By Seth Kerr
GolfWRX Staff Writer
My first memory of the Masters is Fred Couples on the par-3 12th hole on Sunday in 1992. I was 11, and already in love with the game and most other sports.
I remember Ken Venturi announcing, and watching the ball slowly roll back ready to fall in the water and ruin my favorite player’s dream, and then I watched it stop. I can remember smiling and knowing he would win, and I remember saying someday I would be there.
So when my dad called me and said it was time to cross off something on both our bucket lists I felt like I was a kid again. I’ve been lucky enough to go to some great sporting events like the Final Four and have gone to more games than I can count at the two best venues in the world in my humble opinion, Fenway Park and the Boston Garden, but what they say is true.
Nothing is like Augusta.
We had tickets for Saturday. I had scoped out all the information I could on the best places to watch, when to buy souvenirs, whether to buy chairs, etc., so I felt pretty solid on what we should do when we arrived.
I’d heard all the stories about eating a pimento cheese sandwich (not bad), how nice everyone is, and how hilly the course is. The course is incredibly hilly, shockingly hilly. Television doesn’t do it justice. They could run the bobsled event down some of those fairways.
We arrived and headed straight for the shop to buy a shirt, hat and chairs. We decided we would try to make it to No. 16 and watch the par 3, so we’d be where the action was during the end of the day.
We made the trek across the first hole, around the second green, third fairway, seventh fairway, No. 17 fairway and finally to the 16th. We were there by 8:30 a.m. and there were already a number of chairs. We put ours just to the left of the right greenside bunker about four rows deep.
My dad wanted to sit for a while and since we were a couple hours from anyone actually playing the hole I decided to walk around for a bit and try to take in each hole. It really is a beautiful place. The bunkers are much deeper than they seem on television and a lot of the greens seem smaller too.
The left side of the par-5 15th looks about 20-feet deep. From the cross walk there is a sprinkler head marked 114 yards. I’m a 5 handicap and decent golfer and don’t normally miss the green with a wedge but the shot looked incredibly intimidating.
Same with the 12th, the green looks so small. It looks like a sliver of green between bunkers.
I could talk all day about the course and the little things. What really stands out is the people you meet. Once players started arriving at the 16th and chairs filled up, we met tons of people both first timers and people who had been there for 10 or 20 years. There were old, young, men, women and almost everyone was knowledgeable about the sport. Some of the most fun we all had was watching the scoreboard on No. 6 to see whose name they would take off and whose they would replace it with.
On a random note, there are no bugs. I saw one fly, and one dragonfly, no ants, no spiders, no mosquitoes, nothing.
As far as the play, there weren’t too many stand out shots on the 16th that day. The best shots were players getting up and down from the bunker.
The most notable action was Justin Rose four putting to fall out of contention and Gary Woodland four putting on his way to shooting 85 and withdrawing due to an injury.
All day we had been watching the scoreboard wondering, where is Phil, what is he doing, is he doing anything? Every time a name went down on the scoreboard, we would think his was going up, but it never did. For most of the day players had to be 3-under or so to make the board, and without cell phones you really have no idea what was happening around the course.
Then you heard the roar and just knew. I looked at the guy next to me and we both said, “that was an eagle roar, maybe it’s a Phil roar.” Within about two minutes, we saw a name being replaced and there was Phil.
When he arrived on the 16th and made his way up to the green the crowd went crazy for him. It was great seeing how he carries himself, unlike another certain someone. Phil acknowledged the crowd, smiled, nodded his head at encouragement, and looked genuinely thankful for the crowd’s cheers.
But for me I will always remember the final group. Seeing my golfing hero. Going back to being that 11-year-old kid and seeing Freddie walk up the 16th. Clearly dejected, clearly not having a good day, but clearly loved.
You guys can have Tiger and whomever else you want, I’ll take watching Freddie any day of the week.
Everyone I met who I told it was my first time said the same thing, “You’ll be back next year” or “see you in the same spot next year”. And they are probably right, I think I will have to go back. It will never seem the same on television again.