counter with an envelope in one hand and a fatal tension in the other. Scott clenched the parcel tightly. Jenny’s stomach was in knots. She eyed the young lady cautiously.
The UPS employee, a bit unnerved, stared back at them.
“There’s a backstory,” Scott told her, “but I can’t tell you about it.”
Unbeknownst to anyone else in the store, including the quarter-zip, the envelope being slid across the counter had been on a long journey before it reached the store.
It also amounted to a 6×8 moral dilemma that’d leave any golfer feeling faint.
This all started on New Year’s Eve. The Stallings, a married real estate duo from Atlanta, decided to drive to their condo in St. Simons, a private barrier island off the coast of Georgia. Typically, the couple rents out the condo to vacationers, but it was unbooked for the holiday weekend, so they decided to take advantage. In another life, someone had booked the place on Airbnb, who knows where this story would have gone.
Upon arrival, Jenny went to the door as Scott unpacked the car. There sat an unexpected UPS envelope addressed to Scott. “What’s this?” she yelled. Scott had no clue. Confused, Jenny pulled back the tab and out came another envelope. A Russian doll, of sorts, but this second envelope was discernibly different.
It was green. A very familiar shade of green. Along with a gold embossment.
Jenny looked at it.
Like everyone else, Scott and Jenny enter the Masters ticket lottery every year. And every year, they’re passed over. Holding that envelope, though, Jenny thought the golf gods had finally smiled upon the Stallings of Atlanta. At last, their names were pulled. Masters tickets.
But that didn’t make any sense. Why would Augusta National send the tickets to their vacation home? So Jenny looked closer. Closer still. And.
Ho-ly sh– …
“I realized it was an invitation to playdo not attend,” Jenny now says.
Scott Stallings of Atlanta first became aware of Scott Stallings the professional golfer about a decade ago. The non-professional Scott loves the game, but, like all of us, doesn’t get out enough. Houses don’t sell themselves, so golf remains a distant hobby. But Scott Stallings regularly checks PGA Tour leaderboards on Sundays to see how Scott Stallings is doing. Every once in a while, he’ll snap a picture of the television screen and post it on Facebook.
It’s unclear if any of the other 74 Scott Stallings on Facebook do the same. Like the Scott Stallings who works at Walmart in Ada, Okla. Or the one who’s a technician for Raytheon Technologies in Danville, Ala. Or the ones in Dunn, NC, Custer, Ky., or Redlands, Calif.
The one in Atlanta, though? He’s a fan.
Scott Stallings is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour. A longtime journeyman, he’s riding a renaissance of late. The 37-year-old has reshaped his career by transforming himself physically. The results have come in waves, catapulting him from outside the top 200 in the world on Memorial Day 2022 to No. 54 to begin 2023. He finished runner-up in last season’s BMW Championship to land a spot in the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. The real perk? A spot in the 2023 Masters.
Stallings competed twice previously in the Masters, but not since 2014. All told, in his career, he’s made only 12 major tournament appearances. This upcoming trip to Augusta, coming on the heels of a breakout 2022 season, amounts to a fitting reward for a guy who’s stuck through some hard times.
Only problem was, as of last week, Stallings had yet to receive his invitation from Augusta National. He was checking the mailbox daily. On Dec. 20, Augusta released a statement on qualifying criteria and the allowance of LIV Golf players to be part of the tournament field. The club announced the full list of participants for 2023 and, with that, players started posting pictures of their formal invitations on social media.
Stallings still didn’t have his. He went to the Masters website to double check for his name.
Stallings began thinking his wife (yes, also named Jenny), had intercepted the invitation and was planning to put it under the tree on Christmas morning. But then Christmas came and went. No Masters invitation. Stallings was growing nervous.
“After we were done with the presents, I stopped and asked her, ‘So, wait, for real, you don’t have it?'” Stallings said this week by phone from Hawaii where he is competing in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Jenny told her husband: “I one-thousand percent don’t have it. I swear.”
In St. Simons, Scott realized that he, personally, was not in fact invited to play in the Masters. He did not understand how the mistake was made on Augusta’s part, but wanted to clear it up. With that, a very strange direct message was sent to “the real” Scott Stallings on Instagram. Scott explained that he received an invitation to play in the Masters.
At this point, Stallings was baffled and dreading the prospect of having to touch the starched shirts at Augusta National. Really, what do you say? “Uh, am I allowed to play?” That’s when a friend reminded him to check those funneled messages on social media from users he doesn’t follow.
There was Scott’s DM.
Clearly confused, and suspicious, Stallings replied back by LOLing.
So Scott sent pictures. The ANGC envelope and the invitation. Scott included his phone number and told Stallings to call him.
This was not, in fact, a scam or a joke. “Totally surreal,” Stallings now says.
Literally had been checking the mailbox five times a day and then I got this random DM yesterday pic.twitter.com/yMvUYm3ioK
— Scott Stallings (@stallingsgolf) January 2, 2023
Stallings called late that night, but was sent straight to voicemail. He left a message, then decided to share this whole very random coincidence on Instagram.
Scott woke up in St. Simons the following morning to a barrage of notifications on his phone.
“We thought something was wrong because our phones were bouncing off the nightstand,” Jenny says.
Eventually, both sides connected and figured everything out.
In 2014, the last time Stallings played the Masters, he operated a management company based in St. Simmons. The old address for the company is exactly one block from Scott and Jenny’s vacation condo. That, it turns out, is where Augusta National sent Stallings’ 2023 invitation. UPS, though, having only one operational address for a “Scott Stallings” in St. Simons, redirected it to Scott’s condo address.
That’s how a 60-year-old with no professional golf experience found himself with an invitation to play in the Masters.
And that’s how a young lady working at UPS found herself with an envelope addressed both to Scott Stallings and from Scott Stallings.
In the end, we’ll never know what would’ve happened if Scott had decided to drive over to Augusta in April, turn on his blinker, and cruise down Magnolia Lane, asking where to go for the bag drop. Would’ve made for some very confused security personnel.
But if your name is Scott Stallings and your invitation to play says Scott Stallings…
Instead, Scott will have to settle for a one-in-a-million opportunity, instead of one-in-a-billion. Stallings is giving his namesake passes to Monday and Tuesday practice rounds at this year’s Masters and taking them to dinner in Augusta.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t win the lottery.
As for Scott Stallings’ invitation?
Well, it’s in the mail.
(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic. Photos: Carmen Mandato, Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images)