Trip to Augusta was well worth the wait

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 14, 2002

Sports Columnist

I got the opportunity this week to go to Augusta, Ga., to watch a practice round at the Masters.

We drove up on Monday and was there on Tuesday morning, along with about 30,000 others just to watch the world’s greatest golfers hit it around with nothing at stake. It was worth the trip just to see the Augusta National Golf Course. It is simply out of this world when it comes to a beautifully manicured golf course.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

It was also my first time seeing the place. It was one thing that I wanted to make sure I did before I died and coming up on age 55, I’m glad I did it.

It was fun watching Tiger Woods hit the golf balls on the driving range for about 30 minutes, watching Phil Mickelson putt within 10 feet of 15 minutes and seeing Arnold Palmer up close and personal. Palmer, at 76, has seen his better days, but he’s still a gallery favorite. He shot an 89 in the first round on Thursday and says Friday’s round will be his last as a player. He was quoted as saying: "When you hit what you think was a good drive and still find yourself 100 yards behind all the other guys’ drives, it’s time to stop playing with the younger players."

Palmer, of course, won the Masters’ Championship four times (’58, ’60, ’62, and ’64). Only Jack Nicklaus, with six victories (’63, ’65, ’66, ’72, ’75, ’86), has won more.

Tiger, of course, is the one to beat, and shot a two under par 70 in the first round and is three shots back. The leaders in the clubhouse going into Friday are: Davis Love III, who shot a five under par 67. Love grew up in Georgia and still lives in nearby Sea Island. Winning the Masters is his lifelong dream.

One shot back is Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Argentina’s Angel Cabrera at four under 68. Mickelson, Retief Goosen of South Africa and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington are two strokes back of Love with 69’s.

Defending champ Woods, Vijay Singh and Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal are in at 70.

The things that stood out the most to me is the way they do things at the Masters. They don’t have any elaborate facilities for the 40,000-plus fans and the food is very simple. Probably the most popular food items are homemade egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches. Then there’s chicken, ham and turkey sandwiches with mustard and mayonnaise already on them. All for just a buck fifty. They have all types of candy bars, chips and nuts for a $1.00. The drinks are beer, for $1.75, lemonade, Cokes, iced tea, and water, for $1.00 even. They also have ice cream.

It’s cheap and good as they feed the thousands of hungry fans each day. I saw actual food locations and they were all busy.

The main thing you want to do before you leave the Masters is drop by one of the huge merchandise stores and buy hats, shirts, sweaters, visors, towels, etc., anything that has the Masters logo on it, which is a yellow map of the USA with a golf pen pointed straight down on Augusta. There’s no logo in the golf world that has the visibility are the distinction. Only at the tournament site will you find Masters merchandise.

Something else that they do at the Masters that I haven’t seen at other golf tournaments, which includes three PGA championships, is they have a place to check-in what you buy at the merchandise store so you don’t have to carry them around with you all day. You check-out your things as you leave.

One other significant characteristic of the Masters is that you don’t have to worry about leaving your chair seats and walking around the course. When you get back, your umbrella and chair is exactly where you left them.

The Masters is one class act. One of the great athletic events in America and one of the hardest tickets to buy. A four-day Masters ticket could cost you as much as $2000 on a good day. On other days it could cost more.

I’ve finally been able to see this magnificent golf course and know now what people have been telling me for years. If you get a chance to go, take it!

There’s golf tournaments, then there’s the Masters.

It’s truly one of the top three sporting events in the world.