Of all the sporting events the world has to offer, my favorite is the week The Masters is held at Augusta National.
The Masters is to golf what Wimbledon is to tennis. What the Kentucky Derby is to horse racing. What Indianapolis is to auto racing.
The perfection of the fairways.
The perfection of the greens.
The lush landscaping of flowers, most notably azaleas.
The history is widely known, and nothing I could state would extend your knowledge of the place. But the fact that it was founded by Bobby Jones, arguably the greatest golfer to ever play the game. As arguably great as Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, or even Tiger Woods. Arguably so because Bobby Jones remained an amateur throughout his career.
Bobby Jones is the only player to win all four major events in the same calendar year. He won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open, British Amateur, and British Open in 1930. It is true that in those days – before the modern Open era – that only an amateur could accomplish such a feat. Professionals are not allowed in amateur events.
My family lived in Georgia from 1975 to 1980. It is a beautiful state. But back then, I did not know anything about golf. I had probably heard of the Masters, but gave it no second thought as it was a game for old men in funny clothes. Our Dad tried to convince my brother Paul and I to give golf a go. But it did not interest us at that time.
What a mistake.
Once we left Georgia, we both took up the game with a passion.
To see the Masters played at Augusta National is one of the hardest tickets to get. There is a waiting list I am told to be ten years long. They say the entrance to Augusta National is as beautiful as the course. A long entrance road between two perfect rows of Magnolia trees arrives at the front steps of the building. I don't know. I have never been there. I have seen pictures. But I have only visited Augusta National in my dreams.
The only players invited to play in the Masters are those that have won on the PGA tour, or those in the very top of it's rankings. The greatest come from around the world. The greatest come to play what some say is the most difficult course, under the most beautiful setting. And the player that wins the Master automatically becomes a member of Augusta National. They are invited back to play every year until they decide to hang up their clubs. They can visit and play the course anytime they please.
Who needs to win a purse when the prize includes an open invitation to play Augusta National anytime you like?
The events begin with a Champions dinner, where all past champions gather for a dinner hand-picked by last years Champion. They wear their green jackets. They talk about things that green jacket wearers talk about. What that could be, I could only guess.
Wednesday is the par-three tournament – a fun event I believe held in pro-am style. The cardinal rule of this event is not to win. No player ever to have won the par-three contest has ever gone on to win the Masters.
If there was ever an event to behold in high-definition television, it is the Masters. But I will be sitting in front of my old primitive analog TV, watching every stroke that I can, and it will still be beautiful.