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Augusta isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Think again…

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Augusta isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? That would be the dumbest thing said in the history of… well, anything.

I’ve attended PGA Tour events as a player and coach. I’m also the son of a former Major League Baseball player, which is a big reason why I’ve been lucky enough to be in the stands for many deciding championship games in most major sports. I say all that to say I’m not one to be awed by the atmosphere. I also received an invitation to play Augusta 25 years ago, only to respectfully decline in order to play in a Web.com Tour event.

My affair with Augusta began in 1986. Yes, that 1986. I was a freshman at UCLA and that Masters Sunday I was on the lesson tee at Bel Air Country Club with my good friends Bob May (yes, that Bob May) and my teammate Ken Tanigawa, who is now a rookie on the Champions Tour. There were also a few other juniors there as well. The UCLA coach asked us who we thought would win.

“Seve.”

”Seve.”

”The Shark.”

”The Shark.”

“Nick Price.”

He then came to me. Being a typical contrarian I said, “Jack is going to shoot 64 and everyone else is going to start choking, putting balls in the lake and leaving 8 footers short.” No, I’m not kidding, I really said exactly that, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

After I left the course, I went back to my apartment and was about to watch the final round when my friends asked me to go play pickup basketball. I put on a VHS tape (yes, I’m that old) and went to play basketball. At the time, I had no aspirations for pro golf; I wanted to be a doctor. When I came back from hooping it up, I turned on the TV and was shocked to see Nicklaus had been declared the winner as Greg Norman had just missed his putt on No. 18.

I was even more shocked to see the final round unfolded almost exactly as I had predicted. Seve’s snap hook into the water on No. 15; Norman’s block into the stands on No. 18; Kite’s steer job eight-footer on No. 18 that was short.

I spent the next four hours watching, and something came over me that I had not ever experienced. It was something that most 18-year-old boys are too emotionally stunted to feel: overwhelming sentiment. As the birdies (and eagle) mounted, I started sobbing out of sheer excitement and joy. When Nicklaus almost made a hole-in-one on No. 16 and Jim Nantz uttered his famous, “The Bear… has come out of hibernation,” I had a complete emotional meltdown.

Even today, just thinking about that moment and line makes me well up (it’s happening even as I type this). If I were in a movie, I would need no acting classes to learn how to have an emotional reaction. Just play the 16th hole of the 1986 Masters for me. When Jack made the putt on No. 17 (the guy in the background covering his ears always cracks me up), I lost my mind and did a celebratory lap around my complex. That day, I no longer wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to play my way to Augusta and win just like Jack.

Thirty-two years later, after many failed attempts at the PGA Tour and my dumb decision to decline an invitation to play there, I made my first trip to Augusta last week for the 2018 Masters. You can see the videos and photos I took on my instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/montescheinblum/

The parking… free. The concessions… less expensive than any muni. The Augusta merchandise was so reasonably priced, I spent way more than I planned to. It was like going to Costco. I was going to buy one small token to commemorate my trip, but the prices were so ridiculous I lost my mind.

For the first 50 years of my life, I had no clue what sugar plumb fairies were. As I walked out onto the grass and the expanse of the course was in my view, the sugar plumbs weren’t just dancing — they were throwing a rave in my head. If you asked me when Christmas was, I’d have said it started 30 seconds ago.

At that point, I was no longer a former pro, high-level golfer whose hopes of playing in the Masters were dashed long ago. I was that 18-year-old boy at the genesis of his career… and a tourist. I felt like skipping and galloping my way down to Amen Corner and around Nos. 15 and 16. I have played more than half of the top-50 golf courses in the world. I’ve also played about 10 U.S. Open tracks and all of the Open Championship tracks except Murifield. With all due respect, all of them are dumps in comparison… all of them.

As I arrived at Amen Corner, I nearly cried with the same joy as when my two children were born, but I survived the onslaught of emotion. Walking down the right side of the 15th fairway, I was amazed at how wide the fairway was before the trees on the left pinch in… and how ******* scary (profanity is sometimes necessary to convey degree) the second shot into that paper thin deep green looks from the top of the hill.

It was now time for me to see No. 16, the symbol of my emotional outburst over 30 years ago. The place I approached from was under and to the left of two giant grandstands that cover the tee box. When I emerged, it was nirvana. It is one of the most gorgeous holes I have ever seen, and I’ve played No. 18 at Pebble Beach and No. 12 at Old Head. The lake and hole was to my right, and a giant hill that turns into a makeshift grandstand of die cast folding chairs on my left.

No one was around and I lost it. I was a mess. There were no tissue concession nearby and only the fancy “Players Only” bathroom in sight. I was denied entry by the attendant when I complained of “sunblock burning my eyes.” He did get me some tissue and a wet paper towel to wash the “sunblock” out.

That brings me to another point. I have never been to any sporting event, or anywhere for that matter, where the volunteers and security are so nice and polite. No power trips. “Sir, you’re not supposed to stand there. I would really appreciate it if you would keep walking.” It’s probably why the other fans are so polite. Everyone is so happy to be there. There is no pushing or shoving. People say “excuse me.” They make room for you. They “sit down in front” without you even asking. Nobody is yelling: “Mashed Potatoes” or ”Baba Booey” or ”You Da Man” or ”Get in the Hole.” The Masters is the way society should be.

I simply cannot overstate the magnificence of the course conditions and the elevation changes in the holes and greens. The perfection of design and just sheer awesomeness is on all sides of you at all times. At other golf courses, the severity would be Mickey Mouse. At Augusta, it’s purposeful.

The famous pimento cheese sandwich (all of $1.50) is as succulent as a Maine Lobster tail in drawn butter at a five-star restaurant. The Coca-Cola is as refreshing and delightful as the finest Dom Perignon… and it’s because you’re at Augusta National Golf Club. Brussel sprouts, tofu and even McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sandwiches would be edible on the grounds of Augusta.

After the Wayne’s World dream sequence faded, I thought it was about time to watch some actual golf. I took some very nice video of Henrik Stenson (above). Stenson became a victim of the very difficult right pin on No. 14, where he spun down into the collection area where par was unlikely. While I was filing the scene he hit a second ball from the same spot, adjusted and hit it in gimme range.

Most of the golfers had played their practice round before I got there, so I saw very little actual golf until I decided to go watch some of the par-3 contest. I saw and got video of Rickie Fowler lipping out and almost making an ace on No. 1… only to have Jordan Spieth hit nearly the same shot and spin it back to a few inches. Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and a few others followed and again, I got some very nice video of their shots.

As I was about to go walk the less famous, but probably more difficult front nine, I heard, “Here comes Nicklaus, Watson and Player.” Holy ***! My boyhood hero and two of his great rivals headed to the first tee. For you old time Saturday Night Live fans, I was definitely verklempt.

I saw an amazing time machine-level event. Nicklaus, Player and Watson all hit it within 2-3 feet and as you know, Watson won it all. I am sorry (and happy) to say I missed the grandson’s hole-in-one on No. 9. If I had been there, a 50-year-old man blubbering like a small child would have made SportsCenter’s Not Top 10. I couldn’t wait to come back and watch actual tournament play on Friday.

When I arrived on Friday, I was made aware of yet another one of Augusta’s awesome traditions: the folding chair stands. You go buy a very high quality folding chair that comes in an over the shoulder carrying case (for only $30). There is a spot for a luggage-style name tag, and all over the golf course in very choice spots on every hole there are areas marked for these chairs to create makeshift grandstands. You get to the course, find your favorite spot, open your chair, drape the case over the back and go off to all places viewing the greatest golf has to offer. Your spot is reserved for you whenever you choose to return.

I chose a spot midway up the 16th hole (where else did you think I would pick?). I could see and follow the tee shots all the way to the green and watch the putts fall as they may. It was also the perfect angle to look back up the 15th fairway to the top of the hill and watch the nausea-inducing shots into the green. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the actual golf, as that was being covered by the media, but I did witness some pretty amazing stuff.

I stood in a very nice spot behind the 14th tee and watched the game’s best from less than 10 paces behind the tee. Finau, Bubba, Jordan, Rickie, DJ, JT, Rory, Gary Woodland (who was the most impressive) and many, many others. I then ventured to possibly the best spot in the house: the 11th tee. It’s way back up the hill in a secluded spot. You can literally get on the ropes and be 10 feet from the golfers. Day, Reed, Oosthuizen, Rose, Garcia and many, many more.

What I also saw on the 11th tee was four young lads having a special moment. I’d say they were between the ages of 16-18. They were clad in black pants (it was 80+ degrees) and a Nike red shirt. I know it’s obscure, but I’ll force you to guess who they were fans of. When the tee sheet showed that the next group was going to include one Eldrick Woods, the anticipation the four young men were creating was rubbing off on the rest of us.

I have stood next to Tiger on a PGA Tour range and chatted with him briefly. This was not my first rodeo… but that was not during the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Just like the Fab Four standing shoulder to shoulder right next to me, I and the other patrons were showing a level of anticipation that can only be seen by teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert… only in this case, the man walking up to us merits this sort of adulation and worship.

Tiger was not playing well, and he had his head down when he walked on the tee. When he looked up, the first thing he saw was his four doppelgängers and he laughed out loud. He was visibly touched and gave all four a fist bump. I am sorry to tell their moms, but I believe they will never wash those hands again.

After the interlude with Eldrick, I decided to go to my spot on No. 16. Among other things, I saw Oosthuizen get up and down to the right pin from the right bunker, hitting it to six inches. It was maybe one of the five greatest shots I have ever seen in my life as a fan and player. Even Oosthuizen laughed. I also saw DJ from the same line on the edge of the green, 10 feet away, putt the ball down the slope 40 feet away and make the comebacker for par, much to the delight of the roaring crowd.

I also saw Leishman’s great hook around the trees into No. 15. There was a huge bang when his ball was landing, and it seemed to those of us on No. 16 that he had hit the grandstand and kicked across the green to that spot. Not until I saw the highlights did I know it was a coincidence. After some wonderful time on No. 16 and watching the shots down the hill on No. 15, the day was over, as was my time at Augusta. I had a 13-man golf school in Atlanta Saturday though Monday and wouldn’t have a chance to come back.

I destroyed my credit card balance at the pro shop on the way out, which only had a 5-10 minute wait as they have 16 checkout stands with four attendants at each. As I walked to my car and lamented not being able to see the back nine on Sunday, I couldn’t help but start planning my next trip. I started to pull up Priceline to check hotels for next year, but my cell phone was in the car as they are not allowed on the grounds. The Masters actually has scanners checking people trying to sneak them in.

“Crap, already sold out for next year, except a zero-star hotel for $800 a night. Wait a minute… the course where I am holding the school is less than two hours away from Augusta. The last tee time is not until nearly 3 p.m. I bet if I ask the guys to start early, I can make it back to watch the last few groups tee off on No. 1 and catch anyone making a charge on the back 9.”

Saturday at lunch, I asked the group if they’d do me a favor. Unanimously, they said they were going to kick me out at noon on Sunday as they were sick of me already. They say the Masters doesn’t start until the back nine Sunday, and I was about to experience that first hand.

I got there about 40 minutes before the final group teed off. I rushed down to No. 16 only to find every inch of choice space taken already. Even the terrible space was overloaded. I shouted an expletive and a nice lady tapped me on the shoulder. I profusely apologized and relayed the reason for my angst. She knew why I uttered the profanity, totally understood, and she told me she and her husband were leaving the choicest of spots just across the bunker about 15 paces from the famous Sunday back left pin that provoked the tear dropping line from Jim Nantz in 1986.

I was overjoyed. I rushed back up the hill to watch the last two groups tee off on No. 1, then back down to my spot were I enjoyed myself immensely. I noticed Jordan Spieth was making a charge. They talk on TV of the roars echoing through the trees. That is a false representation. If you’re in the right spot and the roar is in the right place, it is a literal tsunami of sound waves rushing up and down the course through the shoots of trees.

I hurdled several people and moved my 230 pounds of childlike enthusiasm toward the No. 11 tee, where I followed Spieth up close for the rest of his riveting back nine. I saw the tee shot on No. 12 where he raised in hands in mach triumph for avoiding the disaster of two years ago and the made putt that sent Amen Corner into a frenzy. I was as close as anyone when he switched to the hybrid on No. 13 and was in my choice real estate when he bombed it in on No. 16. I surpassed my normal 11-inch vertical leap by at least 6 feet it was so exciting. I also saw the disastrous Spieth Spur Strike or Jordan’s Juniper Jostling, if you will.

That disappointed me. I wanted to see the history, but I did see Rickie’s great birdie and Reed’s gut checking save to win, both on No. 18. Paulina Gretzky (DJ’s wife) was standing shoulder to shoulder with me when DJ tee’d off on No. 12 Sunday. So just like the boys on No. 11 Friday, I’m never washing my shoulder again… or maybe just the shirt.

My amazing 32-year journey was close to the end. I bolted for my car with a quick stop to ruin some more plastic in the pro shop. I hope everyone knows they’re getting Augusta swag for Christmas.

In the movie Field of Dreams, the Ghost of Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) asks Ray Kinsella (Kevin Kostner) if the field they are on is heaven. Ray responds, “No, it’s Iowa.” With all due respect to Iowa, heaven is in Augusta, Georgia. This is one light from the afterlife you definitely want to walk toward.

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Monte Scheinblum is a former World Long Drive Champion and Web.com Tour player. For more insights and details on this article, as well as further instruction from Monte go to rebelliongolf.com

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Matt B

    Apr 13, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    A very enjoyable read. Thanks Monte!

    (P.S. Surely it’s “mock” triumph and Kevin Costner!)

  2. golferOG

    Apr 11, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    Great read but for someone with as much respect for Augusta you should know it doesn’t have a front/back nine. If you pay attention they refer to the separate nines as the first and second nine. Research how different analysts have been corrected for such mistakes

  3. Tom54

    Apr 11, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Monte that was a well written article. I read it all through to the end. I was lucky to attend the ‘09 Masters and I too felt like it was a religious event. We were shuttled to a gate not exactly knowing where on the course we were. Imagine what it was like when we walked past some bleachers only to find that we were right by the famous 13th green! My friend and I walked every hole because we wanted to see it all. Every thing you wrote about in your essay perfectly describes why this course, this tournament, and everything about the Masters cannot quite adequately be described unless one is lucky to see it first hand. Thanks for pretty much describing what it truly is all about

  4. A. Commoner

    Apr 11, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    Pretty similar to reading a few pages in a sophomore’s personal diary.

  5. Art Williams

    Apr 11, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Last I read DJ and the Great One’s daughter were still single. How did you manage all those tickets? Connections? Great story for someone who turned down an offer to play golf at the Cathedral of courses.

  6. ogo

    Apr 11, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Even Flow or Evenflo ??!!!
    https://www.evenflofeeding.com/

  7. Neil C

    Apr 11, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Monte, I never knew you were such a great writer. That was awesome.

  8. RLawrence

    Apr 11, 2018 at 11:54 am

    You absolutely made my day Mr. Scheinblum! I felt as if I were there with and you actually caused my eyes to well up as you described your own excitement. I hope you write more articles in the future as I am hooked. Thank you.

  9. larrybud

    Apr 11, 2018 at 11:51 am

    FYI “I’m a medium”

  10. jc

    Apr 11, 2018 at 11:39 am

    nice article monte,,,remember you and your dodge viper at upland hills…

  11. Socrates

    Apr 10, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    Who are the 7 losers who voted Flop, OB or Shank?

    • Willy Wonka

      Apr 11, 2018 at 1:43 pm

      It’s now 11-1-1.

      These people hate golf, hate Monte or hate themselves.

  12. ogo

    Apr 10, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    Even Flow or Evenflo ?
    https://www.evenflofeeding.com/

  13. Wayne

    Apr 10, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 53rd birthday at Augusta with my oldest son. Just like Monte, I have never seen a course as beautiful. I’ve been to 4 other tour stops and while nice, they just don’t compare. I cannot accurately articulate what I saw and my feelings that day. Monte’s story is very similar to the way I felt. Thanks for the well written story.

  14. Mike Pollard

    Apr 10, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Two years ago I had the same experience after waiting for nearly 60 years to attend my first MASTERS! I teared up then and again reading your about your experience……..it affects us all in a similar way.

    ps…….let’s figure out a way to do it AGAIN!!

  15. Tony Lynam

    Apr 10, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Monte,

    I too am in my 50s and went to my first Master last Friday. As you go down the walkway with the practice area to your left, the sun was just starting to come up and I saw my first glimpse of that practice area and my eyes filled with tears. Then walking past the Patron’s golf shop and seeing the magistracy score board with all the country flags, I felt like Rudy walking onto the Notre Dame football field for the first time, LOL. Walking down to Amen Corner I was overcome with emotion again! P.S. I spent more than I had planned on too in the golf shop.

  16. J Zilla

    Apr 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    Sugar PLUM* Fairies.

    Sugar plumb fairies are what plumbers need to unclog my toilet most of the time.

  17. Ernest J.

    Apr 10, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    The 3 DB’s that Shanked this article have obviously never been on the grounds at Augusta! Very well DONE Monte!

  18. Patrick

    Apr 10, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Hands down THE best major of them all…. I wish all tournaments were ran like this. Not hearing one baba booey, get in the hole (par 5 tee shot), mashed potatoes… was just the best.

  19. Ted McRoger

    Apr 10, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    What society should be is right. We would have it but we let the left destroy everything commencing 50 years ago.

    • Gill Weir

      Apr 10, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      Totally agree Ted. We have self sabotaged this great Country of ours to regressivism. Augusta will always be a pipe dream of what could have been.

  20. Chuck aka wmblake2000

    Apr 10, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Now that was a write-up! Took me right on the journey with you. So glad you got to go Sunday, that your students accommodated. I think my favorite was the 4 boys in black/red… this memory will last their entire lifetime.

  21. Derek

    Apr 10, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    Great article Monte! It is truly a one of kind experience – can’t wait to swap some stories during the Sioux Falls school. I’ve been lucky to go to a practice round in 2016 and 2018 each now, and am hoping to add a tournament day in the future.

  22. Brandon

    Apr 10, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Nice write up Monte! Good to meet you on Sunday back behind the 17 green.

  23. DrKell

    Apr 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Was at the Masters last week as well. I think this just about sums it up…
    A great read.

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Have you ever played a golf course and remembered where you used to hit the ball on certain holes? Have you ever gotten to a 360-yard par-4 and recalled when you used to lick your chops because you knew a little flip wedge for your second was ahead? Ever made shooting your age your next big goal? If you have, welcome to golf’s back nine, the time when you keep seeking improvement knowing full well it will never be what it once was.

Aging is another vivid example of the paradoxical beast that lies at the heart of our game. If we’re totally honest, we admit we can’t do anything as well as we did 25-30 years ago. Yet a little voice never far from our golf ears keeps whispering, “If you just move the ball in your stance and adjust your grip, you will hit it solid again.” That’s when we need to be honest and ask, “What does solid mean at 65-70-75 years old?” It certainly isn’t solid like it was at 35 years old, but it may be more solid than the last shot, or yesterday. And as we’ll see, it just might be solid enough for the home stretch. So we keep playing and practicing in a search for golf’s version of a fountain of youth.

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Stay present and take what the game gives you now, here, today. If that’s 210 off the tee, get your fairway woods and hybrids out and do the best you can with your inevitably longer approach.

2. Work on your scoring game

If aging has robbed you of flexibility and strength, it does not have to affect your game from 100 yards in. Seniors need to chip and putt more than any other age group.

3. Yoga and Pilates

If you think we’re old, we are a babe in the woods compared to these ancient disciplines. The mind/body connection is vital for seniors. And… the results speak for themselves! Staying as flexible and as strong as you can for as long as you can is vital for senior golf. Oh, and walk and carry whenever possible!

4. Get properly fitted

Not only do we play senior golf dreaming of yesteryear, male seniors often let testosterone affect their game. I get sooo many seniors coming to see me who are ill-fitted for their equipment, or more accurately, using equipment that once fit their game85-90 mph clubhead speed does not likely require a stiff shaft, 9 degrees of loft or 75 grams of weight to achieve proper launch and landing conditions. Good senior golf demands brutal honesty with yourself.

5. Consider swing “adjustments,” not “new swings”

I don’t want to be a bearer of bad tidings here, but as a teacher of many years, I know this much: The swing you’ve had for oh so many years is not going to change. At least not very much. The does not mean it can’t be made more effective. I “tweak” seniors, not break them down.

6. Play forward tees

I’m a club professional, and I was a fairly decent player once. At 70 years young, I am proud to say that I play white tees measuring no more than 6300 yards. And in a few years, I’ll likely move up again. It’s just a fact of life and denying it is futile.

7. Check your fundamentals

Just because a certain grip, posture or ball position was effective once, as we age, all these may need adjustments from time to time. Swings get shorter, slower, narrow, etc. And as they do, we have to allow for these things and find new ways to complement the “senior swing.”

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Enjoy the back nine. I know I am.

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