Thursday, May 6, 2010

Coolest Sporting Event I'll Ever Go To

While I hope the title isn't true, I suspect it probably is... or at least it will be true for quite sometime. What am I referring to? The Masters! Now, I know a lot of people care nothing about golf and don't really know anything about it except the name Tiger Woods. I have to say while I'm certainly not an expert, I do tend to surprise people with my random knowledge about a good many sports. Golf is one of those. And I fully appreciate that going to the Masters is probably the biggest sporting event I'll ever go to. Especially given the near impossibility of getting Masters badges (at least without a significant load of cash).

I was able to go because my grandparents have had tickets for forever. Ok, not really, but close. When my grandparents moved to the East Coast in the 1960s, my grandfather, who was a doctor and loved golf, decided to put his name on the list for Masters tickets. Apparently back then it was not nearly as difficult to get tickets and from what I understand, he was able to get Masters badges fairly easily. After that it was just a matter of making sure to renew them every year. My grandfather passed away almost 10 years ago, and since then my mom and her siblings have shared the tickets. This year was my parents' turn again (they had the badges back in 2004 when Phil Mickelson won his first Masters - my Dad was sitting in the front row at the 18th green on Sunday!) and they invited my brother and sister and myself to go with them. My brother and dad went Thursday, my sister and I went Friday, and my parents went for the two final days, including seeing Phil Mickelson win his third Masters (very emotional for him as both his wife and his mother have been battling breast cancer this year and no one was sure if his wife would make it to the course at all that weekend). My dad has now decided that he is Phil Mickelson's good luck charm and will be writing to him to see if he can get badges for next year. Good luck Dad!

My uncle, dad and cousins are in the front row of this picture - they're the two guys in green and the couple next to them, all in the process of jumping to their feet once they realized that Phil Mickelson won). My mom, who had left that day to get back to work on Monday, was super jealous. She made sure not to make that mistake this year and stayed for the whole thing!

Our day was pretty amazing. My sister and I had the badges for Friday's round - the day was chilly and windy in the morning, but the sun was out the whole day and we had no rain. My cousin was also there - his boss is a member and his company often takes clients to the Masters. It was absolutely fantastic getting to spend the day with my cousin as my sister and I would have been pretty lost without his guidance and explanation (we still would have had fun, just with much less context).

We sat right behind the second tee for most of the morning and watched the groups come through. Lee Westwood eagled the hole and went on to lead the tournament through the end of Friday. And then of course there was Tiger. He had a chance for birdie on #2 but missed it and made par. However - he shot his third shot from about 10 feet in front of us. Now - this was his first tournament back since everything came out about him at Thanksgiving, so we knew it was going to be a bit crazy. And I have to say, while obviously I feel horrible for his family and can't imagine what his wife and family have been through, it was pretty amazing to see the number 1 golfer in the world chip right in front of you.

We watched about half of the groups come through and then decided to walk more of the course. We went up to the clubhouse area where there is a putting green before the first hole (watched Vijay Singh putting with his bright yellow golf balls), and my cousin got us bloody marys (he had a clubhouse pass and could get in there to get them). Nothing like drinking bloody marys at 9:00 in the morning and watching some of the best golfers in the world practicing their putting game!

My cousin took us on the "Granddaddy" tour around Augusta - we ended up walking every hole (and then some!) that day. After a bit we got lunch (egg salad sandwich - $1.50, beer - $3.00, sweet tea - $1.00, mini-moon pies - $1.00. The prices there are ridiculous. Nice that having a $20 bill gives you more than enough for two people to eat and drink all day. Very odd for a big sporting event, but apparently it contributes to making things more genteel. Though t-shirts were $70. So it's not all genteel).

After all of the groups had come through the second hole we walked the rest of the course. We went up a hill to the 6th tee and while we were there we could look down at #16. Tiger Woods and KJ Choi were coming through on 16 so we stopped to watch them (another birdie attempt that Tiger ended up missing and made par - probably why he came in 4th). While we were watching we heard a thwack! as the group coming through #6 teed off! Nothing like being surprised by Phil Mickelson's tee shot because you were watching someone else!

After that we walked through Amen corner (holes #11, 12, and 13 - which was great to see and I understand why it's such a pretty area for tv shots - but you really can't see them putting or doing anything on any of the holes there in person), and then walked up to the tee box of #11. There we watched Phil Mickelson's group tee off (we weren't really stalking him, but he was in the second to last group, so the way we were walking we just ended up seeing more of his group than any other). This tee box was up a pretty steep hill, so my cousin was explaining how most caddies just send their golfer up to the tee with the driver while the caddie heads down the fairway. That held true except for one caddie who made the walk up. "He must have been a bad caddie," according to my cousin. I think he just wanted to throw out his cigarette (oooh - that was another thing - so not used to people lighting up wherever and whenever. Not used to being in the south anymore!). After Phil teed off we saw him dart down a path out of site. Running away from the pressure? Nope, just needed a pee break. Even the bathrooms were out of sight from the perfectly manicured greens seen by the TV cameras!

We ended the day by walking the other side of 18 and watched the last few groups come through before we decided to call it a day. I think we ended up spending 11 hours on the golf course that day. But what a day! Still hard to believe that I actually got to go. Now to figure out how to get there again...

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