I am watching the Masters Golf Tournament on TV right now. Big Bubba has a three stroke lead. The excitement seems to be missing. This tournament needs Tiger and Phil battling through Amen Corner on the back nine on Sunday. But here are some recollections of that fine day back in 2007 or so.
I went to the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National a few years ago. Augusta appeared to me as an old white ghetto, sort of backwards, and simple, with lots of old buildings, faded neon signs, and the typical food chains lining the business district. Camped in the middle of this simplicity and country-style living, is the magnificent Augusta National Golf Course. Among its members are Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Boone Pickens, and Jack Welch. Since 1934, they have hosted The Masters Golf Tournament.
But as I got off the freeway, and followed the signs, I passed this urban blight of a city. Card tables were set up in front of every business, offering either tickets or parking for a fee. I parked my rental car in the dusty parking lot adjacent to lots of tall trees. I could see the motor homes of Davis Love and John Daly in the distance. I had an extra ticket. Sure enough, a guy was asking for extras, and offered to pay a premium. I only asked face value, much to his surprise and glee.
I was a little early, and started to stand in line with the other fans. Most were wearing their golf shoes, carried large umbrellas, and huge summer straw hats of all colors and hues. The crowd looked very urban, middle class, in other words, people with money to spend. Myself included, we could not wait to get into the grounds, and buy our Masters souvenirs.
As we entered the famous golf course, we were searched for weapons and knives, as well as cell phones. NO phones allowed!!! The regulars raced to their favorite locations, while us newbies wandered the merchandise tents. It was a madhouse, a fire marshals worst nightmare. Somehow, I found the only golf shirt on the entire property under $50. It must have been mismarked or a leftover from last year.
I wandered the practice area, only to see a lone golfer, Bernhard Langer, out practicing. I strolled over to the famous Magnolia Lane where the members and players would arrive. The buildings including the clubhouse are small, simple, but immaculate. Walking back toward the course, I found the famous Butler Cabin, where the winner is given his green jacket. Again, it was very small, unimpressive, but neatly manicured.
I glanced up at the Crow’s Nest, where the rookies are housed, right on the property. Usually the U.S. Amateur champion and the other amateurs (up to 5) are housed here. Tiger stayed here in his first Masters, after he won the U.S. Amateur. Now, most of the established players rent a large home nearby, since they bring family and wannabees to the tournament.
Walking over to the first tee, a long par 4, looked like the longest par 4 I have ever seen. Most guys were landing their drives in the two large bunkers on the right. That means an almost automatic bogey, and a poor start. Leaving it short of the bunkers with a 3 wood means a long iron shot to the green.
I decided to hike over to the famous Amen Corner (11, 12, and 13), where they say the tournament is won or lost on Sunday. Needless to say, it is prettier than any telecast can provide. Though some of the grass is painted green, the flowers are real. The greens have a high-tech drying system underneath in case of heavy rains. The regular fans are headed to their favorite vantage points. I decide to camp out just above the par 4 seventh hole. It is joined at the apex of the hill with the tee box for the par 5 8th hole, and the par 4 3rd hole. Also in view is the par 3 fourth hole. I figured this would be about the best I could do without having the stake out a seat on the bleachers near the 18th or 9th greens.
As I sat there, I kept thinking about how this luxurious and world-famous golf course was placed in the middle of a large white ghetto of the South. Most of us would pay just about any sum of money to be able to play this course. The only other course that comes close would be Cypress Point on the Monterey Peninsula. Both are private, both boast a who’s who of members across the country and the world.
Back in the moment, I decided I was hungry. Needless to say, the concession stands are very reasonably (almost cheaply) priced. A tuna sandwich and a soda were well under $5!!! Also available were egg salad, headache powders, sweet tea, and
old style potato chips. And the toilets were not port a potties, but well-built wooden and cinder block permanent buildings sprinkled throughout the course.
Sitting at my perch, I just felt the need to keep moving on the course. Though the action was plentiful at my spot, I could hear the roars echo through the Georgia pine trees. I needed to find the location that held the most excitement. It turned out to be the par 3 16th hole. This is the short par 3 where Tiger chipped his ball after an errant drive, first hanging on the lip, then dropping for an improbable birdie 2.