Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Masters Saturday

Saturday was a long but special day, my third visit to Masters. Gassed up the CRV shortly before seven and made it to Reid’s by twenty after. Meaghan and Liza were already awake, and they greeted me at the door.

We drove through downtown and headed into the morning sun on I-20. As we chatted I had one ear on the radio, and turned it up when 92.9’s Sam Crenshaw introduced Lang, who spoke in depth about the Hawks as they enter the playoffs. He does a better job as a guest, speaking specifically and succinctly, with the knowledge of a professional but the passion of a fan. Lang ends the segment asking Sam for a shout-out to Reid and Dave listening on their way to Augusta. How about that!

The sun-drenched interstate is filled with luxury vehicles full of high-achievers racing at high speeds to Augusta. I’m in a little bit of a hurry only to meet Burch, who has generously offered up the Masters badges. For a long while I follow an SUV driving 74 MPH. Reid and I talk Tech basketball, the Masters, and other topics. We ease into the rest stop at mile marker 182 at meet Burch, who expertly offers the best route to the course.

Our next stop was Bojangles for bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits. Traffic doesn’t back up until Alexander meets Washington Road, but in no time we’re parked in the massive grass parking lot adjoining the course. It’s a long walk to the grounds, through the gates, past the practice area, and toward the course.   

The first players we saw at hole number one were Matt Kuchar and Thailand’s Thonghai Jaidee, hitting their second shots. We crossed over to the eighth hole and saw the first group of the day: Bubba Watson and marker Jeff Knox, the Augusta National member recently written up in Sports Illustrated. After Knox hit his second shot he walked over to chat with a friend who happened to be standing right next to me.

Then we crossed over to the second green, where we watched several groups chip and putt: Adam Scott and Charley Hoffman, Kuchar and Jaidee, Henrik Stenson and Hunter Mahan, and Harris English and French amateur Romain Langasque. We cross to the third fairway, but continue on across 7, 17, and 15. We settle in the grandstand overlooking the 14th tee and 13th green. Behind the green tree tall pines are bent to the left from the wind. In the distance we can see the bridge leading across Rae’s Creek to the 12th green.
Bubba goes for the green on his second shot and hits it close. Knox laid up just short of the creek, and then chips it close. While Knox was hitting Bubba and his caddie were transfixed by something in the creek. They waited at the bridge for Knox and his caddie to point out what they were looking at. Perhaps a snake? After returning their attention to golf, both made their birdie putts.

Group after group hit their approach shots and putted on 13, and teed off 14. About half went for it and half laid up. Only a couple found trouble in or around the creek. Sergio’s downhill lie gave him fits. Early in the day competitors were aimed under the hole and putting uphill. Later on in the day more aimed right at the flag. A few found bad lies in bunkers beyond the hole. A handful of birdies were made, including gems by former champions Larry Mize (who had laid up) and Bernhard Langer (who didn’t). Bill Haas made the only eagle, chipping in from his position across the creek.

Thirty of the 57 making the cut were from foreign countries. Portly Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand didn’t look like he’d make it up the 14th fairway, plodding along ten yards behind playing partner Hideki Matsuyama. Many familiar names missed the cut: Phil. Rickie. Els. Zach Johnson. Vijay. Tom Watson. Schartzel. Mike Wehr. Mark O’Meara. Ian Woosnam. Ryan Moore.

The back gate golf shop wasn’t far, though it was up a hill. The line moved quickly, and soon we were inside. Lots of nice stuff, but nothing reached out and grabbed me. Nice dri-fit quarter zip pullovers. Dog collars. Socks. Umbrellas. The green Masters folding chairs were only $30.00, but they wouldn’t work well at the beach. A wall of caps, all the dreaded one size fits all. I had noticed marker Jeff Knox sporting a nice green Augusta National cap I’d never seen before, so we selected the blue version for Lang. I hope it fits. At the last minute I bought a keychain for Ceil.

No line at the concession stand. Two egg salad sandwiches and Coke (me) and chicken wrap, mini carrots, and Coke (Reid) might’ve cost $30.00 at Turner Field, but at the Masters set us back eleven bucks. We sat and ate and took our time getting back, but we only missed two groups. I had the thought that I should’ve brought a pen and blank piece of paper to take notes. Maybe next time.

Not only was there an abundance of great golf to watch, the day at the Masters was great for two of my other favorite pastimes: people watching and shoe watching. Patrons came dressed in everything from navy blazers and sundresses to cargo shorts and T-shirts. Lots of golf jackets and Masters attire. Golf caps and Masters caps new and old. I had chosen to wear my Braves road cap, to represent Georgia’s home team. I only saw one other Braves cap. Also one Royals cap, a Twins cap, two Astros cap, and predictably - two Red Sox caps.

There was a veritable feast of shoes to look at. Scores of fashionable Nike running shoes. A long-haired white sports junkie in his late twenties rocked a huge pair of Air Jordans. A middle-aged guy was wearing a pair of dated green leather Puma Californias. Also plenty of golf shoes, ranging from full on soft spikes to the latest in spikeless models. Saw one pair of my black adidas adicross golf shoes. No one was wearing Ryan Moore’s fashionable True Linkswear golf shoes. But the one shoe I saw more than any other was the very pair of brown leather ECCO spikeless shoes I has chosen to wear. I saw four or five guys wearing them, most with the original orange shoestrings that came with the shoes.
A few players rocked cool footwear as well. Rory wore an interesting pair of Kobe-modeled Nikes with blue uppers (top). Keegan Bradley’s Air Jordans has a huger 45 on them 9above). Spieth wore his same ugly pair of Under Armors. Snedecker wore pink pants (below). Mize, Bubba, Matsuyama, and amateur DeChambeau (and others) wore all black. I saw a patron in black pants and Nikes, something I could’ve worn. But I’m content in my khakis, white golf shirt, and Columbia pullover.
After Spieth and McIlroy teed off on 14 the grandstand emptied. We followed the crowd to the 15th fairway where we watched the last three groups hit their approach shots. Rory’s tee shot sailed left near a spot we had just vacated. I stood ten yards behind him as he effortlessly drew his approach around a tree and onto the green – an amazing shot.

Then we moved to the 17th green, yet another spot I had never before lingered. Kjeldsen made a nice chip from behind the green to save par. As Rory and Spieth neared the crowd grew. Professional photographers edged near to record the action. After they putted out we ran into Reid and Andrew Hall. I laughed too loudly at a comment – just as Spieth teed off into the trees on 18.

Reid and I made our way back toward the main gate, stopping to watch Rory hit his approach on 18. Two golfers toiled on the range. One was 58 year-old Langer, whose bogey on 18 keeps him out of Sunday’s final group. As we walked through the parking lot my fitbit hit 10000 steps.

We make it back to the car and join the gridlock on Washington Road. Then traffic clears and we meet Burch at the westbound rest stop. I speed home, hitting the downtown connector to join gridlocked traffic from the Braves game. After dropping off Reid, I speed home, making it just before 11 pm. Barney had been home alone all day, but was glad to see me.

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