My Day At The Masters
I've gotten to the point in life where I enjoy watching golf as much if not more then playing it. I've never had the time or money to invest in practicing the rounds and rounds necessary to become a somewhat competitive player. If I play 4 times a year I'm doing good. I grew up attending the GGO (Greater Greensboro Open). At that time I had hardly swung a golf club so little did I know what I was witnessing those athletes doing was so remarkable. Now I get it. Now I know how hard golf is. In my opinion it may be the hardest sport on the planet to be consistently great at. I haven't been to a PGA event in many years but I still love taking a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon and watching some golf. Especially with the advent of HD television.
Every sport has it's crown jewel. The one event that every fan dreams of attending at some point in their life. As a golf fan, that event is the Masters. It's called the "hardest ticket in sports" for good reason. The tournament has been sold out since the mid 60's and several years ago the waiting list for tickets had grown to such a number that the organizers cut it off. If you don't know someone in high places, you aren't going. The practice rounds are another story. You could still purchase tickets for the Monday-Wednesday rounds all the way up to 1996. That's when a certain golfer named Tiger burst onto the scene and even the practice rounds have become an equally hot commodity. The Masters now accepts applications for practice round tickets each summer. Then in the Fall they hold a lottery to random choose who will get tickets. This past year my pastor Mike hit the golfing jackpot and scored 4 tickets to the Monday practice round and chose to take yours truly.
From outside of the course you'd never know it even existed. The main road running past the entrance is your typical 5 lane busy commercial avenue full of gas stations, malls, stores, and everything else under the sun. The only thing separating the noise and business of "Any town USA" from the course are rows of trees which provide a natural fortress around the course.
Once inside it's shoulder to shoulder people as you make your way through the Masters Village. There you'll find the only place on earth to buy "official" Masters attire. You'll also find your food court which to my surprise had the cheapest prices of any sporting event I have ever been to. Sandwiches ranged from $1.50-$2.50 and drinks were only $1. Once you make your way through the village and canopy of trees you literally feel as though the heavens have opened up. Words and pictures can not begin to describe the beauty of the place. To me it's the perfect combination of God's creation and man's ability to help take care of it. Augusta may not only be the crown jewel of golf but of all sports.
After having a look around the practice green, 1st, and 10th tees, we made our way down to Amen Corner, one of the most storied places in all of golf. Since we arrived as the gates were opening the bleachers were not quite full so we were able to find some good seats and take in the golfers approach to #11 along with their play at #12. After lunch we made our way up to the intersection of #2, #3, #7, & # 8. This may be the best place on the course as a spectator. You can see two greens and two tee boxes. The most impressive golfer I saw was Vijay Singh. By far the longest hitter I've seen in person. But it was his work ethic that impressed me the most. Most of the other golfers were taking an easy, talking to the crowd, playing around, and just enjoying the beautiful day we had. Not Vijay. That guy took three shots from each spot his ball landed and kept taking shots from various places around the green until he was satisfied he had practiced that particular hole enough. He's extremely focused which is probably why is one of the top 5 golfers in the world.
The only disappointment I had was not seeing Tiger woods. He has become by far my favorite athlete in all of sports. He's at the top of my bucket list for people I'd like to see/meet before I die. We had been told all day that Tiger would probably not be coming out to practice any since he practiced Sunday before the crowds arrived. So we packed up and left around 3:30pm for our 5 hour drive home. As fate would have it, Tiger came out at 4:30pm. He only played a few holes before heading back in.
Before I went I would have said the trip would have been a waste without a Tiger sighting, but I would have been terribly wrong. Even without my glimpse of the greatest golfer ever this was still an amazing experience. I've been to just about ever kind of sporting event you can name (MLB, NBA, NFL, PGA, NCAA) and this was by far the top of the list.