This was my first time going to a Monday practice round at The Masters. I’ve been down to Augusta National for quite a few Masters now, but never on Monday. I had a buddy tell me that Monday is the best day – the course is in pristine condition, and everyone is super excited to get everything kicked off. After spending Monday walking the hallowed grounds, I couldn’t agree more.
Any trip to Augusta for The Masters is great, but this year’s pilgrimage was special: this was the first year that Mrs. RCS and I went together. She’s actually been to more Masters practice rounds/rounds than me, and I think she was more excited than me to go (if that is humanly possible). Regardless, we’d never been together, so we had Monday, April 4th marked on the calendar for quite some time.
We dropped #FrankDawg off with her folks and made our way to Augusta. We were lucky enough to hitch a ride with some friends that had rented a van, so we didn’t have to worry about the commute. This is the way to do it, folks. It’s worth every penny. We arrived at the course around 9:30 and grabbed a few pimento cheese sandwiches, a bbq sandwich, some potato chips, a few peanut caramel nut clusters (seriously awesome) and a couple ‘domestic light beer(s)’ (Miller Lite) for breakfast.
We lazily made our way to 15 green, where I really enjoy watching the players decide to lay up or to go for it. Then we made our way over to 16 so we could watch them skip it across the green. It’s very obvious who has skipped before, and who hasn’t. First timers always hit it too soft, and it gets about halfway across the lake before it sinks.
Then we hit the back merchandise tent and loaded up. A note to all you Masters patron readers: do not waste your time at the main merchandise tent next to the practice area/clubhouse. There was a line 100 yards long just to get inside. Instead, make your way to the merchandise tent behind 16. There was no line and they have the exact same stuff. I heard someone say they waited over an hour just to get into the main tent. We did all our shopping and got two more domestic light beers in under 15 minutes.
We then made our way to Amen corner where we had two very surreal experiences. We were getting our obligatory picture made on #13 fairway when we noticed a very nice lady laughing at Mrs. RCS and I cutting up. She was wearing a scarf covering her head, and Mrs. RCS, being the friendliest person in the world, struck up a conversation. She was from New Jersey, and at the tail end of a 14-month chemotherapy cycle. We asked her what brought her all the way to Augusta for The Masters, and I will never forget her answer. I’m paraphrasing, but you’ll get the point:
“Well, I’m a part of a Make-A-Wish group in New Jersey for adults with cancer. My wish was to bring my husband to The Masters since he has been such a rock for me during my battle with cancer. We have watched The Masters together for the last 40 years, and he would always rub my feet so we didn’t have to turn the channel. I couldn’t think of a better way to repay him than to bring him down here for his favorite golf tournament of the year.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
Now say a prayer for Mary Anne from New Jersey. Mrs. RCS and I were lucky enough to spend a few minutes with an angel on the 13th fairway at Augusta National. I will never forget that experience, or her.
God bless you, Mary Anne.
We walked around Amen Corner for a while, then our second great experience happened: we saw Tom Watson in his last Masters putt out on 13, and pound a drive up the 14th fairway. Whatever your feelings are on Watson, it was really nice to see such a gentleman appreciate the warm receptions. While he was waiting for the 14th fairway to clear, he had a conversation with us in the gallery about the best sandwich they serve at the concession stand. He said something to the effect of ‘we don’t get to eat all that stuff’ because they are out on the course playing. I don’t believe that Tom Watson or any other player couldn’t get their hands on a pimento cheese sandwich, but he made a lot of our day by being a really cool guy.
The young guy you see walking to Tom’s left is his grandson. ANGC made an exception for Mr. Watson and allowed him to bring a family member with him on his practice round.
Vijay piped this drive about three bills right down the middle on 11. Talk about threading the needle…
Overall, Augusta National and The Masters lived up to everything I was hoping. It is a magical place and the energy is great. I can’t wait to watch the tournament this weekend. The greens are fast, folks. I don’t think the winner gets to -18 this year.
And now for the schwag.
To say the least, we blew it out this year. My immediate thoughts on the selection was ‘very good’. They have a lot of the traditional Masters stuff you think about – hats, shirts, belts, koozies, flags, etc.; most of the stuff that you’d use on the golf course. There has been a lot more added to the selection, such as keepsake items like Christmas ornaments, ties, leather goods, and higher-end, very exclusive items. Check Ebay, you’ll see what I mean.
As for us, let’s start from left to right:
Mrs. RCS got a beach visor and a light green polo, we got an ornament for our Christmas tree to commemorate our first (of many) Masters together, and I got the salmon dated hat (which Mrs. RCS is welcome to borrow), and a super nice Clubhouse Collection polo. This one says ‘dry cleaning recommended’, but I don’t buy it. I’m pretty handy with an iron.
I picked up a Smathers and Branson card case for a buddy of mine, and we got a big mug for our collection. I was really happy with the Peter Millar quarter zip. I’m 99% sure it’s this one: The Perth Quarter Zip. It is technical, stretchy fabric, but it is light, so I should be able to wear this for three seasons on the course (save Summer).
I also got a grey dated hat (again, Mrs. RCS will borrow) and the vintage ‘Tradition’ t-shirt. They had sold out of these by Wednesday last year, so I was glad to have one.
Not pictured are a Smathers and Branson key fob that Mrs. RCS is already using, and we got a large green Masters golf umbrella.
So what did you think? Anyone else get out there?