Along the street, home made signs were plastered, for buying and selling tickets. Guys with big beer bellies were sitting on their lawn chairs, drinking beer at 8am in the warm Georgia sun. Cars would stop, buy and sell tickets, and move on, sometimes sharing a beer with the scalpers. The Masters is a way of life here, no matter what side of the tracks you live on.
As I passed the Waffle House, Kenny Rogers Chicken, Arby’s, and Dairy Queens, I finally saw the sign that said, “Masters Parking”. I turned in to the big dirt lot, only to see John Daly and Davis Love’s huge motorhomes in the parking lot. Walking to the entrance, a guy asked me if I had an extra ticket. He perked up when I told him that I did, as my son was not able to make this trip with me. He asked how much, and I decided I needed some karma, so I gave it to him.
Walking through the gates, the excitement I felt kept building, until I saw the merchandise tents and toilets. First order of business, get rid of some coffee. Second order of business, buy some Masters souvenirs. I went a little crazy, as I bought things for my son, my friend Mike, and myself.
Then I had to take a look at Magnolia Lane, where members and participants drive up to the venerable clubhouse. I saw several players arrive, like Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal. Of course, Augusta National has members such as Warren Buffett, Jack Welch, and Bill Gates, though I doubt any of them have time for golf.
Then I had to see the huge oak tree behind the clubhouse, where the television and radio interviews take place. Then I meandered over to Butler Cabin (quite small), where the green jacket ceremony takes place for the television broadcast. But I wanted to walk every hole of the course. I wanted to see what I have seen on television since I was a little boy, before I even understood golf, or knew about Palmer and Nicklaus.
The course is magnificent, a soft carpet of green, surrounded by Georgia pines, completely blocked off from the urban blight of Augusta. The azaleas were in full bloom, creating a sea of color matching the best gardens in Sunset magazine. All of a sudden, I did not seem to care that this Southern white boy club excluded women and most minorities.
As I walked the course, I stopped many times to watch the players, and observe the crowds. I was not the only one to come from far away. I saw New Yorkers, Midwesterners, foreigners, and lots of Southerners. I saw Dads with their sons. And grown men with their Fathers, drinking in the glorious sunny day at the Masters.
Among the many things that distinguish the Masters from other golf tournaments: the refreshment stands and toilets are permanent buildings! Only the merchandise tents were portable here. Everything else stays here, year after year, as no other tournament does.
Then, the moment most of us weekend golfers wait for, the first view of Amen Corner, and to hear the roars echo through the Georgia pines. The first time was around 10am, and kept repeating itself throughout the day. This is indeed, the pinnacle of the golfing world.
Around 11am, I got hungry and headed over to the nearest refreshment stand. I bought a tuna sandwich for about $2, but was impressed to see they still sold pimento sandwiches. They also sold headache powders! No fancy jalapeno nachos, pizza, gyros, or falafels here. Just the basics, at 1950s prices.
I know I will visit again, but with my son Matt. We will watch the tournament, and we will play some golf in Georgia and South Carolina. And I want him to see and feel what I did on that glorious day in April. But I was able to parlay my practice round tickets into Thursday, 1st round ticket. Fancy that!!!!