My 2019 Masters experience summed up: it was the worst of times, then the best of times.
How could any experience at the Masters be ‘the worst of times,’ you ask? Easy.
- You could get rained out.
- Weather could delay (or prevent) your trip in to Augusta.
- You could be there on the course and then slip on a hill and wipe out, ending your adventure.
All of those things almost happened to us. I was traveling with Bill Roddy, Group Publisher of North Coast Media’s green group (which includes Golfdom, natch) and Golfdom Managing Editor Clara Richter. It would be the first Masters Tournament for both of them. I was hoping that luck would be on our side.
The drive in to Augusta on Monday was crazy. Huge storms — the same ones that closed ANGC on Monday — pummeled us most of the drive. I’m glad Roddy was behind the wheel, I’ve been skittish in the rain ever since I totaled my first Camaro after hydroplaning back in 1998. But we got there in one piece.
Tuesday morning, what’s that sound? Yup, that’s more rain pounding down at the house we rented a few miles away from ANGC. We got on the course early in the morning and managed to get a few holes in before the horns sounded, closing the course. We were wet and sloppy, but at least we were on the grounds at Augusta. That quickly ended.
I made a mistake next. Rather than staying in the car and waiting out the storm (I assumed it’d be a lengthy delay) we drove back to the house to clean up. Upon returning, I learned that “All Masters lots are full — seek other parking.” The ensuing journey to find parking lasted about an hour and wasted precious Masters time that was slipping away.
Finally, we got back on the course. Thankfully golfers were out in abundance now. But you had to be careful … because all around you were people who might lose their footing and slide right at you! We saw a brutal chain reaction crossing back to Amen Corner, one man’s slip leading to another two people’s downfall.
But hey — it didn’t happen to us. So it wasn’t all that bad!
But it was no Wednesday. Wednesday was awesome.
A Wednesday to remember
I attended the annual Golf Writers Association of America meeting in the beautiful Augusta National press building. Once that ended I got out on the course to experience some beautiful weather. And within 10 minutes of being on the course, I ran into two friends who are local to me: Casey Old of the Kansas Golf Association and Greg Wyatt, now retired, but a guy I worked with on the maintenance crew at Alvamar Golf Club some 20 years ago.
How’s that for kismet?
The three of us headed over to the second annual Friends of Golfdom meet-up (No. 6 green at 11 a.m.) to see who in the turf world might meet us out. We had another nice turn-out (photos to come in next week’s e-newsletter) with guys from North Carolina, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Nebraska making it. I tried to keep the group intact as long as possible but the lure of Amen Corner was too great. Guys started wandering off, including me, and as the day went along I kept running in to more and more guys who said they were there to meet up but didn’t see me. In all, I think I saw about 30 people … and I got photos of everyone.
(New meeting spot next year: No. 12 concessions at 12 p.m. How did I not think of this time/place before?!?)
As the group started to matriculate down the golf course, Old, Wyatt and I stopped to follow fellow Jayhawk Gary Woodland around Amen Corner. We even got a wave from G-Dub. As we’re standing there, Conor Moore, the comedian who does the golfer impersonations, walked right up to us. We all took photos with him and had a laugh.
From there, we caught up with Plant Food Co.’s Rich Sweeney at Amen Corner, where we ran into a group of New Jersey turf pros. Then, minutes later, we ran into Robert Trent Jones II (see that story elsewhere on the site.)
This went on all day. I ran into the Chicago (North Side!) group and hung out with them for a while, telling a few stories. I saw Andy Staples and his right-hand man Andrew Sandner. I saw Carolina Country Club’s Matthew Wharton, CGCS, and his better half.
My day at Augusta was winding down and my plan was to grab one more drink and then take some maintenance photos. As I paid, I heard a, “Seth!” and there was Matthew Lean and Shane Wright, two Florida superintendents who were disappointed to have missed the Friends of Golfdom meeting that morning … but now, at the end of the day, luck had it that we would all run in to each other.
Finally I had to hustle off the golf course to get to the Golf Writers Association annual dinner, where Bill and Clara were waiting for me. As I entered, I saw Bernhard Langer hanging out by the door … so of course I took a quick photo with him, one to add to my collection of your pal Jonesy with former Masters champions. The collection is growing and growing!
You can read more about the annual GWAA dinner here. But it was another great event, with a classy tribute paid to the late Dan Jenkins, then my friend Doug Ferguson of the AP getting the PGA of America Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. As we walked out … there’s LPGA Player of the Year Ariya Jutanugarn! So we had to get that photo, too.
We wrapped up the day stopping by to see my old friend Jim Rattigan of the Plant Food Co., and his whole crew. More stories were told and then we called it a night, because we had a 3 a.m. wake up call to get back to Atlanta to catch flights.
The next morning, after about three hours of sleep, I saw Tiger Woods at the gas station. Well, OK … it was a paper Tiger Woods, promoting Monster Energy Drink. But I still took a photo with the cardboard cut-out.
Because, you know, my photos-with-Masters-champions collection.
Just like that photo collection, my great days at Augusta National are growing and growing.