Given the Masters is the only major played at the same venue each year, the intimacy viewers have with the course is unlike any other. So naturally, upon my first visit to Augusta National in 2005, I headed straight to the 10th tee and, with no clubs, started walking. The next couple of hours are forever etched in my memory as I witnessed in person what I’d seen on television for so many years. When I reached the back of the 12th green, I just sat down for a good 20 minutes and took it all in. It was, in a way, very much a spiritual experience.
What the viewers at home don’t see however is all the history, charm and mystique of the clubhouse and surrounding buildings. A favorite memory was having lunch one year with friends on the upstairs balcony overlooking the practice putting green. It was their first visit to the Masters and securing a table up there was like finding a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow. To top things off, towards the end of our meal, Messrs. Nicklaus and Palmer were ushered to an adjacent table for a bite of their own. When I motioned to who was sitting next to us my friends nearly fell off their chairs. I’m not sure they even tasted the Peach Cobbler after seeing the two legends in their presence.
I’d heard the wine cellar at Augusta National was legendary – and being partial to the odd red or two – I managed to gain permission to view the underground chamber for a brief while with the resident sommelier. The wines didn’t disappoint, and I just wish my oenology skills were akin to my golf prowess at the time to fully appreciate the selection within. I did however procure a bottle of Wolf Blass’s finest from their 1994 vintage.
I was fortunate to play in four Masters and after my last one thought I’d play in many more. Competing well required a laser-like focus, and in hindsight, I wish I’d taken in more of the ambience from the event. But these experiences and many more will stay with me for a lifetime, and every April when the tournament begins, I still smile at all the wonderful memories I have of Augusta National.