Matt and Dawny Corsaut share a diary and photos from the Masters.
Neighbors Matt and Dawny Corsaut made a trip that many in Rancho Murieta will envy -- they went to Augusta National for this week's Masters Golf Tournament. In this diary, Matt walks the gorgeous course, bumps into a few people (hey -- that was Gary Player!) and shares what Jim Nance really thinks about Tiger's comeback chances.
By Matt Corsaut
We started our trip to The Masters with a flight into Savannah, GA, where we were staying with friends for the week. Our friends are good friends with Masters participant Nathan Smith, the 2003, 2009 and 2010 U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion.
On Wednesday we made the two-hour drive into Augusta. The first thing you notice when you arrive on Washington Road, which borders Augusta National, is that it is lined with fast food restaurants, strip malls and CVS pharmacies. In addition, various businesses sell parking for $20; however, you can drive into the gates (you may not drive Magnolia Lane) and receive free parking.
Augusta National Golf Club
Once on the grounds, it is like being in a different world. The grounds are immaculate, all you can see are Georgia pines and a beautiful green golf course. The first thing you notice, which television does not do justice to, are the severe undulations on the greens and the steep elevation changes on the holes. For instance, the 10th hole is a downhill dogleg left that is so severely sloped, you finally understand how the pros are getting 70 yards of roll on their tee shots. From the 18th fairway, you can only see the first few feet of the green as the approach shot is uphill to the green, similar to number 14 on the North Course.
We were able to sit on the bleachers set up behind the driving range and watch players like Anthony Kim, Sandy Lyle, Henrik Stenson, Ryo Ishikawa, world #1 Martin Kaymer and a host of others hitting pure drive after pure drive.
Near the clubhouse, by the 10th tee, are 10 cabins for use by members and their guests, which include the Eisenhower Cabin and the Butler Cabin.
You can feel and almost taste the history as you stroll the grounds. When first entering, they provide you with a complimentary 68-page Spectator’s Guide with various tips on the best spots to watch the tournament written by Bobby Jones, as well as etiquette suggestions, also written by Jones, such as, “It is appropriate for spectators to applaud successful strokes in proportion to difficulty but excessive demonstrations by a player or his partisans are not proper because of the possible effect upon other competitors.”
Par 3 Contest
We then headed off to the Par 3 Contest and, after walking the Par 3 course, took a seat about 10 rows behind the 9th green, where we had a direct line of sight looking across the pond to the teeing area. The 9th hole is a 130-yard hole over water.
The Par 3 contest is fun because the players don’t take it too seriously. Many pros had their small children caddying for them or had their caddies putt for them. Rory Sabatini hit it to about 15 feet then had his 9-month-old hit the subsequent putt. 2008 champion Trevor Immelman had his caddie hit his tee ball. The closest tee shot by any of the pros was by Luke Donald, who hit it to about four feet. Then Immelman’s caddie did a few quick stretches followed by two practice swings and proceeded to hit it to a foot, almost holing it on the fly.
One of the neat things about the par 3 contest is that all past major champions are invited to participate. It was a lot of fun to see 90-year-old Jack Fleck, the 1955 US Open Champion, playing alongside 21-year-old Jin Jeong. At one point we could hear a tremendous roar reverberating through the pines -- a roar that could only be for a hole in one. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the scoreboard showed that Craig Stadler had aced the first hole.
The view from the 12th tee.
Walking the course
After the Par 3 Contest ended, we walked the big course. It was quite a thrill to be able to walk right up to some of the most famous holes in golf and take pictures of holes with no one around for a hundred yards. We were able to stand only a few feet away from all of the teeing grounds including the famous 12th, 16th and 18th.
The conditions of the course were absolutely pristine, just like on TV. The greens were incredibly fast.
We watched Phil Mickelson on the practice putting green hitting 50-foot putts for 10 minutes. The ball would leave his putter and you would swear it would come to a stop after 20 feet, but it just kept rolling and rolling until the ball stopped within a foot of the hole almost every time. He even knocked in a couple.
While wandering around the clubhouse I ran into former Murietan Scott McCarron. While talking with him, someone bumped me from behind. To my shock, when I turned around, it was Gary Player who was making his way to the clubhouse followed by a throng of autograph seekers.
The players on Wednesday are fairly focused, but still friendly. There is much banter between the players and the crowd. Dawny was able to get autographs from Charl Schwartzel, 2009 Master Champion Angel Cabrera, Ricky Barnes, KJ Choi, Aaron Baddeley and Ryan Moore. Also, while watching Ben Crenshaw putt on the practice green, he went out of his way to walk over and sign my Masters flag without my even asking, which was a big thrill.
At one point, I was standing on the 10th tee when Mike Weir, Davis Love, Retief Goosen, Lucas Glover and Charl Schwartzel all walked by onto the tee. As Schwartzel was standing nearby, I asked him if could have a Masters pencil from the little box of goodies they had on the tee for the players. He said no problem and even gave me a Masters ball marker.
At one point I walked by a small group of people and thought I recognized a familiar voice. When I looked over I realized it was broadcaster Jim Nance having a conversation with a couple of patrons. I hung out long enough to hear him say, “David Feherety thinks Tiger will come back more dominant than ever; I say there is no way he will ever be as good as he once was." Probably not something he will say on the air when he announces this week.
The menu prices are from another era.
On Wednesdays the main course closes to the players at 3 p.m. so the maintenance staff can do their last preparations for the tournament. The patrons are supposed to leave the grounds around 7 p.m. We went to the merchandise center near the clubhouse around 6 p.m. and it was standing room only in the 10,000-square-foot building. There must have been over a thousand people in the tent buying their Masters souvenirs. Prices were pretty good. Nice Masters golf shirts were going from $60 to $120.
Also, the rumors of the incredible food prices are true. I purchased a chicken sandwich, Coke and chocolate chip cookie for a total of $4. After the round we went to T-Bonz Steakhouse, which is just outside the gates. We were told that we would see a handful of players eating there. We didn’t see any players, but we did manage to have a hearty steak with about 500 of our closest friends.
It was a wonderful experience. Being at Augusta National for the Masters is kind of like Disneyland for golf enthusiasts. It’s the happiest place on Earth. Everywhere you turn there is golf history right in front of you. We had a great time and hope to go back again one day.
Tiger Woods and Angel Cabrera roll putts on the perfect greens.
Anthony Kim shows his swing form.
Golf legends Gary Player and Dave Stockton stop to talk, foreground, while Phil Mickelson works on his putting, center background.
Tiger Woods signs autographs.
The view from the 16th tee.