Monday, April 14, 2008

The Masters

Yesterday, Maria and I went to Augusta to see the final playoff round of the Masters. I read somewhere once that Augusta National tried to make the tournament the best event ever in the U.S. In my book, they succeed, because this is the only large group gathering that didn't have me wishing I could head for the car as soon as I got inside. No cell phones. You can't imagine how wonderful that is unless you get to spend hours without them. No electronics of any kind. Etiquette enforced. Pleasant people. Polite people. It was glorious.
From the time we parked until the time we left, it was wonderful. Everything was organized and smoothly transitioned from parking to security screening to walking into the grounds. I had received member guest badges from a friend, so we had access to the less congested areas, including the restaurant and patio areas at the clubhouse and the smaller pro shop. Everything was as gracious and charming as I'd pictured it over the years. It was sunny, and although it was windy, it wasn't too uncomfortable. And of course, the grounds were lovely. Nothing I can say will do it justice.
We stationed ourselves in the stands at 15, and waited as the golfers came to us. While we waited we caught up on news since Maria and I never see each other as much as we'd like. We also enjoyed the 6 turtles on the bank of the water hazard (5 large, 1 small). A red tailed hawk sailed around overhead and birds chirped in the pines above. Behind us was a canteen with $2 beer, $1.50 pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken and ham and cheese sandwiches, $1.50 soft drinks and bottled water. All of it was logoed The Masters. It was so perfectly choreographed, I kept looking for Walt Disney. On the other hand, maybe he got to play a round at Augusta National and that's where he got the ideas for how to run Disneyland.
Then came the Scots. 4 men in full regalia: kilts, sporrans, knee socks, brogans. The only things missing were the small knives usually carried in the knee socks. Probably not allowed by the security team. People started filling in the stands. Sandy Lyle played through quickly and efficiently. I still don't know who was playing with him as the pairing list said something like non tournment marker. As soon as things started they stopped again. We all started watching and commenting on the turtles. We looked up the fairway to the crest where the golfers would generally appear after their first drive from the tee. A couple came and sat down with us. She announced that Choi and Slocum were so slow on the other hole they had been watching. Guess who we were waiting for?
It was so much fun to see these players in person. There were three drives from the fairway that made it to the tee. Most others laid up. There were two shots that landed in the water-I think one was Casey. Heartbreaking. Tiger missed his puts twice, no it must have been three times since he shot par on the hole. Mickelson hit into the far stands, some said deliberately, since that resulted in a free drop two club lengths from the stands. No one was hurt, and the spectator was allowed to keep the ball that struck them. Somehow I think they didn't mind. Mickelson got great applause throughout his play. Boo Weekly hit a drive that landed on a crossing area. He didn't like it, so he requested and received permission to move his ball to a better spot without advancing laterally. Of course, from our vantage point this was like watching charades since Weekley and the official used large gestures.
We were so captivated that we realized we hadn't moved for hours--we got sandwiches and pink lemonade at 5 pm after breakfast at 9:30 am. Snedecker had fallen apart by the time we saw him, and I was disappointed for him, because I really wanted him to win. Immelman was deliberate and efficient.
So after Immelman and Snedecker, we slowly made our way back to the car. Our route took us past two more leader boards and past 17 and then 18. By the time we reached 18, we knew it was Immelman's to lose since Tiger finised 5 under par, and Immelman was still at 8 under par.
Even the policemen directing traffic were gracious. As we walked across the street from Augusta National to the parking lot, the deputy asked if we had a good time and when we said yes, sincerely said he was happy to hear that and to come back next year. I'm telling you, it was disney-ish, in a good way.
When I got back to the car, I found that the sunscreen had long ago given up it's battle with the sun. Apparently the wind kept my face cool enough that I couldn't feel it burning. No matter, I wouldn't have moved anyway.
On our way home, Maria asked me what I would have done differently.
Not one thing.

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