October 2006 PMFM annual company golf tournament.
A beautiful crisp autumn day that is perfect for golf. I am grateful and anxious to play since it is my first round after successfully removing melanoma from my forearm. My team consists of our companys owner and his wife and one of our IT wizards. On the 17th tee Tim casually mentions that we added a new member to our Board of Directors. His name is George and has extensive experience in the financial services industry.and oh by the way he is a member at Augusta. Not Country Club, but The Augusta National Golf Club. Although I felt like an important member of the PMFM leadership team it was hard to fathom that I would get the opportunity to play at the home of the MASTERSsure glad I was wrong!
While talking with our SVP of Sales & Marketing Tim McCabe in his office one morning he asked me to shut the door. I joked that closed door discussions are either really good or really bad. We had been talking about the progress Id made with a huge prospect. Gallagher Retirement Services was planning a due diligence visit in December to determine if they wanted to offer our Toolbox service to their clients. Tim said and I quote Im going to make your day! His next words were ones Ill never forget Youre going to play at The Augusta National Golf Club. I was stunned. It was all I could do to contain my excitement. Of course I played it cool with Tim and said Oh really, when? My mind was racingwho should I invite? Do I get to choose?
After I regained my senses the decision was easy. We decided the appropriate guests would be our friends at Printpack. Over the last two years I have traveled all across this great country to meet with associates at Printpack facilities. They are now one of our largest and most successful direct 401(k) relationships. The main reason for our business relationship with them was their CFO Mr. Mike Hembree. He was an old friend of Tim McCabes but Tim could never get him to move their 401(k) to Fidelity. When Tim joined PMFM he finally had something to offer Mike and the rest is history. The other logical choice was Mikes boss Dennis Love. Dennis father Erskine actually was a friend of George before his early death in the 80s. Dennis appreciated the offer but since he had been several times before he deferred to another Printpack executive. I chose to invite Terry Harper, VP of Technology & Support. We had met at Printpacks annual charity golf tournament in October and he became a client after we talked briefly at lunch. Unfortunately he was on a business trip to India, Saudi Arabia and Dubai so I would have to wait two weeks to invite him. No problem, Mike assured me his schedule would permit it.
January 15th 2008
McCabe and I decided it was time to schedule our trip. Tim e-mailed George with a time frame. By the next week George and I were able to coordinate all four of our schedules and decided on February 25th & 26th, a Monday and Tuesday and prayed for good weather!
February 14th & 15th 2008
My associate Casey and I were at the Printpack corporate office for some additional One on One retirement meetings. Business was good and Mike and Terry were getting excited. Mike brought up the weather channel website to view the first available forecast for the 25th and it looked pretty good: 65* and partly cloudy. The 26th called for thunderstorms. For the next few days the forecast continually changed.
February 18th 2008
I sent my guests a gift to get them charged up for our upcoming trip. It was a nice picture frame with the Augusta National logo and spots for a picture and scorecard. Mike e-mailed me to thank me for revving up his engines.
February 23rd 2008
Its Saturday before our trip and my club (Cuscowilla) is having a 5-club event to kick off our season. It was a very interesting format that required planning and creative shot making. Unfortunately the night before 1.4 of rain made for a muddy round. That afternoon I started to feel sick. No, I wasnt getting nervous. My second daughter Julia Grace had been ill all week. By bedtime it was painfully obvious that I had a stomach virus! Not now! Talk about bad timing!
Monday February 25th 2008
6:45 a.m. The day I had dreamed of since I first struck a golf ball at the age of 12 at Mystery Valley had finally arrived. Between the discomfort and anticipation I did not sleep very well. Forecast was for a perfect 68* day, sunny and maybe a 5 mph wind. It was clear and calm on Lake Oconee with a little nip in the air. Terry called to tell me he had reached Greensboro early. He had left Marietta so early to beat the traffic that he made great time. After a little breakfast at Waffle House we were headed east on I-20 toward Augusta. Mike Hembrees daughter and son-in-law were in Savannah to throw a party and head off on their belated honeymoon. Her husband had to leave for IRAQ immediately after their wedding last year. Mike would be meeting us at the club. George had suggested an arrival time of 10:00 a.m. so I was surprised when Mike called at 9:20 to exclaim: Im in; Im driving down Magnolia Lane as we speak and it is very foggy! The club is located on Washington Road off I-20. It is like most busy 4-lane roads in America with fast food restaurants, strip shopping centers, gas stations and even a Hooter's where John Daly parks his motor coach during the Masters. When you turn right into the club you enter another world. No fancy security gate or anything. Just a driveway down Magnolia Lane and a simple guard shack. The famous Pinkerton Guard greeted me very respectfully and asked for a picture ID. I asked him what it was like to see people every day so excited to be here. He responded quickly: Its like Christmas for adults.every day.
Magnolia Lane is actually a tunnel. The trees are very, very old dating back to Civil War times. The property was a nursery belonging to the Berkman family called Fruitland Nursery. The drive is very short, about 300 yards and Im at the most famous clubhouse in all of golf. As I turn to the right to park the very first space is available, I cant resist. George and Mike are standing in front of the pro shop talking over a cup of coffee. A housekeeping employee greets me and takes my luggage to our overnight accommodations, the Clifford Roberts Suite. A quick trip to the locker room to change my shoes and its time to warm up on the practice tee.
Our caddies are waiting with our bags beside neatly stacked pyramids of Titleist Pro V1 balls with the Augusta National Golf Club logo. My spot is in the shade and I can see my breath in the cold morning air. As I start hitting shots I realize Im getting in too much of a hurry. George is notorious for very short warm ups and usually doesnt even hit any putts. The caddie says most people start to get nervous already. Warm up actually goes fairly well and my caddie correctly predicts that I would be hitting drivers halfway up the net that protects Washington Road from golf balls. Later that evening George would tell us that the net is 115 high and over 300 yards from the back of the tee. The pros routinely fly the net during the Masters. This must have something to do with the announcement by the club in recent years of plans to create a new larger practice facility in the area that is currently a parking lot for tournament patrons. Another reason according to George is that in the event of a weather delay during the tournament there is not enough room for all the players to warm up on the current practice tee. George has run the practice during the Masters for the last 35 years and says that 2008 will be his last..hes 75 years old.
A quick story from George and were on to the round. The club has a rule during the Masters that only 2 people are allowed on the practice tee with each player. Usually this would be the caddie and the players swing coach. They dont want it to be like a regular PGA TOUR event with coaches, psychologists, equipment reps, etc. In 1997 George anticipated a possible problem with a young new player named TIGER regarding this rule. Tigers father Earl was always with his son at golf tournaments. George didnt want to have to ask Mr. Woods to leave the tee area in front of everyone so he did a very smart thing. He pulled Butch Harmon aside under the large oak trees that flank the practice tee and requested some assistance. After explaining the club rule to Butch he understood and approached the young man now recognized around the world. He said, Tiger, the club rule here only allows you two people on the tee, your caddie and one more..who would you like to leave, me or your father? Tiger looked up and calmly said, Dad, how about you get yourself some coffee and Ill meet you at the putting green? As you golf history buffs would know Tiger would open the tournament with a smooth 40-30 and go on to win by a record 12 shots on Sunday afternoon at 18-under par 270.
Now where were we? Heading to the #1 tee. A short walk through the opening between the pro shop and caddie building and you are on the #1 tee. There are no tee times here so while we wait our turn we have a chance to hit some practice putts. The speed of the green is fast but nothing crazy. The thing I notice the most is how tight and smooth they are. The view from the putting green is spectacular. From left to right: Butler Cabin, Eisenhower Cabin, Jones Cabin, #10 tee, #18 green, #9 green and #2 and #7 greens in the distance down the hill.
A British couple is in the group in front of us. George tells us that their family runs the Wimbledon Tennis Championship. It is finally our turn.
Hole #1 Tea Olive, Par 4, 365/455
A difficult opening hole that doglegs slightly to the right. (The only other hole that they claim is left to right is #18 however recent changes to #11 have turned it into a dogleg right). The sun has finally burned off the last of the fog and it is pleasantly warm. I cant resist the urge to try and fly the fairway bunker at the top of the hill so I hit driver. Good solid long shot that gets a smattering of applause from our group and the others gathered around the tee box. As you might expect I was a little quick and turn it over a bit too much and end up in the left rough. We are off and running..Good news, only 123 yards to the hole on the back of the green however I am behind one on the new pine trees planted in the last 5 years to tighten the course. A choke down hooded 8-iron ends up just off to the right of the green. My pitch shot needs to hit into a slope on the green in order to stop near the hole and I overshoot a little leaving me a 25 putt. A routine lag to 6 and a BOGEY 5. +1 thru 1
Hole #2 Pink Dogwood, Par 5, 515/575
Downhill dogleg left My drive is straight at the fairway bunker but not solid enough to reach it leaving me 260 to the front of the green with the hole tucked up against the left bunker. I choose to rip a 3 wood down the right side to set up a good angle for the wedge shot. For my third shot my caddie says keep it left of the hole or else it will roll all the way down to the front of the green some 35 away. Only problem is that there is only about 6 between the fringe and the hole. My 60* wedge from 45 yards is headed 2 left of the hole until it hits the top of the ridge and spins back to the front of the green. What a truly precise game we play. My birdie effort up and over the ridge was a little wide right and long leaving, you guessed it, a killer-downhiller from 4. The slope and front of the green awaits a putt struck a little too hard and off the mark. My stroke is pure-center cut. My first PAR at Augusta! +1 thru 2
Hole #3 Flowering Peach, Par 4, 340/350
Short straight hole with a menacing green. My 3 wood tee shot leaves me 110 yards to the back right hole location. I hit a solid 52* wedge right at the hole and come up short. The slope of the green takes it a little left and I 2-putt from 25. PAR +1 thru 3
Hole #4 Flowering Crabapple, Par 3, 170/240
This is undoubtedly the hardest par 3 on the course and we got to play it at its best. Back right hole location is 179 yards and looks much longer in a spot that looks tiny over the huge bunker. Fortunately I hit a very straight solid 6-iron that catches the green and stops only 10 right/dead pin high. My caddie comments that he has a player today. Later he would declare the day before his loop shot 130. He warns me of the speed and how it could easily go all the way to the front of the green if I was not careful. So much for positive vibes. My speed is great however I dont play near enough break. A disappointing PAR.
+1 thru 4 and feeling great
Hole #5 Magnolia, Par 4, 400/455
One of the least viewed holes due to its location but very interesting and demanding. A long uphill tee shot that doglegs left around two very deep bunkers to a very hilly green. My drive is solid and a little right ending up in the rough. My 6-iron from 175 hits the middle of the green however does not clear the ridge and settles in the front leaving a difficult putt up and over the slope. Since it was straight downhill to the hole once I got over the ridge I was a little too cautious and left myself another killer-downhiller, this time from 10. I gently stroked the ball and started walking-I knew I had made it! PAR
+1 thru 5, this is fun!
Hole #6 Juniper, Par 3, 165/180
A downhill hole from an elevated tee. Another wildly sloping green. Todays hole is on the middle left. All you have to do is hit the center of the green and it should feed toward the hole. Mike would do just this and leave himself a 6 tap-in for birdie. I choose a 7-iron from 163 and at the last second pull it left toward the hole only to miss the green left. Bad mistake to short-side yourself at Augusta. I decided to play a little bump and run style pitch with a 9-iron with pretty good success and leave a 5 putt for par. My caddie and I read 1-ball left of the hole. Too much borrow and I graze the left edge of the hole. BOGEY +2 thru 6
Hole #7 Pampas, Par 4, 330/450
Straight and narrow little par 4. This is one of the holes they have really made hard for the Masters by adding such length and tightening the fairway with new trees. The green is also very shallow and surrounded by very deep bunkers. A solid 3 wood in the fairway leaves me only 89 yards to the far right hole location. A solid 56* sand wedge lands about 10 below the hole but spins back to leave an uphill 20 birdie putt. A routine 2-putt for PAR. +2 thru 7
#8 Yellow Jasmine, Par 5, 480/570
A straight uphill par 5 that plays longer than the yardage of course. Two large bunkers guard the right side of the fairway but really arent in my way from the member tees. A solid drive up the left side leaves me only 210 yards to the front hole location. My second shot with my 2-EZ hybrid comes up just barely short. Since the lie is a little soft and tight I decided to again pitch and run with my 9-iron. It is a good choice that leaves a very makeable 3 uphill putt for my first BIRDIE! +1 thru 8, WOW
#9 Carolina Cherry, Par 4, 395/460
An interesting hole that you hit your tee shot through a tunnel of pine trees. At the bottom of the hill it turns to the left and back up towards the clubhouse. A straight drive is the play and I hit it solid down the right side leaving only 125 yards to the front hole location that is barely over the false front. I think to myself, Dont be short like Norman in 96. My 8-iron is pulled a little and brings the bunker into play. So far I havent visited the pristine white sand yet. Thankfully it carries onto the green and stops on the second of three tiers. The putt is very scary. I must play 15 of break and try to die it on the top of the slope so it will trickle to the hole. Too soft and another killer-downhiller, too hard and I chipping from 30 yards like Norman. My speed was pretty good leaving a 5 uphill putt for PAR-no problem. +1 thru 9, (37) not bad for the first nine
#10 Camellia, Par 4, 450/495
It is widely regarded that the Masters Tournament really begins here on Sunday afternoon. A historical note: in the first Masters held in 1934 this was actually the #1 hole and the tournament was called The Augusta Invitational. The next year they switched the nines and the name became simply The Masters Tournament.
A long downhill (a drop in elevation of 99 from tee to green) dogleg left that definitely requires a draw off the tee. I hit a pretty good shot with just enough draw to catch the famous speed slot to get to the bottom of the hill. Now I face a slightly downhill shot off a side hill (hook) downhill lie from 182. My 6-iron is thin and poor to the right of the right greenside bunker. Good news is the hole is on the left side of the green and I have a decent chance to get it close. Unfortunately my pitch stops quickly and leaves me a 2-putt from about 25. BOGEY. +2 thru 10
#11 White Dogwood, Par 4, 400/505
The first hole of the famous Amen Corner. The first thing I notice is how far back it is to the Masters tee.105 yards! The hole actually bends a little left to right and you need to keep your drive tucked to the right or else you will go through the fairway and end up in the rough or even worse the trees. I hit my best drive of the day and end up in the dead center of the fairway with only 122 yards to the hole. A pretty stock PW just right of the hole leaves me with a 25 putt for birdie. I cant believe how much this putt breaks left toward the pond and Raes Creek. Tap-in PAR. +2 thru 11
#12 Golden Bell, Par 3, 145/155
World famous par 3. Talk about a hole with tons of history. Think of all the greats of the game who had to negotiate this little monster. Sarazen, Sneed, Nelson, Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Ballesteros, and of course Woods. Others lost the tournament here: Who can forget Tom Wieskopfs 13? Todays hole is cut directly over the front bunker. Our host George almost flies it in the hole. I hit an 8-iron that flies the left side of the green and leaves a difficult chip. I decide to take the safe route and chip with my hybrid 4-iron. I pull the 5 par putt and settle for a disappointing BOGEY. +3 thru 12
#13 Azalea, Par 5, 455/510
The last hole of Amen Corner is a wonderful risk-reward dogleg left par 5. The famous Raes Creek runs down the entire left side of the hole and crosses in front of the green. If there was ever a drive built for me this is it. Those of you who have played with me know what I mean. Thankfully I was able to resist the urge to try and really kill it. The shot is a perfect little draw that turns the corner and comes to rest right where you see all the greats of the game on TV. 182 again is my yardage to the front left hole location. Of course I have a side hill (hook) lie and I aim a little right and choke down on the grip to avoid a hook. The shot heads straight for the center of the green with a very small amount of draw, this could be good. Like many before me I come up short on the bank and it falls back into the creek. Just Damn Upon arriving at the creek I am excited to see my ball resting on the sandbar.
I think about the famous situations involving Billy Joe Patton and Curtis Stange. Patton was an amateur from N.C. that had the best chance to win the Masters. He debated about going in and playing it out of the water and put on his rainsuit resulting in a huge roar of approval from the patrons. He changed his mind, took a penalty and made bogey. Hogan was playing #11 at the time thought Patton had made eagle and went against his famous strategy of NEVER going at the flag on 11. He hit it in the pond, made double and lost by 1. Strange had opened the 1985 Masters with 80 and fought back to make the cut and eventually take the lead on Sunday afternoon. He tried to hit his out of the water and was unsuccessful. He would later hit it in the pond on #15 and practically give the tournament to Bernhard Langer.
Unlike those two great players I was able to blast out onto the green and 2-putt for a routine PAR. +3 thru 13
#14 Chinese Fir, Par 4, 380/440
The only hole on the course without a bunker and of course another dogleg left. My drive is up the right center and leaves me 142 yards to a back left-center hole. This green is huge and has unbelievable slopes and ridges. My 8-iron is heading on a great line just left of the hole.until it hit the top on the slope and rolls all the way to the front some 80 from the hole---not good. You never want to be short on #14. My caddie points to a spot 40 left of the hole. I cannot believe where he is pointing! It is almost a trick shot. I take his advice and the ball somehow ends up tracking to the hole and stops about 6 short. Im able to drain that one for one of the coolest 2-putts of my life! PAR. +3 thru 14
#15 Firethorn, Par 5, 475/530
The tee shot is slightly uphill then downhill to the green just beyond the little pond. Trying to avoid the trees that jut out into the fairway on the left I barely avoid the trees on the right but stay in the rough. When I arrive at my ball I cant help but think of all the historic shots played here. #1 of course was Gene Sarazens double-eagle 2 in 1935. (He would catch and then soundly beat Craig Wood in a playoff the next day). How about Nicklaus eagle 3 in 1986 with son Jackie on the bag. My caddie calmly says 233 to carry the water and 256 to the back right hole. I say Give me the 3 wood, Im not laying up like Chip Beck. The other players and caddies give me a little encouraging banter: All right! Lets see it. I figure the only way I can hit it this far and get it to stop on the green is to hit a high fade. Dont laugh, I can fade it when I absolutely have to! Open the face, swing outside-in; you can do this I tell myself..as soon as I make contact I begin to laugh. The shot was solid, rising and turning left to right toward the hole. I shout GO IN! She landed like a butterfly with sore feet right in the middle of the green only 24 from the hole. Absolutely the best shot of my life and on such a famous hole. My caddie tells me that the other caddies predicted that I would want to try the shot. He told them he wouldnt even try to stop me. As I triumphantly stride to the green I pause for a photo on the Sarazen Bridge. (While working at Chateau lan from 1990 ' 1993 I had the pleasure of meeting and building clubs for Gene Sarazen, Sam Sneed and Kathy Whitworth). The pond has tons of large tadpoles and is very shallow. Stuff you cant see on TV. My EAGLE putt has about 18 of right to left break according to my caddie. I give it a good run and tap in for my second BIRDIE. +2 thru 15
#16 Redbud, Par 3, 145/170
Another classic par 3 with a pond short and left. Todays hole is front left. As with #6 earlier all you have to do is hit a solid shot right of the hole and the greens slope should take it down to the hole. This time Im able to hit the shot (8-iron from 150 yards) and end up only 4 under the hole. From the tee it seems closer and the caddies all try to encourage an ace. Pretty simple putt. BIRDIE +1 thru 16
#17 Nandina, Par 4, 370/440
Uphill tee shot that must avoid the large tree on the left known as the Eisenhower Pine. The former President routinely hit the tree with his slicing drives and once raised a motion during a board meeting to cut it down. Legend has it that Clifford Roberts stood up immediately and said Meeting adjourned! Hence the tree is still there albeit aided by support cables in its limbs.
I give Ikes tree too much respect and block my drive into the young stand of pines to the right leaving me no direct shot to the green. My weak attempt to hit a low cut under and around more trees actually hits the last one and ends up in the pine straw some 105 yards from the hole. I really dont want to give back the shots I just worked so hard to get. My 52* wedge goes right at the hole over the front bunker but catches a slope and ends up 22 away. I havent made a long putt yet and need one badly now to save par. Apparently the golf gods were with me as I drain it for PAR. My group laughs and compliments me: Nice PAR. +1 thru 17
#18 Holly, Par 4, 385/465
A classic finishing hole on a great golf course. Uphill tee shot through a tunnel of trees on this dogleg right. As soon as I hit it our host George states that it is perfect. Hes right; Im even with the second fairway bunker in the dead center of the fairway. (Clifford Roberts always referred to it as only one bunker with two parts and so does everyone else to this day). My final approach shot of the day is to a back right hole and is only 153 yards. I figure a 7-iron is needed to counteract the amount of uphill in the shot. I barely catch the back edge of the green some 35 away from the hole. I desperately want to make it for a round of even par 72. The birdie putt is a good try however slides a good 4-5 by the hole. Great, now I have to make this in order to shoot 36 on the back and avoid a 3-putt. Somehow I am able to hole the putt and rejoice with another PAR.
+1 thru 18
Of course we played the Member tees measuring only 6365 but I am proud of my round nonetheless. With the rain from a few days earlier and the somewhat long fairways, elevation changes, etc. it played much longer. The Masters tees from the tips measures a brutal 7445. George says I am more than welcome to play them tomorrow morning. Well see, rain is in the forecast.
George politely tells us he is done for the day playing wise but that we can do anything we choose. Do we play more on the big course? How about the short course otherwise known as the par 3 course? I dont think my guests are used to walking 18 holes like I am. We decide to take a break and grab some lunch.
The Short Course'The worlds most famous par 3 course.
After a lunch overlooking the course filled with lively stories from our Augusta member of 35 years we head over to play the short course. It is a very interesting collection of very short holes ranging from 70 to 140 yards with very small greens. I sank one putt on the 7th (#1 hcp hole) for my only birdie and shoot +1 (28). Its now 4:45 and we decide to do a little shopping in the pro shop and relax with cocktails. The pro shop is fairly small and loaded with all types of Augusta National logo items. You can only get the Augusta National Golf Club logo items from this pro shop. The souvenirs available during the tournament all have the Masters logo. I have a list of items to get for Jim McCrory who had the opportunity to play last year. He just couldnt get enough stuff and begged me to get some more. I somehow get out of there with only spending $395.
Yes, we get to stay overnight and play again tomorrow weather permitting. We have the distinct honor of spending the night in the Clifford Roberts Suite B. It is located right next to the members tee on #1 and used to be the tournament headquarters for a number of years until they built the current modern facility. It is a very comfortable suite with a den, card table, kitchenette, and 4 bedrooms. We all cleaned up for dinner in the dining room at 7:30. Coat and tie are required in this elegant yet understated old clubhouse. There are portraits on the walls of Bobby Jones, Clifford Roberts and Dwight Eisenhower. The president was a very important member of the club and his picture and artifacts are everywhere. The Eisenhower Cabin next to the putting green and #10 Masters tee is the largest cabin on the property. It had to be so to provide enough room for his staff and secret service agents that accompanied him. The food selection and quality is first class as you might imagine. I take notice of something that I have never seen. A menu with no prices. Kind of nice for a change and of course very classy. While taking a look at the portraits and busts in the room I recognize a voice across the room and turn to see 1976 U.S. Open and most recently 2008 Turtle Bay Champion Jerry Pate. When I return to the table and disclose my discovery to our group, George replies I wonder who hes here with, because hes not a member.
After dinner George offers to take us on a tour of the clubhouse. We gaze at the Masters trophy which is a replica of the clubhouse made of sterling silver. On it are the names of all the past champions and runners-up since 1934. I cant help but think of how lucky and proud I am to have my name on Cuscowillas Club Championship trophy. Next, we head upstairs to the library which has many historical artifacts from the club including President Eisenhowers desk. A large TV in the corner is tuned to The Weather Channel and everyone is curious as to when the rain would arrive tomorrow. Also on the second floor is the Champions Locker Room. During the tournament only past champions and their guests are allowed inside. Talk about an exclusive club. They actually share a locker with another champion. George jokes that Tiger is paired with Jackie Burke so he doesnt have to worry about sharing. Imagine each April seeing the likes of Tiger, Faldo, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Watson, Mickelson and defending champion Zach Johnson yuk it up together as they prepare for the tournament. Up a very narrow and steep set of stairs is the famous Crows Nest. Tradition has it that the 4 amateurs in the Masters each year stay here at night if they desire. Its a lot nicer now than in years past but still very small and has very little privacy. We return to the Champions Locker Room to find George enjoying an after dinner cocktail and a cigar. Its 9:30 and it looks like we wont be heading to bed just yet.
George is telling us some more interesting and funny stories when a group of men come in along with the aforementioned Jerry Pate. They greet George and after a little small talk George tells Jerry that he had another Alabama golfer here and points to me! I introduce myself to Jerry and his guests as well as Mike and Terry. Jerry is the guest of Mike Thompson'son of Hall Thompson, owner of Shoal Creek and the infamous 1990 PGA Championship. I later find out that he owns a business in Birmingham that employs the father of one of PMFMs portfolio management team Will McGough. Talk about a small world. Jerry and I start reminiscing about our old golf coach Conrad Rehling who recently passed away. Jerry said while he was in school they went to St. Andrews and after Coach Rehlings death he spread his ashes next to the Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole. You could tell that Jerry really appreciated his old coach. Jerrys guests were both members of Bear Bryants National Championship teams in the early 1970s. Needless to say we all just sat back and enjoyed all the stories from Jerry and the good old days with the Bear. While Jerry was telling a funny joke that was not appropriate for female ears a group of people including 2 women came through heading up to the Crows Nest. The member of the group said as they left You can finish your joke now Jerry. (It was Jeffery Immelt, CEO of General Electric). At 11:30 we decide its time to head for the sack. A 6:30 wake-up call had been ordered. We were having breakfast at 7:00 and hoped to be on the tee when it opened at 8:00 in order to beat the rain.
Tuesday February 26th, 2008
Its overcast and a little cool. We grab a quick breakfast at the same table in the dining room. McCabe would later tell me that George always sat at the same table. This morning there is another interesting twist (at least to me). NO MENU. The waiter just asked you what you would like to have. Neat. A quick warm-up and on to the tee for another round at The Augusta National Golf Club. The morning radar indicated that the storm front is in Atlanta already and moving east rapidly.
#1 is downwind and I decide to try again to fly the fairway bunker and do just that leaving only 105 yards in the right rough. My 52* wedge comes up just short of clearing the slope in front of the hole and rolls back to the apron. A poor effort from there results in another opening bogey. George says to me A little fatherly advice'always chip, its hard to putt from these sticky aprons. While walking to the 2nd tee I tell Mike and Terry that he reminded me of my father'he was good at telling me what not to do after I made a mistake but I guess thats how we learn. +1 thru 1
#2'Todays drive goes right of the bunker. With the hole cut in the back center I lay up with my 2-EZ hybrid to set up another wedge. Again my caddie advises me to keep it left of the hole. I hit what I think is going to be a perfect shot just left of the hole and it takes one hop and stops on the fringe. Now Ive got a fast downhill put. A routine 2-putt. +1 thru 2
#3'Another 3 wood in the center. Hole is located in the hardest spot on the far left. Not much room for error here. A solid 52* wedge from 109 leaves me with a 20 downhill putt. Tap-in PAR. +1 thru 3
#4'Hole is middle left and playing only 163. Because of the coolness and a faint breeze I hit a little 6-iron. Pin high left leaving one of the slowest putts I encounter due to the slope and tendency (otherwise known as grain). Another solid PAR. +1 thru 4
#5'Nice drive up the right side again. As soon as I hit, the rain starts to fall. A back right hole from 185 yards. I try to cut my #4-hybrid in the rain and miss the green long & left of the bunker. My only shot is a high lob and it comes off great. It was a blessing to be in the rough so I could easily get under it. Another uphill 5 putt for par that goes down. +1 thru 5
#6'The rain subsides for a minute. Today the hole is in the far back left 172 yards away. One of my best iron shots (6-iron) is heading right at it and comes up approximately 35 short. I cant be disappointed; it was so solid and straight. Then the sky opened up. Poor George, Mike and Terry had to hit in a downpour. I jump in the cart with George and he informs me that he is done. You guys can keep playing if you like. Before I know it he is out of sight. It rained so hard that the green was ponding. We decided to take cover in the restrooms close by. It stopped raining in about 15 minutes and we returned to putt out on #6 to find Jerry Pates group passing us to #7 tee. 2-putts from 35 for PAR. +1 thru 6
#7'Todays 3 wood leaks into the right rough behind a tree. I hit another tree ahead and hit the green in three, 2-putt for BOGEY. +2 thru 7
# 8'Another solid drive and 3 wood to the top of the hill and our first thunder. The clubs weather alert alarm immediately sounds followed by a voice that announces the course is temporarily closed due to lightning in the area. Good enough for me'we hightail it to the house. The storm front was early but full of rain. It was only 9:45 and we would not return until 1:00.
What do you do in a rain delay like this? #1 you hope it quits raining so you can finish. We had lunch, we shopped some more, and watched the radar from our den next to a warm fireplace. Finally we were able to return and George was true to his word. He decided to stay next to the fire and take a nap. Anywhere else and I would have joined him, but hey, were at Augusta National!
The hole on #8 was way back left over a ridge that basically divides the front from the rear portion of the green. Once again I came up short and had a difficult putt that I come real close to making. Another PAR though. +2 thru 8
#9'Another solid drive barely in the right rough. The hole looks like it is in the same spot only a little closer to the right edge. Again my 7-iron approach is tugged a little but misses the bunker. It finishes on the very back of the green on the third tier a long way from the hole. I have to go down two tiers with a false front looming behind the hole. My birdie effort has great speed however over borrowed by about 4. I pour it in for another PAR and finish the front in +2(38).
#10'Driver down the left side leaves 202 yards to a back right hole. I try unsuccessfully to cut my 2-EZ hybrid and miss the green short and close to the bunker. My angle is tight up against the bunker and the right side of the green. Mike has the same shot and his ball checks up short due to the tilt in the green. I try to use a lower lofted club (PW) and fly it too long & over the green. Even though George is in the room resting, I'm sure he would be happy with my next shot. I decide to pitch it rather than putt and hit a wonderful shot stopping 4 past the hole and make it for BOGEY. +3 thru 10
#11'Another spectacular drive sets up another PW from 122 yards. (This is why they added all the trees on the right and extra length'they wanted a bigger club in the players hand coming into this green). Im aware of the pond on the left however not too concerned with a wedge in my hand. A good approach and 2-putts for PAR. +3 thru 11
#12'Masters Sunday hole location (back right). I take dead aim with 8-iron from 145 into a slight right to left crosswind. It starts just barely to the right of the hole and drifts left in the wind to 15. A misread between me and my caddie nets a disappointing PAR. Too bad, I really wanted that one. +3 thru 12
#13'Again a good drive around the corner. Unfortunately a very similar hole location only a little more towards the front. Only 192 yards to the hole and I try to hit a #4 hybrid off the side hill lie and just miss the green left in the swale between the green and the bunker. I could literally toss it close to the hole underhanded very easily and leave a tap-in birdie. Of course the rules dont allow such and I nipped a little lob wedge to 9 past the hole. My caddie reads one cup outside right and it never moved. He blamed my pace but it ended up a perfect 17 past the hole (perfect pace according to Dave Pelz). A PAR nonetheless. +3 thru 13
#14'Today I turn my driver over and bust it up the left side. We find it just barely in the rough with only 148 yards to the far right hole just above another huge slope. Again it looks great in the air'right up until it hits the slope and rolls back. This is getting frustrating. My ball ends up only 30 away but a good 4 in elevation below the hole. I cant fathom trying to chip it and end up 3-putting from the fringe. BOGEY. +4 thru 14
#15'Carbon copy drive from yesterday however we end up in the pine straw. The hole is far left so I lay up to 92 yards on the right side of the fairway. I aim 20 right expecting some roll to the left. A solid 56* wedge stops dead 22 right (above) of the hole. Unfortunately my guests had a tough time on the hole and have already retired close to the 16th tee. I imagine being in the Masters and the green is all mine. My birdie putt rolls true and breaks right into the middle of the hole. Finally! +3 thru 15
#16'148 yards to the hole which is again on the left side only farther back into the green. Todays 8-iron goes right at it and stops 4 right under the hole. Cant miss this and I dont. Another BIRDIE. +2 thru 16
#17'Much better drive and long. One of the other caddies asks my caddie what happened to me. His response He just birdied 15 & 16! Only 145 yards to the hole which is way, way back on the right. My caddie pleads with me to stay short and left of the hole because of the trouble lurking right and long. A solid 9-iron to the middle of the green sets up a routine 2-putt from 25 and a solid PAR.
+2 thru 17
#18'Ive played 35 holes on the big course and 9 on the short course without hitting a single bunker so of course I pull my drive toward the fairway bunker. Oh well I think. The trajectory was pretty low and it ran through the bunker and came to rest in the rough between the bunkers. If I could hit one more good shot I would go 0 for 45 in bunkers. As you look up at the green all you can see is white sand and the little yellow flag on the back of the green. I hit 6-iron from 165 to the back fringe setting up another 2-putt PAR. Again my birdie effort was aggressive and ran 4 past. However, I was able to hole another putt to complete my second round in style. +2 thru 18. 38-36=74
*[A score of 73-74=147 (+3) would make the cut in most Masters Tournaments.]
Two day totals: 5 birdies, 23 pars, 8 bogeys
It was getting late. With the rain delay the round that started at 8 a.m. had just finished at 3 p.m. We were all grateful to George for his patience in allowing us to finish. It was time to pack up and leave. One more quick run through the shop for some extra gifts.
We thanked George and headed out. At the end of Magnolia Lane the real world awaited. As soon as I turned left and headed toward home it hit me.I had finally accomplished a lifelong dream to play at this wonderful old golf club. It was also a shock to return to life outside the cocoon that we have enjoyed for the last 30 hours.
The Masters is the start of the new golf season for so many across the country and now when I watch every April I can relive my 2 rounds. I must hurry home to see my family and pack for a flight in the morning to Los Angeles. For two glorious days I was the envy of every golfer in the world. Now it was time to go back to work and dream bigger dreams.
I truly hope you have enjoyed my little journey through the loblolly pines.
Heres hoping you realize your dreams.
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