Playing Augusta With a Certain SEC Head Football Coach
We drove up from Jacksonville on a Tuesday morning and went down Magnolia Lane at noon. Our host was a very famous football coach/athletic director at an SEC school. Before I say anything more, let me say there has never been a more gracious host. From the moment we arrived and had lunch until we left 24 hours later, he was absolutely perfect. He made this most special privilege even more memorable. He made sure we saw everything, even the places that perhaps we weren't supposed to see.
After a quick lunch, we played 18 from the member tees. Due to a mix-up, we never had a chance to hit one practice shot (Coach had already played 18). I snapped my drive into the left trees, but I turned down the mulligan offer (almost made par).
We finished in about 3 hours (caddies, no carts). Coach told us on 18 that he was done for the day, but that we had 'the run of the place'. We decided to play the back nine from the back tees (they are no longer near most of today's back tees). We may have been the only group on the back nine that afternoon. I'll never forget walking down 11 and watching Amen Corner come into view from the middle of the fairway in the late afternoon.
We had dinner that night and heard some great stories, especially about a little controversy Fred Couples and the famous par on 12 the year before.
President Bush (41) was in the dining room with the CEO of Arco Petroleum (no surprise there). Then it was back to the California cabin for the night after a tour of the special places.
The next morning, we teed off at 8. We played very fast, especially after we told Coach that President Bush had the reputation of playing very quickly.
We stayed well ahead of him and his entourage, which was sizable. We also saw one reason why he played quickly. After dumping two balls into Rae's Creek, he bolted to 13 tee and skipped 12 green.
We finished again in about 3 hours, spent a lot of money in the pro shop and left the Club precisely at noon. We played 45 holes in 24 hours. The only thing we missed was the Par 3 course - we saw it, just had no time to play it. One minor regret: Due to a very wet and cold winter, the greens were quite slow. But it was easy to tell that the greens must be unbelievable at full speed.
I've been very fortunate to play Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Shinnecock, several great courses in Ireland and I live across A1A from TPC Sawgrass.
While I don't have a real good memory of how I played at Augusta some 15 years later, I have a very vivid recall of the entire experience. It truly is a special place. Attending the tournament is great. Playing the course and staying overnight is the best experience I have ever had in my 45 plus years of playing golf.
- Robert, Jacksonville, FL
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