Tragedy Denies Augusta Trip


I am a retired Marine aviator/CPA living in Dawsonville, GA that somehow got to play Augusta National on January 20th, 2007. This is my story:
I started playing golf about the age of 13. I am now 69 years old and am more enamored with the game now than I ever was as a youth. During the intermediate years I continued to play on a somewhat regular basis but took a hiatus for 28 years, starting in 1973 and lasting till 2001. The reason for the hiatus was I had elected to resign my commission in September of 1973 and return to college to finish my education which I had started years ago. Going to school on the GI Bill, I did not have the time or the money to continue with my golfing career and just quit the sport all together.
In 1999 I bought a lake house on Lake Lanier which is just north of Atlanta, GA. The house is about a hundred yards from a brand new course that had been built in Dawsonville, GA that same year. Even though I almost lived on the 18th fairway I did not take up the game again as I was more into water skiing than golf. My brother in law, Jack, an avid golfer, admonished me quite often about not taking up the game again. I finally gave in when he got me up to the range and had me hit a few balls. The results were about the same as when I was playing regularly years ago. Enter, the Golf Channel. I started watching all the infomercials and was utterly amazed at the changes in equipment. They must have seen me coming. I bought just about every gimmick I saw. Some good, some bad. I will say this, I was a 18-20 handicap years ago and now have reached single digits. I am still amazed at the transition. But on with the story.
After returning to the game, I would hold a mini tournament on my brother in law's birthday which occurs the on the 5th of July. One particular year after the tournament, we were celebrating the '19th hole' at my house when his daughter, Robin, brought a new boyfriend to the event. His name was Howard. We all welcomed Howard into the fold and suggested that he needed to bring his clubs the next year to take part in the tournament. Howard accepted but only on the premise that we would play at his club. Of course we all asked Howard where his club was and he responded.... August National!! Well immediately we all became Howard's best friend. Howard could do no wrong the rest of the evening.
Howard, true to his word, confronted his father, Howard Sr., a well known surgeon in the Augusta area and a member of Augusta National, that he had committed him to inviting us for a round of golf. Soon thereafter Jack notified me that we were invited to play on February 19th, 2005.
On Friday the 18th I packed my bags and clubs and went to work. I had a hard time concentrating on my work as all I could think of was the up and coming golfing experience of my life. I was giddy to say the least. Then our receptionist said I had a phone call. It was my sister. She said our mother was not doing well and I needed to drop everything and come home (Birmingham, AL). I informed my sister that I had just left our mother on Monday and she was fine. She had serious advanced dementia but her physical health seemed fine. I also asked my sister if she knew where I was going and she said she knew I was going to Augusta to play golf but that I needed to come home. All I could think was, this can't be happening! Well I knew I had to do the right thing so I got my business associate to take my place and reminded him that he would owe me forever. I got in my car and headed west to Birmingham while my brother in law and my replacement headed east to Augusta. As it turned out I am so glad I made the right decision as my mother passed away that evening about midnight. I would have never gotten over it if I was not there. I thought life was pretty cruel at this point and if this wasn't the definition of a 'double whammy' I don't know what is. How often does someone forfeit his chance to play Augusta National and lose his mother on the same day? However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel here.
Howard, with the help of his mother, petitioned the good doctor to re invite us to play on January 20th, 2007. This time Jack and I were really on the road to play August National. We left a day early and checked into a motel to make sure we would make our tee time. I got up early the next morning and sauntered up to the lobby with a feeling of great exhilaration to have some coffee and doughnuts. My cell phone rang. The voice on the other end identified himself as the good doctor. He asked to speak to Jack but I told him Jack was in the shower but I would have him call back as soon as possible. The doctor said he had to go to Atlanta to perform some emergency surgery on Billy Payne's son and doubted if he could get back in time to make our tee time but he would be in touch. I was devastated. I thought again, HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING???!!!
As I have previously mentioned, my business associate had taken my place on the first invitation but what I didn't mention was he is about the biggest practical joker I have ever met in my life. He had pulled numerous practical jokes on me over the phone that I will not go into here but this one was the product of a very evil mind. He did his best impression of the good doctor on the phone when he called me on my cell phone and I failed to recognize his voice. I've only known him for 18 years but he has gotten me every time. After he finally fessed up to who was on the line, I dog cussed him for about 20 minutes after which Jack and I got in my car and took probably the slowest ride down Magnolia Lane that has ever been taken. After what I had been through to get there I thought I deserved it.
We had lunch with the good doctor at the clubhouse then went and played our round. Its hard to put into words playing Augusta National for the first time so I won't bother. All I can say is it was like being in a twilight zone that you never wanted to leave. I just thought the journey was more of a story than the actual round itself. And on a real positive note, Howard and Robin were married last weekend. Bot Jack and I are looking forward to the party that is forthcoming. Hopefully another round of golf is in the offering.
George, Dawsonville, GA
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