Sunday, April 10, 2016


I love watching The Masters on television.

Part of that is because as a (horrible) golfer myself, I can empathize with some of the story lines falling over themselves this week at Augusta National. I mean, what duffer can't relate to Ernie Els penciling in a 9 on his scorecard after the first hole on Thursday? Heck, I do that at Lexington Golf Course all the time.

Another reason I like watching The Masters is because I've actually been to Augusta National. Twice. And not as a member of the media, either.

The first time happened about 25 years ago. That's when Gene Klump, then the athletic director at West Davidson High School, organized annual bus trips to Augusta to watch a Masters practice round. So I hitched a ride. Bucket list.

My prized Masters souvenir key fob
That was awesome. What sticks with me about that trip is that as we approached the golf course, we drove through one commercial district after another. Restaurant Row. Belly Boulevard. Sidewalk vendors. Parking, $50. Then we made a left-hand turn, went through a gate, and suddenly, in the midst of all this... this... stuff, we had entered a patch of heaven.

Voices became hushed. The rowdy bus riders had become reverential. I almost crossed myself, and I'm not even Catholic.

We were pretty much allowed to go wherever we wanted on the course (within bounds), just meet back at the bus at 3 p.m. So enjoy yourselves. And I did. I walked hither and yon, taking in sights I'd only seen on television before this, not quite believing where I was.

I needed something to remember this by, so I bought a key fob with The Masters logo on it. It's the only thing I could afford. To this day, it's a cherished possession. It's been restitched twice by a leather craftsman and it may need another visit soon.

My next visit to Augusta happened about eight years ago. My friend Chris had gotten hold of a pair of practice round tickets, and he'd give me one if I did the driving. Well, let me think about that for a min... OK, I'll drive.

Standing on the 11th fairway at Augusta National.
 So off we went. The weather was a little cooler this time, but the azaleas were in bloom and the course was in immaculate condition.

The commercialism still surrounds the course — at one point, we saw John Daly's RV parked just off Washington Road, selling golf stuff within sight of Magnolia Lane. I wondered if it was his personal golf stuff.

Nevertheless, once we got on the course, Chris and I walked everywhere. Even though this was my second visit, I was surprised by how hilly the course was. You don't really see the hills on TV, except, perhaps, for the 18th fairway.

So there it is. Somehow, I managed to get to Augusta National twice in my life. I don't know if that's a common thing, or not. I suppose the farther you live from Augusta, the more difficult the journey becomes.

But whenever I watch The Masters on television, I just kind of sit back and smile because, you know, I've seen heaven.

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