I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Masters the year Fred Couples won it, 1992. Being a P.G.A. member at the time, I had become good friends with the McGregor salesman. It just so happens his dad was President of McGregor at the time. Obviously, he went every year.
He told me that if I could pay for the airfare and my meals, everything else was taken care of, meaning motel room and transportation to the course. I could get into the tournament just by showing my P.G.A. card. In fact, I could get into just about any tournament by doing the same thing. I went to the Colonial and Byron Nelson many times just by signing up and getting my badges for the week. But, the Masters didn't work that way. When you got to the course, you had to show your card and driver license. They give you a "sticker" that you had to wear. Of course, I bought a Masters cap and would put it on there every day. The area around the club is rather blah. In fact, if you didn't know where you were going, you wouldn't even know that Augusta C.C. was there.
We flew into Atlanta, he rented a car, and we made the drive up to Augusta. As soon as we checked into the hotel, we headed for the course. He was meeting some friends and made arrangements to meet under the "big tree" right by the clubhouse. He pointed me to the ticket booth and took off. Sure enough, I showed them my card and D.L., got my sticker and I was inside the gate.
The first thing I wanted to do was start at No. 1 and walk the course. At that time, television didn't show much of the front nine, so I knew nothing about those holes. My first impression was that I couldn't believe there was a golf course that was as hilly as this one was. It was up and down on almost every hole. By the time I got to the back nine, I was already worn out and I was a lot younger then. Every green was monstrous and looked like an elephant was buried on them. "Amen Corner" is unbelievable. The two par 5's, #13 and #15 are two of the most beautiful holes I have ever seen.
On Thursday, I made it a point to just hang around #13 and #15. Of course, right behind #15 green is the pond that you see on #16. I bought one of those little Master folding chairs, and parked myself where they would hit their second shots from. What you hear about leaving your seat and coming back to it later was absolutely true. Need to go to the bathroom and come back? No problem. Want one of their cheap sandwiches (they are and really good)? No problem. Another one of my favorite places was right next to #15 green. Watching shots come in there, and then the players trying to putt on it was terrific. One day, I decided to go stand behind #16 green when the pin was in the right front part of the green behind the bunker. Corey Pavin just happened to make a hole-in-one while I was standing there! Flew it into the hole.
There was a Weather Warning on Friday. Everybody had to clear the course. While I was trying to find a cab, I met an elderly couple that was going to same motel. We decided to share the cab. Turns out it was Jack Nicklaus's personal secretary and her husband. Super nice people. I decided that they needed looking after, so decided to meet them the next morning at #7's green, by the ropes where the players walked going to #8 tee box. Sure enough, they were there and I spent the better part of the day with Jack's uncle as we followed him around. The seat he was using was one of those where the top split open and had a point on the other end like an umbrella. He was a little wobbly on it, so I let him use my chair and I used his seat. What a great guy he was. Next thing I know, we are walking down the right side of #11, and I was being introduced to Jack's wife, kids, etc. Basically, I spent all day with this couple. Gave them my card and about 2 months later something came in the mail addressed to me. It was a very nice autographed picture from Jack.
I have to admit that there are certain holes, like #9 and #18 greens that took me by a little surprise. Tthey are sitting out in an area by themselves. By the greens, there are no trees at all. If it wasn't for the crowd around them, they would look rather plain. If you are down in the valley where most of the drives are on #9, when looking at the green, the front of it looks like a green wall. the "false front" on #9 and #14 can be very disconcerting. A shot that comes up short will roll back down the hill 20 or 30 yards.
If you are wondering why the pins are in the same places every year, once you are there and see the undulations in all of the greens, the answer becomes very simple. Those are about the only places they can put the pin where there is a relatively flat place around the hole. They are truly amazing to see in person. TV doesn't do them justice. Obviously, my favorite golf tournament of any on the tour.