A few weeks ago, Brad (Kelly’s brother, the restaurateur) emailed me and suggested we go over to Augusta for one or two practice rounds. I had always been under the impression that even practice tickets were allocated,that’s turns out to be true, but despite the lottery distribution, there are plenty being sold on the streets into the course. Who knew? Brad did, and he convinced me that it was a given that we would have no problem buying them (shades of my boast for the 1986 Super Bowl in Pasadena, Marcus?). He said they”d go for $100 each, but if I was OK with that, we”d plan to go. We cleared our respective calendars for the target days.
This past Monday afternoon, Kelly forwarded me an email from her boss asking “Does anybody want my Masters practice tickets for this year? I can”t go,”. How fast did I call him? Right. Got them. SWEET!
I met Brad at his restaurant in Midtown at 5:45am on Tuesday. The forecast was for mid 60’s, but sunny, calm, and low humidity. It was reminiscent of the nicest spring days in San Francisco. We headed east, and as the sun rose over the horizon, it began to warm from the high thirties where it was overnight, and was crisp and clear. I opened the sunroof and we sat back for the easy two hour drive to Augusta. Just outside town, we stopped at a McDonalds” for a coffee and a pee, and there were 100’s of guys in Master’s logo”d golf togs swilling coffee and noshing on Egg McMuffins (can you use nosh and Egg McMuffin in the same context? Guess I just did.) The line in the one-stall men’s was out the door. Must be the Masters.
We drove on into town. The Azaleas in the quaint 60’s ranch-housed neighborhood going toward the golf club were in full bloom, and it was breathtaking. It was like driving onto the grounds of a religious order (guess you could say it is one, eh?) Brad knew the best place to enter the FREE PARKING area for Augusta National so we wound our way there. I found it interesting that there were a number of enterprising homeowners selling spots on their lawn for $20, while the course parking is FREE. Being a newbie, I would have bitten if Brad didn”t know the drill.
Nazi-like in their efficiency, Augusta National addresses every detail with fanatic fervor. Parking was orderly, efficient, and safe; the short walk to the course was paved and tree lined; the security area (everyplace has to do that now, I guess) only asked that you pass your hand-carries across,didn”t have to strip or take off your shoes before going thru the metal detectors. All the service tents were set up to get you in and out in a hurry, some with as many as 25 cashiers and a bagger at each station (most of them cute little high school girls who giggled a lot and had great mouths full of teeeeeeth). The food was priced so reasonably that bordered on the ridiculous: Sandwiches (ham and cheese, tuna salad, pimento cheese, or turkey,all on white or wheat sandwich bread sealed with a Dazee Seal-A-Meal) were $1.50; beer was $2 (50 cents extra for a souvenir cup). Chips were 50 cents. Cokes were 50 cents. By tradition, there were no napkins. They were discontinued years ago after improperly disposed ones were found skipping across the course on the east Georgia spring breezes. Its amazing how NEAT you can be if you KNOW there are no napkins. (Plus, pants are a reasonable facsimile).
Walking Augusta was incredible. It is much more up and down that it looks on TV, and the fairways are really narrow,30 yards at some places. 90 feet seems like a lot, but stand in the tee box and look at those 90 feet from 275 yards away! It would be like hiting it down Wall Street. And manicured isn”t the right word for the course,I visualized greens keepers in the middle of the night with nail scissors trimming the grounds like a stripper’s hoo hoo. (Reflect on that a minute, and then rejoin us). And Mother Teresa IS IT LONG (the fairways, not the hoo hoo’s)! 530 yards uphill with a right to left slope fairway slope? Fun to visit, but I wouldn”t want to “live” there.
Brad and I were able to see and follow a number of what turned out to be top ten finishers: Mickelson, Freddy, VJ, Retief, Els, Weir, Olazabal,and a few others as well: Garcia, Gary Player, Colin, Choi, Beem, Herron, Fuzzy. All laid back, laughing, and having fun on practice day. Nice.
After five hours or so in the sun, walking the course and slurping beer, we were ready to go. But first, THE TENT! At each entrance/exit gate, there is a giant tent SLASH pro shop with EVERY item imaginable with a Master’s logo. Go ahead, try me,yep, they had those,uh huh, they had those,sure, they had three colors in those. See?
I purchased a Masters green cap with THE MASTERS 2006 on it:
- Pimento Cheese sandwich and beer at Augusta: $3.50
- Full tank of gas on the way back to ATL: $33.15
- Masters cap: $26.00
- Afternoon INSIDE Augusta National on Master’s week: PRICELESS