Sitting here watching the Master’s and reliving lots of memories. I grew up in Aiken, SC – about 20 miles away from the course. I have had the rare fortune to be a patron (that’s the word they use) at the tournament more times than I can count. I started going in the early 70’s when friends from NC would come down and stay at our house – but not want to use their tickets everyday. Then from the late 70’s to the present my cousin Alan, who lives in Columbia, will make his tickets available to me for the Friday round every few years. (Alan, if you happen to read this – mega thanks for all the memories.) Here are some of those memories from over the years:
Jack Nicklaus – I was a huge Nicklaus fan growing up. I would follow him around the course – and because I was young, fast, and knew my way around I could always finagle a good spot to watch him – even though he had the largest crowds. As a kid I was an autograph hound and managed to get his autograph 3 times.
Ben Crenshaw’s autograph – In 1972, Ben was playing in his first Masters. No one knew who this young kid was. I saw him standing by himself next to #1 – it appeared that he was almost in awe of the fact that he was there. I walked up and asked for his autograph. He would go on to win the tourney 2 times during his career and often credits me and the encouragement I gave him that day for his success.
Tiger – I’ve also been a huge fan of Tiger, the golfer. I’ve always enjoyed watching his excellence and finesse on the course. In the last 15 years I’ve followed him a lot. I was there for the Friday round when he won for the first time in 1997.
Ham sandwiches – Never been a big ham eater but Augusta National had the BEST ham sandwiches. And you would be surprised to know that the food at The Master’s is priced very fairly – unlike other sporting events where you pay $10 for a sandwich and drink.
The pristine environment – Absolutely gorgeous! If you’ve ever watched The Master’s on TV then you know it is a pretty place. But I promise you that even HD TV cannot do justice to how spectacular it really is. And you will never see a speck of trash anywhere. And rumor has it that they even make sure the pine straw all lays in the same direction. Incredible attention to detail.
Taking my sons and friends – Because of the generosity of my cousin I have been able to take quite a few folks to see the tournament. In case you are not aware it is a very difficult ticket to get. It borders on a high and holy privilege to be able to go to The Masters. Scott has been able to go three times so far and Tucker once; and then a bunch of my buddies. I will single out one memory. A college chum of mine, Andre Hawkins, went with me when we were at Tulane. He idolized Jack Nicklaus and loved The Masters. I remember standing beside #1 with him when Jack was on the first tee and he literally broke into goose bumps because he was so excited. That’s kind of the effect this great tournament has it’s patrons.
The roars of the crowd – You really have to be there to experience the electricity of the place – especially when it goes from being soooo quiet (again, hard to explain how quiet a crowd of 10,000 can be) to so loud when the crowd reacts to a great shot. There is a buzz that reverberates around the whole course in seconds and everyone is scoreboard watching to see what just happened.
The Greatness of the Greats – I’ve been able to see all the greats of the previous generations play the game of golf – Sarazen, Sneed, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Floyd, Casper, Nelson, Seve, Watson, Tiger, Phil, etc. It is unbelievable how good these guys are. I remember watching on the practice range as Tiger would land 300 yard shots within a few feet of each other at will. The commercial that says, “These guys are good,” is so understated. You realize this when you play the game of golf and then watch great players play the game of golf. It is a VERY hard game to be great at.
Amen Corner – This 3 hole stretch is tucked away on the far side of the course. #11 – a very difficult par 4 fronted by a pond, #12 – one of the most famous holes in golf with a tight little postage stamp green (fronted by Rae’s Creek) where many a tournament has been lost, and #13 – one of the greatest risk/reward holes in the game of golf. This little patch of property also serves as a metaphor for my life – which I may tell you about some time.
A chance to play! – Okay, no not really, I haven’t had a chance to play Augusta National – but it is on my bucket list – so if any one reading this has a connection and wants to make one of my dreams come true then you have my blessings to try.
I’m just sayin’!