Amidst a sea of immaculate green, these colorful ants marched across the TV screen. Roars sprung out of the box on the stand and filled up the room as the little white ball disappeared into the hole.
One old guy was especially conjuring up the echoes through the tall southern pines. I wasn’t sure who he was.
“That’s Jack Nicklaus. He’s the greatest to ever play the game,” my Dad told me.
The year was 1998. The Golden Bear was making a run at another green jacket amidst the blooming azaleas at the ripe old age of 58 – twelve years after his most memorable triumph in 1986. Although Mr. Nicklaus came up a few shots shy of Mark O’Meara and an improbable victory, I was hooked for a lifetime.
How could legends of the past compete with the young guns of the game for the greatest prize in all of golf? This prospect tantalized me. It’s just one of the reasons The Masters is a cut above every other sporting event I know.
Heck, I just watched “The Big Three” meander their way around the Par 3 Contest Wednesday. This is 2014 – 50 years after Arnold Palmer’s last Masters triumph. Is there any other sport out there where we can still see all greats of the game congregate and compete together? Nope.
Not to mention, I love The Masters for its picturesque beauty. The course is full of postcard vistas – my favorite being Amen Corner. If I was ever afforded the opportunity to play on the carpet-like grass at Augusta National, I’d be scared to take a divot. It’s just too nice!
Nothing signals springtime quite like The Masters. To me, winter is not officially over until we take that annual stroll down Magnolia Lane. Oh, and there’s so much more.
The Masters fans are not called fans. And whatever you do, don’t call them spectators. They’re called “patrons” at Augusta. Get it right.
And when the patrons make their way onto the heavenly grounds, they are greeted by refreshments and concessions offered at prices from a time warp of yesteryear. You can start off the day with a coffee or a chicken biscuit for $1.50 before moving on to a $6 lunch of a domestic beer and a BBQ sandwich — both of which are a mere $3. Any vegetarians out there? You can order up a Veggie Wrap for $2.50 or the world-famous Pimento Cheese Sandwich for just $1.50. Go ahead and top it all off with a $2 Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich if you’d like. Don’t mind if I do!
Oh, and another thing. You can leave your cellphone behind before heading to Augusta National. No mobile devices allowed. How about that for tradition? Trust me, it doesn’t stop the patrons from lining up in droves. They don’t mind the day sans a connection with the outside world. After all, it’s easy to get lost in the alternate reality that is The Masters.
And that only adds to the allure and mystique of The Masters. The Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters Golf Tournament manage to master (no pun intended) the art of balance – the balance between timeless tradition and innovative vision.
This year, for the first time, the Club invited some of the best kids in the world for the finals of The Drive, Chip & Putt competition in an effort to grow the game and inspire the youth around the world. The Masters is at the forefront of the game. It’s not backward – just check out the app for the tournament. Trust me, you’ll be impressed with the coverage!
But there’s something about me, and I know a lot of you, that longs for the stability of tradition. And The Masters certainly brings plenty of that to the table. It’s the only major championship played at the same venue each and every year. Even moderate-to-casual sports fans can recognize some of the iconic holes played at Augusta.
What’s more, it’s the little things – like how the tournament still features the old manual scoreboards around the grounds. The anticipation builds as the patrons wait for the scorekeepers to update the golfers’ numbers. You just wouldn’t get that same feeling from real-time electronic updates.
Yes, The Masters will always hold a special place in my heart. It makes me feel like a kid again. I remember my grandpa talking with reverence about this tournament like no other. My household was glued to all the action down in Georgia on Masters Sunday – it’s a holiday. And although I much prefer the college football and basketball seasons to the golf grind, this single event reigns supreme.
This week just excites me like few other weeks can do. What will the storylines be on the back nine on Sunday this year? We know it will be exciting. The Masters always delivers. In our ever-changing culture and landscape, there is one constant – April at Augusta National. So mix yourself up a sweet Arnold Palmer, sit back and experience the warm feeling with me.