Sunday, April 14, 2013

At Augusta National, A Blind Squirrel Finds An Acorn

From today's Times and News-Star

Every now and then, in between the kids getting sick and your car insurance being due and the ice box going out, life decides to give you a cherry on top of an unexpected hot fudge sundae.

Such was the case a year ago this week when fate threw me a bone and I was allowed to play 18 holes at Augusta National. Ahem…yes. Thank you. I know. I couldn’t believe it either.

It was the day after Bubba Watson hit the historic hook on No. 10 to beat King Louie Oosthuizen (pronounced … “Oosthuizen”?) in sudden death and win the 2012 Masters. I know ’cause I was there. I was also there about five hours earlier, standing 30 yards from him, when King Louie double-eagled Pink Dogwood, something never before done in Masters play and something that would have been more historic had Bubba not pulled a gold coin from a barrel of pennies as the Georgia sun set on America’s favorite golf tournament.

So what happens is, each year the Augusta National membership draws media names from a hat and allows them to play the course on Monday, along with some blindly drawn advertisers and CBS TV folk. If you walk into the press room Sunday morning and your name is on the screen, you are one of the 40-odd folk who have basically won that year’s Masters Lottery.

I walked in that fine Sunday morning, ate breakfast, got my notes ready, noticed my name was on the board, and did what anyone in my position would do: I threw up.

If memory serves, I also screamed, wept, and changed my diaper. Then I went to Martha, who is the Matron Saint at the welcome desk inside the Press Building. Mrs. Martha is nice and helpful like the Grand Canyon is deep and wide.

“I don’t deserve to play,” I told her. “Someone else can take my place.”

“Can’t do it,” she said. “We drew the names and formed the foursomes last night. It’s you or nobody.”

Me. Nobody. Same difference. “I’ll be there,” I said.

I will not replay my entire round, but if you see me in person and want to know and have six hours, give or take, I’ll be glad to relive it. Thrilled to relive it.

I borrowed clubs from former Times editor Alan English and shoes from former Times editor Ronnie Ramos. Had other former Times editors been hanging around, I would have borrowed stuff from them.

Then, on this hallowed ground where thousands of people had been the day before, me and three other guys – Chris from Atlanta, Topher from Michigan and Mike from New Orleans – spent the next five hours pretending to be rich and privileged.

As the Masters likes to say, it’s a tradition like no other. But there was nothing traditional about this day for me and for the gang I was paired with. We all knew we were brown shoes at a black-tie optional gig, but once you got used to playing pretend, it wasn’t so uncomfortable.

We came up with a new slogan. “Monday after the Masters: A dream like no other.” Or, “A tradition like plenty of others -- if you’re used to double bogeys.”

Next week I’d like to share the highlights that even the non-golfer (which technically, based on talent, I am) can relate to. They involve jumper cables, a guy named Glenny, pansies, a valet and Henry Picard.

Until then, enjoy your Sunday at The Masters.