Sharing Augusta with the Family


It began in 1981 when my mother called me from California to announce that she was marrying again. She wanted to introduce her fianc by phone since I lived in Boston at the time. We had a very pleasant conversation and I looked forward to meeting him. As our chat wound down, he said that he had heard from my mother that I was an avid golfer. I allowed as how that was more than a bit true and then he said that, with four daughters from his previous marriage who cared nothing for golf, he was looking forward to playing with me. In closing, he told me to try and keep a few weeks open come October for a few rounds at Augusta. This didnt really register with me at first. When my mother came back on the phone, I asked her if he meant what I thought he meant.
It turns out that he had been a member of ANGC since 1955 and spent a few weeks on the grounds twice a year ' in late October and before, during and after the Masters in the spring. Over the years, he had contributed to the building fund and actually had a cabin by the 10th fairway with his name on it. (This, of course, did not signify that he owned it, just that he sort of had first dibs on it.)
It also turns out that he and my mother had been engaged before my mother and father met. But thats a whole other story.
From 1981 until 1989, I made at least one trip a year from Boston to Augusta to spend 3-5 days visiting with my mother and my new, favorite step-father. In 1989, my wife and I moved to North Carolina and until 1994, we made two trips a year to ANGC ' spring and fall. Since my wife and mother werent interested in playing much golf, the two of them would drive back to NC to visit while I had different friends/family come in as guests to play. I am forever grateful to my stepfather who liked nothing more than to share the ANGC experience with others. Even when he couldnt play much any more because of his health, he would come out and follow us around in a cart.
It is still with a heavy heart that I must report his passing in 1997. He was a sweet, generous man who loved my mother and golf.
Here, in no particular order, are some of my fondest memories:
- Standing on the first tee for the first time with every visit and felling light-headed and a bit weak in the knees
-My half brother makes a hole in one at 12 ' his caddie Lamb Chop must have jumped 20 in the air
-One of my best friends makes 3 at 15 from the Masters tees
-Another friend shoots 72 from the Masters tees
-Meeting Alistair Cooke at the Foreign Press Reception in the Members Grill on Saturday night of the Masters
-Playing a few 9-hole rounds with the last man to win a major championship with hickory shafts (Johnny Fisher ' US Amateur 1936)
-Bumping into Ben Crenshaw looking at ties in the pro shop
-Seeing Raymond Floyd playing a round with a young Make-A-Wish golfer suffering from some kind of awful cancer
-Following Couples and Love in one of the early rounds
-Watching Nick Faldo on the range and seeing tight clusters of balls at 10 yard intervals out to about 280
-Playing through Paul Azinger and his entourage
-One rainy day when most everyone else opted to stay in and play bridge, I played 54 holes by myself
-Arriving a day after some bozo crashed the gates, took over the pro shop, and fired a shot through one of the windows (the grove is still there). Apparently, he wanted an audience with Ronald Reagan who was visiting George Shultz.
-Shooting 72 from the Members Tees ' birdies at 6-7-12-13, bogeys at 5-9-10-18
-Shooting 76 from the Masters Tees
-Playing the day after Crenshaws 1984 victory and trying to roll in that putt on ten.
-Trying the Larry Mize pitch on 11
-Seeing what happened to Amen Corner when the big rains came and, the next visit, seeing how all that devastation had magically disappeared
-Falling asleep in the cabin while watching the videos of past Masters on the closed-circuit club channel
-Having dinner with Charlie Yates, and hearing his stories about Bob Jones and how, during the Depression, the players used to share hotel rooms, cars, trains, etc. not to mention their winnings.
-Lunch in the Members Grill with the souvenirs donated by each winner ' Tom Watsons PAL, Floyds 5-wood, Nicklaus 1-iron, etc.
-Receiving a phony invitation to join the club from one of my guests who got some club stationary from the front receptionist ' for one minute, my heart was in my throat before cruel reality intruded
-Playing a round with some of the caddies, especially in the early 80s, who looped with the Masters players. Hearing their stories about all the guys, how they played the golf courses, and mostly how, if the players had listened to them, they wouldve won.
-Waking to the sound of the synchronized mowing squadron
-Playing the golf course days after the Masters when all the stands, scoreboards, ropes, towers, etc. are still in place
-Watching Fred McLeod, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead tee off in the early morning signaling the start of play
-Getting a letter from a man in the UK, father of a work colleague who asked me to send her Dad a sleeve of club logo balls (I sent him a box), thanking me profusely for completing his rather extensive collection.
-Every drive up Magnolia Lane
-The kindness and thoughtfulness of everyone who worked there
-The way time seemed to slow down when I first arrived and speed up when it was time to go
Thats enough for now. Among golfers, I consider myself to have lived an especially charmed life because of this, mostly accidental and unmerited windfall. I can only say that I enjoyed every minute of it and did whatever I could to share the wealth.
Oh, well. Good luck and play well.
Frank, Winston-Salem, NC
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