Thursday, April 5, 2012

To Augusta: Thanks For Sharing

AUGUSTA – If this comes off as a bit of a love letter, it is.

I write in Louisiana, where the deer and gators play, where pines grow tall and rednecks of all shapes and sizes roam in a God-made Sportsman’s Paradise. I know about beauty and outdoors.
But Augusta National, even wind and rain-beaten and azalea-less, is enough to make anyone’s head turn.

Wednesday was my first day on the course, after half a century of waiting. Today is my second. I think it got even more impressive overnight.

Did I say thank you, Augusta, yet?

One azalea behind 15 green. That’s the only thing blooming. But not everybody needs makeup. This real estate has enough green and blue and history to carry the day, even without “flowers,” as I heard a girl from Scotland call the azaleas yesterday.

“I’m not a golfer,” she said, a bit overwhelmed by the siren song of Augusta National, “but The Masters is so much more than just a game.”

White Dogwood. Yellow Jasmine. Amen Corner. Magnolia Lane. The Big Oak and Rae’s Creek and all that. You dip up lore by the buckets around here.

It’s easy to take a place for granted when you see it all the time. Diamondhead turns into just a nice rise in the land when you lived in Waikiki for a few years. The Grand Canyon is a big hole when it’s in your backyard, the Rockies another hill to climb when Denver’s your home.

But if you come here every year and you haven’t looked around in a while, pretend again that it’s the first time. Not many things make my jaw drop anymore. This place does.

First thing Thursday, we watched 13 Masters champions tee off in just three swings: Jack Nicklaus (6 green jackets), Arnold Palmer (4) and Gary Player (3). The I walked the back 9 with only a few hundred of my closest new friends while the first groups went off the front. Shady. Pine straw. The sand on 11. The narrow green on 12. The chute on 13. TV shows you a lot, but it can’t show you everything, like the perspective beneath the rise and facing 15 green or how much is demanded off the tee at 10 and 11 or how cozy 18 green is.

Your children are always prettier in real life than they are in pictures in your wallet.

Took me 15 hours to get here because half the trip was like driving in a clothes washing machine. I’d sign up to do the same thing again today if it meant making tomorrow’s tee times.

I don’t think people in Augusta take this place for granted. You’re proud of it and it shows. When you signed on to help God cut this place it, it was a good day’s work, and I thank you.

A couple of weeks ago I told a golf pro in Louisiana I might be going to The Masters but wasn’t sure.

“You crazy? You’ve GOT to go."

He was right. I might be crazy, but I'm not stupid.