April 11, 2004
I love the golf course at Augusta National, where the Master's Tournament is held every year. I managed to see the place for the first time in 1985, when I tended the scoreboard on the 14th tee from 8:00 until noon, because my late friend Steve Hamby worked for the phone company at the time and he and his cohorts ran miles of cable for the news broadcasters. He got four "service" tickets and gave me one of them.
I had to stay behind the scoreboard and just swap the name-cards and the scores until I was relieved by two Boy Scouts at 12:00. After that, I was free to roam the course.
It's a beautiful place with all the flowers in bloom. You don't even want to fart there. I smoke, but I put every one of my cigarette butts in my pocket. I wasn't about to despoil that hallowed ground. I tried to sneak into the clubhouse, but I didn't make two steps past the ropes before the gendarmes had me and tossed me back into the huddled masses.
Still, I was impressed.
I went back four more times when I was married to Jennifer. She was lab manager at the plant during those days and she spent a lot of money with Fischer Scientific. The regional sales manager always had tickets to the tournament and a place for us to stay. After play was completed one Saturday, I walked the entire couse, from tee to green, on every hole.
I remember telling Jennifer at the time, "This is NOT a difficult golf course from tee to green. It's wide-open and the rough is better than most fairways I play from. You let some long-hitting sumbitch who can putt these greens get hot here, and he'll eat this place alive."
Lo and behold. I am a prophet. Along came Tiger Woods.
I watched the third round of the Masters yesterday, and I see the changes they've made to the course. They tried their best to Tiger-proof it, and so far, they appear to have done a good job.
Now, if you stray from the fairway with a 300-yard drive, your ass is in trouble. The bunkers that Tiger once flew off the tee have been moved back 50 yards, so that they are a menace, especially for the long-hitters. Yeah. Now you actually have to play tee-to-green and STILL putt those treacherous greens.
Personally, I believe that the course is better now.
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