Memories of the Masters

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 9, 2016

At one point in my newspaper career, I had the privilege to work at a publication called The McDuffie Progress in Thomson, Ga. It was located approximately half an hour from the city of Augusta — the home of The Masters golf tournament.

Even though the Progress was a small rural bi-weekly newspaper, it still received press credentials to the world-famous sporting event. Because the paper had a small staff, I was frequently the one who went to the event to cover it.

While our press credentials were good for the entire tournament, we could only take photos on practice days. But our readership still loved to see photos of golf celebrities like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in their paper, even if it was only while they were practicing swings.

I remember one time I was taking photos and was walking along the lengthy par-5 No. 15 hole when I heard someone shout out, “Hey, Arnie!” I was lucky to turn just in time to snap a photo of golf royalty — not only Arnold Palmer, but also Jack Nicklaus, riding in a golf cart together. And I know our readers loved that photo, too.

While high-definition televisions do a great job of bringing the beauty of Augusta into the modern home, it’s still tough to get a sense of the course until you visit it for real. One thing that I quickly learned is that it’s not flat at all. Some of the hills are more like mountains, and the terrain is just as much a challenge as sand traps and water hazards. Rest assured that these golfers have to be in great shape to walk those 18 holes four days in a row.

I also learned that Augusta is famous for its affordable concessions, which is far different from most sporting events. And their egg salad sandwiches have a secret recipe that’s as well-guarded as the Coca-Cola formula.

In my career, I have been blessed to get to meet a lot of famous people, and visit a lot of famous places. I know that many people would have paid any price just for the opportunity to step foot on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, and I was lucky enough to do it several times.

I will always cherish those memories of The Masters.