The Masters is truly a national treasure

Published 8:12 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Millions of eyes will be on Georgia this week, as the annual Masters Golf Tournament kicks off at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., just a little more than five hours away from us here in Decatur County.

Already in my early years of this journalistic profession, I have been lucky to have covered a variety of interesting events. However, I would have to say that covering The Masters would have to be at the top of that list.

Before moving to Bainbridge, I worked for The McDuffie Progress, a newspaper headquartered in Thomson, Ga., just 30 minutes west of Augusta. Because of the newspaper’s proximity to the tournament, it receives a press pass every year. Although the Progress only printed on Wednesday and Saturday — rendering timely coverage of the actual tournament virtually impossible — I was still able to attend a practice round and take photos of some of the world’s most famous golfers.

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One moment that I will never personally forget was when I was walking along a path when I suddenly heard someone should out, “Hey, it’s Arnie!” I turned just in time to see golfing legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus riding in a golf cart together, and was able to snap a photo just in time.

One of the truly amazing things about The Masters is that it is literally an oasis in the concrete jungle that is suburban Augusta. Augusta National is located right off a major thoroughfare called Washington Road, which is compacted with the typical sights of any major city — an Olive Garden here, a shopping mall there, and tons of traffic lights.

However, once you step foot onto the hallowed grounds of the historic course, all that concrete and glass fades away and you are surrounded by an absolutely gorgeous natural beauty. High-definition television has allowed many viewers to come close to the experience, but until you actually get to see the course in person, it’s hard to fathom just how beautiful it is.

There are two aspects of the course that I will always remember. The first is that it is amazingly varied in terrain. I don’t know how well television viewers can tell, but the course is mottled with large hills, valleys and a variety of other topographic features that can make even the simplest shot nearly impossible. Some of the most difficult greens are literally so varied in terrain that a golfer can be on the fringe and unable to see the flag, because the hole itself is on a much-higher elevation. Trying to walk the hilly course gives you a much better appreciation for the athletic skills of PGA golfers.

Another unique aspect of The Masters is the concessions. Unlike most major sporting events, where you get charged $3 for a glass of water, everything at The Masters’ concession stands is extremely affordable. The egg-salad and pimento-cheese sandwiches are by far the most popular, and are only $1.50 each.

While it is nearly impossible to get tickets to the actual tournament, it is slightly less difficult to get tickets to one of the practice rounds. In fact, for the first time in 2012, some of the practice-round tickets were sold online through a lottery system. If you ever get the chance to visit, be sure and take the opportunity. Even if you don’t like golf at all, it is worth it just to see the natural beauty of the national treasure that is Augusta National Golf Club. I know that I will always be grateful that I got the chance to see it.

Justin Schuver is the managing editor of The Post-Searchlight. Email him at