Have you ever been teased with something to the point you could cry? The perfect house is fifty thousand dollars over your budget. Your favorite college football team loses the national championship game on the final play. The McRib makes its comeback the week after you started a fierce diet.
We’ve all been there. My biggest tease was a golf course. Not just any old acreage of grass, but Augusta National in eastern Georgia, home of The Masters, the best golf tournament the sport has to offer. Let me explain.
The tournament is always in April. To attend, whether it be one of four rounds, a practice round or par 3 contest, you must sign up online to enter a ticket lottery. Winners of tickets are selected at random. You will refresh your email for the results like a lunatic, believe me. In 2014, a friend of ours won tickets to the Monday practice round. He, another friend, my dad and I made the trip. We stayed in a small hotel about an hour outside of Augusta, and the aroma of a nearby Waffle House hung thick in the air. We gave in and went around nine-thirty that night.
The next morning, it was foggy, with rain in the forecast. We toted umbrellas and pullovers and prayers for the rain to hold off. It didn’t. We strolled parts of the most beautiful golf course in the world for fewer than two hours. The practice round was canceled really before it got started. Major bummer. Just setting foot on the muddy grounds was more than most golf fans get in a lifetime. We were appreciative.
Then, a miracle. Everyone who came that day got rain checks. We were allowed to come back in 2015. We had a year to speak with the golf gods, to plead for pleasant weather. April finally came and we drove Interstate 20 across the state line, past Atlanta and on to Augusta. No rain. We wanted to see it all.
Television does not do Augusta justice, no matter your TV’s size or 1080p resolution. The grounds are hilly and spacious. The fairways are so pristine that you feel as if walking on them is a felony. Early in our tour, we had our picture taken in front of Hole No. 13’s green, encircled by bright pink and purple flowers. The hole’s name is, fittingly, Azalea. We watched Tiger Woods tee off on a long hole called Yellow Jasmine, stood in a long line to have our photo taken on Magnolia Lane, saw Titleist ProV1s clear Rae’s Creek on No. 12, walked every square inch of the place that we could, ate pimiento cheese sandwiches for a dollar-fifty.
I watched the eventual tournament winner, Jordan Spieth, send golf balls airborne on the driving range. I stood close to Graeme McDowell, who played at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, as he putted on the practice green. I said hello to Tom Rinaldi, who tells tear-jerkers for ESPN.
You don’t have to appreciate golf to have a blast at Augusta. It is heaven on earth, even if it rains. The merchandise store has more stuff for sale than a Sam’s Club, and the food is always cheap.
I’ve passed through the gates at Augusta National twice, and will most likely never win the ticket lottery. Every time I’ve tried, I have eventually received the “We’re sorry” reply.
But you can bet I will sign up every year for the rest of my life.