If you get an email that begins with "Congratulations" and the sender is "Masters Tournament," you know it's going to be a good day.
That's what happened last June after I had entered the random selection for purchasing tickets to the 2018 Masters golf tournament, at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. My four tickets would be for the Wednesday session – a morning practice round and the Par 3 Contest in the afternoon – but not the four days of competition from Thursday to Sunday.
The Masters attracts tens of thousands of patrons (never fans) to this city east of Atlanta each April, so it was necessary that we begin planning quickly. We decided to drive instead of fly – a decision I don't regret, as traffic was minimal both ways. The next order of business was finding accommodations, challenging because of high demand. But we found an extended-stay hotel just five miles from the course, perfectly suitable for a two-night stay for myself, my husband, and two adult children.
We began our journey late Easter Sunday, leaving a forecast of snow for the warmth of southern states. We stayed in Ashland, Va., the first night and Concord, N.C., the next and arrived in Augusta on Tuesday morning, which allowed us time to get familiar with the area and to get ready for what was to be a memorable Wednesday.
We arrived at the course at 7 a.m. and had only a short walk to the gates – no shuttle buses, no long lines, just warm greetings of "Welcome to the Masters" everywhere. Because we entered through the back gate, the helpful volunteers recommended that we start our day at the 14th hole (named "Chinese Fir") and work back to No. 1 ("Tea Olive") and the famed clubhouse.
No words or even photographs can adequately describe the beauty of Augusta National. Everywhere there were azaleas, dogwoods, pines, emerald fairways, pristine greens. We walked all 18 holes, visited the Eisenhower Cabin, and chatted with Huck, a long-time caddy shack volunteer who told stories from his many years there. Of course, watching the best golfers in world practice was fun, too!
The concessions were, as we had heard, reasonably priced or even inexpensive – the iconic pimento and cheese sandwich and egg salad sandwich were just $1.50. We enjoyed another Masters classic – the Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich, which is peach ice cream between two sugar cookies.
The day wound down around 6:30, as twilight approached. After a final stop for more souvenirs, we paused at No. 18. Most patrons had left by then, and we stood along the vacant fairway, knowing that in four days, golfers all over the world would focus there, eager to see who would wear the next green jacket of Augusta.
Margaret Mary Finlan writes from Lansdale.