I can still remember the first time I REALLY experienced The Masters. It was 1997, I had just turned 12, and Tiger Woods was in the process of becoming TIGER WOODS, winning his first major championship and changing the landscape of golf as we know it today. It was at that point in front of my (parents) 27” TV, that I officially fell in love with the game of golf (although a love hate relationship may be more appropriate to describe it today), and proclaimed “I have to go to The Masters”. This was long before HDTV showed just how beautiful the course is, social media driving people to want to go just to be able to post/ tweet/ blog they went, and for the most part even the internet (wow I feel old). It was an organic and authentic desire driven by passion of what I felt in the moment watching that tournament play out. There weren’t trending hashtags that hyped it up, or internet blogs that examined all the cool nuances of Augusta National by giving an inside look at experiencing The Masters first hand (I am such a hypocrite right now I know). I was simply a kid at an impressionable age experiencing something I just knew was special without someone else telling me it was, and I was also young enough to still think that it could someday be playing out there without someone telling me I couldn’t (guys born from 1983 to 1989 all over the world are nodding in unison…you know exactly what I am talking about).
Flash forward 18 years, and I am obviously not a professional golfer…BUT I did finally fulfill a lifelong dream of attending The Masters in person with this past Thursday's opening round. Turns out, to get a ticket to The Masters all you have to do is start a men’s clothing company that gives back to underprivileged families, creates unbelievable products with the highest degree of quality/detail and makes everything in North Carolina…you know that, or get lucky and have a friend who gets patron badges every year offer up his Thursday passes (John you are the man). With that I bring to you my very first experience at The Masters.
Side note for those who don't know...The Masters is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, and incredibly hard to get tickets for. It is the first of four majors in professional golf, and the only one held at the same course each year... Augusta National in Augusta, GA. The winner gets a green jacket, and gets to play at Augusta for the rest of his life...this is the guys equivalent to being a Disney princess.
The week of:
The research begins - You don’t just wait 18 years to go Augusta, only to show up without a plan. I skowered the internet for information on everything I could find, from the best holes to view the action from to the best time to go to the gift shop etc… I had one day at Augusta, and was dertermined to get the most out of it.
Thursday April 9th:
6:00 AM - The big day has finally come! Me and a buddy, who also has always dreamed of going to The Masters, wake up early and make the 2.5 hour drive from Charlotte to Augusta. Being that our all new made in North Carolina polos arrived this week, what a perfect place to break one in (coming soon to the website, and may or may not have been embroidered at the same place as a lot of The Masters gear…talk about degrees of separation!).
9:00 AM – We enter the gates and nostalgia hits like a Bubba Watson tee shot. To finally be standing in such a historical place was so surreal, I found myself reaching for my camera, which was obviously left in the car (this happened at least 10 times before I accepted that the day was truly going to be an experience free from all the outside distractions that come with modern technology).
9:30 AM - After watching a couple groups tee off at hole #1, we head to the spot we carefully selected to put our chairs down (see research above), the 12th hole. It is right in the middle of the legendary Amen Corner, and gives you a great view of the players finishing the 11th, a full view of the par 3 12th and the tee shot at 13. This is also one of the most picturesque holes on the course, and probably even the world. One of the many great things about The Masters, is you can setup your chairs and leave them (everything is on the honor system, and the Masters is the epitome of honorable). Our chairs safely set to catch all the action once the players make their way to this part of the course, we head out to see some action.
10:00 AM – We stop in at concessions and pick up one of the famous $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches (it won’t be the last one we eat today, and is worth every bit of $1.50).
10:30 AM - We make our way around the back half of the front 9, catching action from some of the big names like Phil (Mickelson), Rory (McIlroy) and Bubba (Watson).
12:00 PM - a quick stop for lunch... sandwich, cookie, a sports drink that I assume was Powerade (more on this later) and a beer for a grand total of $8. Seriously, I can never go to another sporting event again.
12:30 PM - Over to those chairs we put down earlier to catch some action of the first groups making their way through Amen Corner (even if I had my camera, I couldn't have done the view justice).
2:00 PM - Being at The Masters, you don't really know what else is going on at other parts of the course, or how certain players are doing. The scoreboards are manual and only have space for a handful of golfers, in fact I am still trying to figure out the method they use for deciding who to put on the board outside of the obvious leaders. Basically, they don't care that everyone wants to know what Tiger / other big names are doing...if they aren't leading, they aren't going on the board just because of who they are. Watching blind like this, It is pretty cool to try and figure out what is going on elsewhere by hearing the distant roars of the crowd, and guessing which group is near the direction the course of where the roar is coming from. We head off to other parts of the course to try and get in on the action.
3:00 PM - We stop at the tee box on hole #15, which is right above hole #10, so an excellent place to be to watch players teeing off on #15, and then turning around to see groups coming in to the 10th green. It's here we see Jordan Spieth starting his push to a near record first round, Tiger toughing out a par, Fred Couples getting major respect from the crowd (The Masters loves Fred Couples) and a slew of past champions teeing off. Most impressive? Has to be Ernie Els...I am still amazed at just how big of a guy he is! Standing literally right beside him as he tee'd off...Ernie pulls out a driver and with that incredibly smooth and powerful swing he is known for, hit a 300+ yard bomb right down the middle of the fairway, followed by turning to me and stating how much he liked my OLE MASON JAR polo...(ok, so that last part didn't actually happen).
4:00 PM - We head back to those great seats we put out earlier to see Tiger come through Amen Corner (Seriously, I can NEVER go to another golf tournament again). We may or may not have also placed side bets on players getting closest to the pin on the par 3 12th.
6:00 PM - We pack up and head to the 18th green, just in time to see Jordan Spieth finishing up an amazing near record first round with a birdie. I have a feeling this is going to be a week for Mr. Spieth that is very similar to Tiger in 97...21 year old "next big thing" plays out of his mind and blows the rest of the field away. Like I mentioned before, you are cutoff from the outside world, but you could tell there was something special going on.
6:30 PM - We head to gift shop on our way out, closing out a day I will truly never forget.
Other key observations:
- The Masters is the most well run event I have ever been to, and probably the world. Lines move incredibly quick, and the volunteer's are incredibly professional and polite...southern charm meets efficiency...on steroids.
- The Masters is the only brand you see. Water bottles have The Masters label on them, drinks just say things like "diet cola", "domestic beer" or "sports drink" on them. No mention or even a hint of what the brand actually is...it's The Master's brand.
- Everyone is equal. There are no VIP or hospitality tents, no special air conditioned areas, or areas reserved for certain individuals. Everyone sits together and walks together, CEO's beside blue collar workers.
- Parking is simple. A few years ago, the golf course decided to buy a bunch of land right next to the course...and then, because they don't care about money, let you park there for free. A relatively short and easy walk from wherever you park (free area or not) has you inside the gates.
- The Masters pay attention to detail. Nothing is out of place, everything is green, there is zero trash on the ground (just picture the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...as soon as trash hits the ground, someone is there to pick it up).
There it is folks, my first experience at The Masters. It was definitely everything I dreamed of, and then some. I will likely remember this day the rest of my life, and hope to be able to go again some day (hint...hint...for any readers who get tickets every year, and want to hook me up next year).
A native of NC, Bradley Rhyne is OLE MASON JAR's Co-Founder and CEO, as well as chief editor for all content and social media. With his extensive experience in the finance and accounting industry as a Vice President for a fortune top 10 company, Brad brings a wealth of knowledge, creativity and business acumen to OLE MASON JAR.