I went into this weekend, into this potentially once-in-a-lifetime trip to Augusta National, having heard from several people who had been, telling me what to expect. My grandfather and a few friends who had been there told me what I needed to see, what I needed to experience, and I came to The Masters with those preconceived expectations in my mind. Worship Leader Extrordinaire Trey Bailey even said, “You have to go to The Masters to see what Heaven looks like.” I have to say that everything they said is true…and then some.
I hardly know where to begin to describe my trip to The Masters, so I’ll start with first impressions. When Michael (my brother-in-law) and I pulled into the parking lot, and the spaces were made of sod instead of asphalt, I knew I was somewhere special. Even though I’m not a golfer…and, truth be told, only a casual fan…I had the excitement and anticipation of a little kid. I kept telling Michael, “We’re at The Masters! Can you believe it?”
I immediately noticed that it seemed like the folks at Augusta National thought of everything, and Michael and I both likened it to Disney World. Every detail was crafted with the tournament in mind. The most obvious feature was the landscaping. The azaleas were exquisite in various reds and pinks and cottony whites, the trees were resplendent in the joyous greens of early spring, and the grass was lush and nearly unreal. I’ve never seen pine trees as thick as the ones there. The natural beauty was a site to behold and truly appreciate (especially for a Southern son), and, though I had seen photos and television camera shots countless times, seeing was really believing!
Michael and I walked much of the course at first, knowing that we had nearly an hour before the competitors began to tee off, and then we settled in the stands at the 4th green, where we could also see the tee box for the 5th hole. It was there that it started to rain…a rain that would dampen pretty much everything but our spirits. The rain continued off and on…well, mostly on…for the next few hours. After we watched the first several parings, including Zach Johnson, last year’s champ, the rain picked up and play was suspended. So we decided to walk a bit more and find ourselves some lunch.
Lunch was exactly the reasonably priced treat I was told it would be. I had a sandwich, chips, peanuts, a chocolate bar, and a drink for only $6.00! The pimento cheese was good, if a bit strong and sharp for me, but I can now say I had a famous Masters pimento cheese sandwich. We had to hunker down underneath a pine tree in the pouring rain because of the lack of seating. The rain seemed to end practically the minute we finished lunch.
After we ate, we heard the announcement that play would resume soon, so we found our way to the infamous Amen Corner, where we found a place to stand and watch that was nearly too good to be true. At Amen Corner, we were able to see the 11th green, the entire 12th hole (a par 3), and the 13th tee box from one place. I told Michael it wasn’t a place to be if you had ADD, but it was amazing to see the action from such a fabled spot.
A while after we got there and play resumed, the first few pairings came through, and we saw all the guys we saw at the 4th hole, so we stuck around, knowing that Tiger Woods would be along soon. The press of the crowd that gathered as Tiger drew near was amazing; I half expected to see people carrying palm branches and trying to touch the hem of his pants to receive healing. Some people really did treat his arrival like a religious experience…that’s not much exaggeration at all! The cheers as he approached and the silence as he played through were like no other, and it was clear we were in the presence of greatness. OK…so greatness was all around, but a player like Tiger Woods comes along far too rarely.
After Tiger played at Amen Corner, we walked around just a little more and went to the shop. I splurged on a shirt…because, hey, when am I going to The Masters again, right? Finally, we made it back to our car, satisfied because we could now say we had been to The Masters.
On a side note, I was able to make it to Kris & Kina’s wedding reception, even though I missed the ceremony…