When I was 12 years old I watched my first Masters on television. At the time, I had barely picked up a golf club and I figured that courses like Augusta National were something that I was only allowed to see on television. That all changed when I was the lucky winner of 2 Saturday tickets in the Masters "lottery" for the 2016 Masters. The plan was to golf, watch golf, golf some more, and then watch some more golf. Sleep was not figured into the agenda.
The 2016 Masters agenda started off on Friday with a 36 hole golf fest at Reynold's Plantation located in nearby Greensboro, GA. My golf buddy John and I got up early to play the Great Waters and The Landing courses. We took great pleasure in knowing that just down the road, the world's best were playing in the same windy conditions that we endured. After wrapping up 36, we hurried off to bed like a couple of kids on Christmas eve. In the morning we would be headed to The Masters for the first time.
Having obsessively watched and read about The Masters tournament and Augusta National over the years, I felt that I had a pretty good idea of what to expect and just as I expected, my expectations would be exceeded. Parking at The Masters is free as the lot is actually owned by Augusta and we were able to find a parking spot with relative ease. We popped a quick selfie to document that we actually made it to The National, (that's what the locals call it), and since no phones are allowed inside, we left our gadgets behind and headed into the gates.
There had been discussions as if I would actually weep when I first laid my eyes upon the grounds of Augusta. Fortunately, I was able to hold it together.
We had conveniently arrived 7 hours before the leaders (Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth) would tee off. This provided us just the right amount of time to walk the back side and play a quick nine, we used our imaginations instead of our golf clubs. After taking a quick glimpses at #18 green and muttering a few dumbfounded phrases, we headed down #10. Here are my first impressions of what I saw.
- Augusta National is much larger and more open than it appears on television. Everything just makes sense once you see it.
- As I had been told, the television coverage does not adequately capture the elevation change and slopes.
- Amen Corner is just as glorious as I had pictured it in my dreams.
- Scoreboards are everywhere and actually add a great deal of atmosphere to the course.
- The place smells different. A mixture of pine, bbq sandwiches and freshly cut grass. Somebody should make an "Augusta" pine tree air freshener.
- People are super nice, extra polite, and super happy. I mean really super happy.
- The tees and greens are much closer to each other than I had imagined. The Mackenzie architecture is very enjoyable.
- Since the course was configured with the patrons in mind, there are many great places to watch the action.
After carding a 41 and 39 on the back nine (I holed out for bogey on 15). It was time to watch the pros play actual golf. Here are some of the spots that we enjoyed.
- #6: As is the case with most holes, you can get right next to the players as they hit their tee shots into the drastically downhill par 3. We watched Hunter Mahan come 1 foot from making an ace. We groaned.
- #16: We snatched up a couple of chairs on the hillside. From this vantage point you can watch all of the action on the par 3 as well as the play on #15 green. We saw some birdies and a couple of "other" scores. One of the best vantage points in all of golf.
- Amen Corner: From the unique arrangement, you can watch the action on 11, 12, and 13 all from one spot. I knew this coming in but was surprised to find it all "right in front of you" in person. Golf Digest's Ashley Mayo informs me that there is an area behind 12 green where there are no cameras or microphones. Players take this opportunity to vocalize their frustrations.
- #2 green: You are right in the middle of the front nine action and will get to watch a fair number of eagle putts.
While I was most excited to watch the golf and see the course, I was also looking forward to getting my hands on the reasonably priced Masters concessions.
- Masters Pimento Cheese: After so much hoopla, this crowd favorite let me down. Consumption total: 1. Grade: weird.
- Masters BBQ Sandwich: Classic deliciousness, will repeat. Consumption total: 1. Grade: 9/10
- Masters Egg Salad Sandwich: Oh ho man, Egg salad is the leader in the clubhouse: Consumption total: 2. Grade: 9.5/10
- Masters Cookies: Chocolate chip and Oatmeal raisin: Consumption total: 5. Grade: 9.8/10
- Masters Ice Cream Sandwich: Peach yogurt in between sugar cookies. Consumption total: 1. Grade: 8.5/10
- Masters Carrots: Health effort that was met with curious looks: Consumption total: 1 bag. Grade: 7/10
Other things that happened at The Masters.
- We convinced Ashley Mayo that Shaquille O Neal just walked by her at Amen Corner.
- Plots to break into the exclusive Berkman's Place were conceived. We located it's location on the map but no action was taken.
- When Jordan hit his drive right on #17. We capitalized by making our first Master's television appearance. That was me in the yellow pants.
- We estimated that we'd probably hit #12 green only once out of every 6 attempts.
- We annointed Rory McIlroy the winner of the "Tighest golf shirt" award
- We exceeded our golf shop budget. Not only do I recommend establishing a healthy budget, I also recommend exceeding that budget. Coffee mugs and hats for everyone!
- We drank from the fountain on 17 in hopes that the mystical water would lower our handicaps.
- The bathroom attendant informed me that "A stall does it all" as he rapidly ushered patrons through the men's restroom.
After spending approximately 12 hours on the grounds at Augusta National, we were ushered off of the property and left the course changed men. This was easily one of the most enjoyable days of my golfing life. A big thanks to every one who played a part in my 1st day at The Masters.
As is typical for me on a Masters Sunday, it's golf in the AM and Masters watching in the PM. We teed off at the somewhat nearby Sea Island Golf Club and headed to a local restaurant to watch the conclusion of the Masters. Golf fans will know what happened next as we tuned in to CBS.
As a Jordan Spieth fan, I was shocked to watch the events that unfolded. However, I was inspired to see how Jordan reacted and I look forward to his response over the long term. As golfers and humans, we can all learn a lot by watching this 22 year old. We also learned quite a bit about the 2016 Masters champion, Danny Willett. With an outstanding final round, Willett won the Masters just as much as Spieth gave it away.
I will look forward to returning to Augusta and The Masters. Perhaps a practice round, where I can take pictures!