Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Masters, My one and only trip to Augusta

In 1989 or maybe 1990, I was fortunate enough to get to go to Augusta for the Masters. I had a wonderful experience and was fortunate enough to do some things that the average fan wouldn't ever get to do. The golf course was far different than I had expected. It was an amazing piece of ground and in those years it was far more open than I had expected. And those greens had more slope than any greens I had ever seen.
Congregating under the oak tree my first morning there, was a true delight as I got to see old friends and spend some time with the who's who of golf. Joe Duich, the breeder of Penncross and all of the A and G bentgrass varieties, who was my advisor at Penn State, drove by in a golf cart and saw me. Joe had been an agronomic consultant to Augusta for a decade or two. He asked if I wanted to go with him to measure the green speeds. So my first day ever at Augusta, I jumped on a golf cart and went out to stimp greens. As we were driving out we drove by Will Nicholson, past president of the USGA and Head of the rules committee for the Masters as he was walking out. I waved and said good morning to him.

The next day I was given a tour of the CBS compound and command center by Frank Chirkinian of CBS. If you know how small the world is, would you be surprised that Frank knew my parents long before I was ever born. I had gotten to know Frank at Castle Pines where CBS Golf did our tournament. For those of you that don't know it, Frank invented scoring as we are accustomed to it today as a plus or minus to par including the red and black colors. Prior to Frank's brilliant adaptation, only gross scores were given during broadcasts. Pretty tough to follow that. Oh and I'm fairly sure that Frank put the first camera in a blimp and created the TV tower.

That afternoon I went to one of the cabins to see Charlie Coe. Charlie, the great amateur, was a long time Augusta member and owns virtually every amateur record at the Masters, including a second place finish in 1961. Charlie was a frequent lunch partner of mine while I was at Castle Pines along with the Pro, Keith Schneider. Charlie taught me so much about golf course set up, a lot of which he learned at the Masters. We won't go into Charlie's working on my golf swing or lack thereof.

So, my first and only trip to Augusta and The Masters was just a little bit different than most people's. My overwhelming impressions of the trip were that while the golf course had always looked heavily treed on TV, in those days, it was fairly wide open and that the slope on the greens was the most that I had ever seen on a great golf course.

I still watch The Masters but I long for the days when it was the Championship that could be won with recovery shots. Maybe some day they'll get the chain saws out and let the spectacular recoveries once again help determine the winner.

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