The Golf Season officially begins with the “Greatest Week of Golf”.
That’s right…Masters Week is upon us and there is nothing more beautiful than the setting at Augusta National. From the dogwoods to the azaleas’ to the tall pines lining the fairways, there is no finer piece of countryside than this.
Early in my professional career, when I was an assistant golf professional at the Country Club of North Carolina, I would drive down to Augusta and watch the practice rounds. My first trip there, I parked in the parking lot and hopped the fence to walk up Magnolia Lane. What a sight! The huge Magnolia trees that canopy Washington Avenue sent chills through me. At the end of Magnolia Lane is the historic roundabout with the Masters logo in yellow flowers with the Augusta National Flagstick. I was the typical tourist and had someone take my picture beside it. Next stop was the practice area. Sitting in the bleachers I watched Seve, Greg, Ben, Arnie and Jack warming up for their practice round. There was a lot of friendly exchange amongst them. Then there was a still that came over the practice area as Sam Snead walked up to the practice tee. Slammin’ Sammy and his caddie grabbed a couple of bags of practice balls and found a spot on the practice tee. With that, every player stopped hitting and watched as Mr. Snead began his warm-up session. It was amazing to watch. These guys were in awe of the legend.
I decided to walk the entire golf course, so I followed Seve Ballesteros, David Graham, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw. I am pretty sure they had a friendly wager. The best part of walking with these guys was how casual they were. You could ask them a question and they would answer. On the 7th hole, the talent show began. Seve was in the greenside bunker and hit away from the hole that was cut in the front portion of the green; the ball landed and began rolling to the front of the green where it came to rest 2 feet from the hole, an easy “Seve Par.”
Amen Corner is remarkable. The gallery is all gathered behind the 12th tee. From there you can see the 11th green, the 12th hole and 13th tee. The 12th hole is far more intimidating in person than what you see during tournament coverage. The 13th hole is stunning. The dogwood trees and azaleas’ are amazing to say the least. All 4 players drove it around the corner on 13. Twenty-five years ago was still in the Persimmon era so the ball did not travel as far. The second shots into the green were with 2 and 3 irons. Today the guys use 5 to 7 irons. At the 16th hole, the guys hit their shots into the green, and then each of them hit shots that skipped them off the lake and up onto the green. The crowd went nuts!
Finally, the 18th hole does not look anything today like it did back in 1985. The tee was 60 to 70 yards up from where it is now. Today you hit through a shoot to the fairway. In 1985, the bunkers on the left were in play and made the hole more difficult. So, while you are watching the most watched golf event annually, imagine yourself in some of those areas of the golf course where I walked 25 years ago and you will know why this is the “Greatest Week of Golf”.