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The Masters, ‘a trip we will always cherish’

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By Lee Kendall

Well, did you see my wife and me this past weekend?

We were right there, along with about 50,000 other people, at the Augusta National Golf Course, site of the annual Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga.

With tickets to the Masters as hard to find as hen’s teeth, Kelly and I stumbled upon two tickets to the Masters as a local friend who has gone for years, was unable to stay for the final two rounds of the four-round event. He asked if we were interested in meeting him in Augusta after the second round and then attending the Saturday and Sunday rounds.

It took about a nanosecond for me to say yes.

Kentuckian Kenny Perry frittered away a two-shot lead with two holes left to play and was defeated on the second playoff hole by Argentinian Angel Cabrera, but that was the only blemish on an otherwise glorious weekend for the two of us.

We arrived in Augusta late on Friday night, awakened early on Saturday morning and arrived at the golf course at about 7:30 a.m. Pretty early, considering the first tee time on Saturday morning wasn’t until 10:35.

However, we weren’t alone. Thousands of patrons arrived at about the same time we did, knowing the gates that led directly to the golf course wouldn’t open until after 8.

We were able to do our souvenir shopping and ate breakfast while waiting to be allowed on the course.

With a little over two hours before the first players teed off, we staked out a spot on the first tee where we placed our official Masters chairs, then explored the back nine, taking in Amen Corner, and soaking in the beauty of the place.

Television does not do justice to Augusta National. It is undoubtedly the most pristine, unblemished golf course I have ever seen. You could spend the entire tournament looking for weeds and come up empty.

The undulations on the greens and elevation changes on nearly all the holes aren’t noticed on TV, but trust me, they are there. I got more exercise in our two days there than I have gotten in the last several years, combined. You won’t be able to tell it when you see me now, but right after the tournament was over, for about five minutes, I saw a friend and he mistook me for bicyclist Lance Armstrong.

After our foray on the back nine, the tournament resumed on the first tee, where we settled in. We watched every player who made the cut, 46 golfers in all, tee off. After the last pairing, which included Perry and Chad Campbell, hit, I followed them for the remainder of the front nine.

After those two players completed their first nine holes, I sat down at No. 18 green and watched players finish their rounds.

Kelly and I limped back to the house we were staying in and, after a bottle or two of Advil, went to bed.

On Sunday morning we followed the same plan of attack, except we staked out a claim to some property above No. 3 green and to the left of No. 4 tee… No more walking up and down those hills for us, we were now already in tip-top physical condition.

No. 3 is a short par four (350 yards). From our vantage point, we could see the approach shot to the green and the chipping and putting that finished the hole.

No. 4 is a long 240 yard par three. On this hole, we could see it all… the tee shot, and chips and putts.

We arrived at our Sunday post between No. 3 and No. 4 at about 8:45… Again tee times weren’t until 10:35. We were able to talk with several patrons who were Masters veterans for quite awhile until the first twosome showed up at about 11:10.

While we were waiting and talking, we observed why the golf course is in such immaculate condition. No fewer than 15 people were assigned the task of preparing the green at No. 3 and the tee at No. 4.

One man on a mower double-cut the apron around the green and was accompanied by three men with long flexible poles whose duty it was to break up clumps of grass that were left behind by the mower.

Five men hand mowed the green, again double cut, and set the pin for the day’s play. Another six men were responsible for prepping No. 4 tee for play.

I can only assume that the rest of the holes on the course were handled in the same manner.

As a connoisseur of fine concession stands, I can tell you without reservation that the concession stands at the Masters are top-notch, both in quality of food and price.

On the menu: sausage biscuits ($1.50), egg salad sandwich ($1.50), tuna salad sandwich ($1.50), pimento cheese sandwich ($1.50), BBQ sandwich ($2.50), iced tea ($1.50), soda ($1.50), water ($1.50), beer ($2.50), ice cream ($2.00)…compare these prices to what patrons would pay at any other major sporting event.

It’s a wonder I didn’t lose the conditioning I worked so hard to attain on Saturday with those choices and prices… I guess it was self-discipline that kept me in check.

We’ll always remember our once-in-a-lifetime visit to Augusta National. It’s a trip that the two of us will always cherish.