April In Augusta Without The Masters
On this day last year, I was eating the second-best pimento cheese in the world, marveling at the beauty and efficiency of a first-class event, and overall, having the time of my life at the Augusta National Golf Club. The women were beautiful, the men dapper, and the grounds pristine.
This time last year, I wrote two stories about my first time on that glorious golf course. “Tradition” was a major theme throughout my descriptive narrative. “The best that money can buy” was another.
This April, the azaleas are blooming, but there’s no Masters in Augusta. Other than the World War II years, springtime and azaleas and Augusta and The Masters have been a tradition since 1935.
Plans are in place for the fall. November to be exact. I can only imagine the degree to which Augusta National will go to have the course shining in fall splendor. One thing for certain, it will be another show-stopper. First-class all the way. After this delay, we will appreciate it all the more.
This year’s a little different, no doubt. The SC governor just issued a stay-at-home order. But my mind’s not on Covid-19. Today, my mind is in Augusta, and I’m thinking of better times ahead. I plan to drink my Arnold Palmer cocktail in my 2019 Augusta National souvenir cup and hope I’m there this fall to get a 2020 cup to add to the collection.
Story from April 2019...
The Augusta National Golf Club
An Experience Like No Other
It’s always exciting to be a part of a history. It’s even better if the historic event is in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Last weekend I was lucky enough to be a part of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur championship.
My escort for the day was a local who has caddied at the course. Because I was a newbie, he made sure I checked off all the must-see items.
First Stop, The Pro Shop
Think Walt Disney knows a thing or two about customer service? The Augusta National Golf Club makes Disney look like Wal-mart. They are crowd control and customer service masters.
Like Disney, the folks at the ANGC are also masters at merchandising. This year there was a new product line bearing the logo for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship. That magnolia blossom represents much more than golf at the course known for magnolia lane. That logo represents history.
The ANGC folks want people to relax and enjoy watching golf. No lugging loot all day. The check-in/shipping is right next door. The couple ahead of us worried about some of their items going missing. Clearly, they didn’t know how the ANGC operates.
At the end of the day, I went to collect my treasures. The young man apologized and said there would be a delay. “You may have to wait 45 seconds,” he said. “Well, it better not be 46 seconds or heads will roll,” I thought, but did not say out loud. I’m glad I didn’t. Before I knew it, he was handing me my package. Walt Disney would have been impressed.
Next Stop – Pimento Cheese and Peach Ice Cream
A trip to ANGC would not be complete without the famous pimento cheese. If you think Chick-Fil-A is efficient, you haven’t seen anything. Augusta National makes Chick-Fil-A look like Church’s Fried Chicken. The food is delicious and the crowds are handled with ease. Courtesy and class are the names of this game. Someone told me the wrappers are green so if trash falls to the ground it won’t show up on television. That must be an urban legend because trash is never on the ground for more than a milli-second. ANGC would never allow that.
The pimento cheese was as good as I had hoped, no surprise there, but what did surprise me was the cost. In the pro-shop, I paid $11 for a pair of logoed socks. In the snack shop, we bought two sandwiches, two lemonades in souvenir cups, a bottle of water, and a bag of chips. Total due? $10.50. I asked my guide why they didn’t charge more. “They don’t need your money,” was the answer. They certainly do not.
You have two choices for dessert - ice cream sandwiches and moon pies. I went with the ice cream, and I’ve dreamed about it every night since. They wedge peach ice cream with bits of real peaches between two sugar cookies. The ice cream tastes like it’s been freshly churned. It may be one of the best things I’ve ever had, and it was $1.50.
Attention to Detail – Even in the Ladies Room
I was expecting port-a-potties. No. Each little bathroom cottage was spotless. At my first stop, a little bit of water splashed on the counter. A team of women were at the ready to wipe down the counter. How did bathrooms look at my last pit stop? Pristine. When the bathrooms are spotless at the end of the day, you know you have a first-class event.
Photos don’t do it justice. TV doesn’t do it justice. My words will not do it justice. Augusta National is stunning. A team of experts make sure of it. A chance the azaleas will bloom too soon? No worries, it’s rumored they just ice them down until the time is right. The best that money can buy makes for a beautiful back drop for golf.
It’s OK to Say No
The folks at Augusta National remind me of a strict parent or a mean teacher. They don’t mind being the bad guys. It’s good to have high standards. Good parents know this. Good teachers know this. Augusta National Golf Club knows this.
If you want to see the best golf in the world on the prettiest course in the world, there’s one catch, and it’s a big one. Cell phones stay in the car. No electronics at all. No cameras, no smart watches. They do not play.
Here’s what happens when you say no to distractions – people enjoy and appreciate the moment. They are present. Without the distractions of technology, you slow down and take in the majesty of an event like the Master’s or the Augusta National Women’s Amateur championship.
The folks at ANGC are control freaks, and it works for them. If you must have a photo, you can use their photographers in front of their selected backdrop, the clubhouse with their logo in beautiful yellow flowers. Don’t even think about a crazy pose. They grant online access to the one photo they select. Unlike our friends at Disney, the photo is free to guests. Classy move. People would pay for that shot but remember, they don’t need our money.
Once we had made all the stops that a newbie must make, it was time to see some golf. The women did not disappoint.
A Day At Augusta National – Part Two
Women Making History
It’s easy to get distracted by the grandeur that is ANGC. It’s easy to get caught up in what it means for females to play on this famous course. But at the end of the day, it was simply great golf played by great women. They put on a show, and the crowd and the TV audience loved every minute. According to Nielson, it was the highest watched amateur event for men or women since the 2003 Amateur at Oakmont. Not bad, girls.
Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi battled to the end. Kupcho, the 21-year-old Wake Forest student, made history by winning the first championship for women held at AG.
Every good story needs an equally interesting backstory, and our champion gave us that. Kupcho suffers migraines. She went from playing in front of a hand full of friends and family to performing in front of 20,000 people while being televised and live streamed around the world on NBC and the Golf Channel.com. I’m no medical professional, but I’m guessing that could have been a trigger. While on the 8th hole she got a headache so severe that it caused problems with her vision. Like all migraine sufferers, she knew the pattern. She knew the blurriness would go away, but she had to keep playing. She had to rely on her caddie to get her through until her vision was back to normal. Normally, her father is her caddie, but for this tournament, she used a long-time local one, Brian McKinley. She told him to read the putts for her. She told him to tell her where to hit it, and she would do her best to get it there. Male or female, amateur or pro, that is impressive. That is what competitors do. No whining. No excuses. No time outs. Certainly, no quitting. She was at the ANGC, and she was not giving up. She says she could see again by the 11th hole but for 8,9,10, and 11, she solely relied on her caddie.
At the 13th hole, I watched her hit an amazing shot to the green to set herself up for a six-foot Eagle and tie for the lead. Hers was the only Eagle of the day. History in the making.
We love it when our hero is also an every man. Kupcho was that for us on April 6. Everyone can relate to her migraine incident. You have a dream, and you’re close to achieving your dream, and the universe throws you a curve ball. At that point, you have a choice. Give up or push on. Jennifer Kupcho decided to play on. She played herself right into the history books.
Yes, April 6 was a big day. Women played in a championship on a course previously reserved only for men. Thousands of people came out to watch and support them. They ate pimento cheese sandwiches and stacked their souvenir cups. They took in grounds that make mother nature proud of her creations. Fans watched on television and cheered from their sofas and bar stools. Yes, the women made history at the Augusta National Golf Club last weekend, and it was a beautiful thing to behold. For everyone involved, the players, the patrons, the fans watching on TV, it was an experience like no other.