This Masters Week Should Be a Remembrance, Not a Lament

Herb Gould

No Masters? Very sad. That strengthens the case that April is the cruelest month.

But rather than dwell on what we’re missing, let’s savor our memories of Augusta National. and one of the most special sporting events on our calendar.

You know those lists—bucket lists, they call them—of 10 things, 20 things, 50 things every sports fan should see?

If I was doing a list of one thing every sports fan should see, it would be. . . the Masters. (Rose Bowl a close second.)

If you have been, you know what I mean.

If you haven’t been, everything about it is. . . just right.

The golf course is perfect. It’s beautiful. The holes are outstanding. The history is inspiring.

It’s much hillier than you think. Television shows a lot. And fortunately, we’re going to drink that in this week, I’m sure, with all manner of past highlights—including Tiger Woods’ memorable victory a year ago. But TV doesn’t show the terrain. The approach to No. 9 is straight up. The tee shot at No. 10 is straight down. People sit on the hill that descends to the green from tee of the par-3 6th, which could be a toboggan run, snow permitting.

The dogwoods, Georgia pines, the spectacular azaleas, Rae’s Creek. . . can there be a better backdrop for a sporting event? For anything? Television captures that wonderfully.

Here’s something that doesn’t show up on TV. For all the woodsy wonder, there are open stretches in the middle of the course where you can see several holes, plus that perfect white clubhouse.

I like that because it reminds me of the links courses of Scotland, where the golf course and the adjacent town are often visible. Somehow it connects Augusta National with golf’s origins as a game that is just another part of town life.

The hospitality is unmatched—from the throwback concessions prices to the merchandise building. The $1.50 pimento cheese sandwich and the $2 Georgia peach ice cream sandwich are as much a part of Augusta National as the colorful reflection of spectators on the pond at the 16th hole.

Someone once told me that the merchandise building is the highest grossing department store in America during Masters Week. It’s all so well organized. I defy anyone to walk out of there without shirts, caps and myriad other souvenirs to be cherished, and shared with friends and family. I picked up a little plastic shot glass with the famous Masters logo years ago. I use it all the time. It still makes me smile.

But what really makes Augusta Augusta is the exceptional layout of the golf course.

Is there anything better than that Sunday pin on No. 16, where the right shot will hit in the middle of the green and drain left down to the hole? The perilously tiny 12th green, where Rae’s Creek and swirling winds have combined to make or break so many bids for the green jacket?

And then there are No. 13 and No. 15, those captivating back-nine par-5s, where eagle and disappointment are always in play. In my mind, I can see Louis Oosthuizen making a double-eagle 2 on the second hole in 2012, only to lose to Bubba Watson’s amazing hook shot out of the woods on No. 10 in their playoff.

Another replay I love is from the 1964 Masters, when Jack Nicklaus shanked his tee shot at the par-3 12th. When Chris Schenkel says, ``Good gravy! He shanked that shot!’’ that never fails to make me smile.

No disrespect meant to Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer who ever swung a club, and his six green jackets, including the 1986 win that might be the best Masters ever. Even the Golden Bear got a chuckle out of that mis-hit.

That’s why we love golf. It’s so humbling.

I only covered two Masters, but had the great fortune to win the media lottery and play on the Monday after Phil Mickelson’s 2006 win.

When we began that round on the 10th tee, I was shaking, and not from the chill in the air that morning. I hadn’t swung a club in months and was drained from a week at Augusta coming after weeks of running around with the NCAA tournament and the wonderful, but nonstop end of college basketball’s regular season.

Walking around Augusta National is emotional enough. Actually swinging a club there—with all the history and joy and racing brain waves—takes it a whole ‘nother level.

I did not play well that day. But I did hit one good shot, amazingly, to the back fringe of the postage-stamp 12th green. The birdie putt just missed the edge of the cup.

No matter. Among the 100-plus shots I took that day, the only one I really remember is that tee shot.

We will miss the Masters this week. But I hope we all are able to reflect on past Masters and enjoy those memories, rather than ponder the disappointments of this false spring. 

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Herb Gould

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