Good Friday Add On
I spent the past two days watching the Masters on ESPN. Since I visited Augusta National this past Monday, the broadcast had me saying things like, "yeah, I remember that hole and yes the flora are not the star of the show this year".
You see the rumor at Augusta on Monday was that the Masters committee would bring in new azalea shrubs to take the place of the existing plants that bloomed and have already turned green in the heat of this early spring.
In other years, I am told ice was placed at the base of the shrubs to slow their arrival and offset the premature blooming of the flora. But it is obvious that Mother Nature was bound and determined to produce an early spring this year leaving behind a "green shrub and tree" Masters.
I read one comment on how Amen corner is still breathtaking when it is green. That point is well taken as this 3 hole stretch of the course lays out so breathtaking to the eye of a golfer and fan. The 11th, 12th and 13th holes wind their way along Rae's creek flanked by hundreds of tall Georgia Pines and a serenity that endears itself to all who visit. We watched Tiger and Mark O'Meara play these holes on Monday.
Another highlight of my trip had to be the Southern Hospitality of our hosts. Not only at the course where all are treated like valued customers, but also away from the Masters.
Take our dinner at the downtown Boll Weavil Cafe and Sweetery on Sunday night. My party feasted on a scrumptous meal at a very reasonable price (about 15 dollar per entry). When it came time for dessert, since the service had been a little slow, our hosts volunteered our table for a free sweet per person. Mind you we didn't mind the wait, but who were we to act uncivily by turning down a free dessert?
Trouble was by a free dessert, we were talking about a family style helping. I had ordered "Death by Chocolate" and was served the equivilant of a third of a chocolate cake. Truly 4 delicious slices of the deepest and richest cake I had ever eaten.
I will add more as I watch Fred and Phil vie for the coveted green jacket this weekend.
My First Trip to the Masters
Funny thing happened to me on my morning jog a week ago! One of my best friends stopped me and said, “Where will you be a week from now”? Knowing full well that HE was heading to the Masters, I knew instinctively that Jimmy Treacy was asking me to go to Augusta,Georgia.
Fast forward a week later and there I was taking my daily walk on the hallowed fairways of one of the world’s premier golf courses. Here’s a log of some of my top memories.
During my hockey playing days, it was customary to get knots in my stomach a few minutes before game time. I would later come to realize that it was that nervous energy that fed me all game long. Call it a desire to win, a hatred of losing, whatever, when I got those knots, I knew I was ready.
So it was as I walked through the gates at Augusta National on Monday. You would have thought I was playing in the Masters as I was that nervous.
My first and lasting impression of the National was how awesomely spacious and beautiful the grounds are. I will bet they could squeeze two courses in if they desired. Still there was a large disappointment for this year's attendees.
You see the course is not nearly as drop dead gorgeous this year as the one we are used to seeing on TV. That may seem strange since this is by far the best golf course I have ever been on (and remember, I played Pebble Beach in 2001). Sure the fairways were mown closely with every grass blade in place. Sure the bunkers were raked so neatly it was as if each grain of sand was hand sewn by a machine.
Perhaps Boone County's Randy McNeeley said it best. "I come for the immaculate scenery, golf is secondary. It is like coming to church".
But one thing is missing this year.
It turns out the record breaking warmth of March that bathed much of the USA in summer like heat has taken its toll on the flora of Augusta National. In addition, meteorologist Wayne Browning of Clintwood Virginia reminds me that Augusta is in the throes of a multi-year drought.
The heat and dryness working in tandem have allowed for a much earlier growing season here at home and all the way to Georgia. So not surprisingly the magnolia at Augusta National were already totally green, the dogwood fading into their green summer coats and the azalea hanging on for dear life, sporting more greens than pinks and reds. In effect the 90 degree dry heat has the course in early June form.
On the course, I was warned how steep the hills were. Even today, 2 days later, my calves were hurting from the 8 hour walk I took up and down the course.
I will be adding to my blog all week long as play goes on at Augusta. I think you will enjoy stories of the half a chocolate cake I attempted to eat at the Boll Weevil Café and Eatery and my encounter with the Eisenhower Tree.
For now I leave you with a picture at me at the Masters scoreboard where this weekend another chapter in golf’s history book will be written.