For the last eight years or so I have dutifully submitted an entry for the lottery that determines who will be given the opportunity to purchase tickets to attend The Masters golf tournament held each April at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. And each year the result has been the same: I receive a form letter email thanking me for my entry and notifying me that my entry has not been selected. Naturally, I am encouraged to log in to my account (yes, I actually have a Masters account) and enter the following year’s lottery. So predictable have been the results that when this year’s email arrived, it was only natural that I automatically positioned my computer mouse’s pointer over the delete button and prepared to do the deed. For some reason, however, I didn’t click the mouse. And it’s a good thing. There was one word staring me in the face that I hadn’t initially noticed: “Congratulations.” Yes, I had finally won the lottery. Okay, not the lottery, but one just as meaningful to golf aficionados all over the world.
Now before you say, “What’s the big deal? It’s only a golf tournament,” understand one thing: It’s not just a golf tournament. It’s THE golf tournament. Ever since 1962, when I first laid eyes on the azalea-laden creation of Bobby Jones, I have had a love affair with The Masters. And that was 40 years before they began showing the entire front nine on TV, which didn’t occur until 2002. Nowhere on the planet is there a more manicured, impeccable tribute to the game first conceived by the Scots in 1457. It is the quintessential golf course, the gold standard by which all others are measured. When one thinks of golf courses, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of Augusta National.
The deadline for purchasing my two allotted tickets to the first day’s practice round was July 28th, but, as you can imagine, I bought them the same day I received the email. Augusta National is a good two-and-a-half-hour drive from my home, so I thought I’d secure a room for a few nights to make the trip less tiring. However, that turned out to not be such an easy task. After all, this is America, the land of opportunity . . . and exploitation. A simple AirBnB room in nearby Aiken, Georgia that normally goes for $85 a night can fetch three or four times as much during Masters week. And forget about staying at a chain motel or historic inn. Prices there start at $300 per night and rocket upward at frightening hundred dollar increments. Thankfully, after much Internet surfing, I found a motel outside Columbia, South Carolina, over an hour away from my destination but at a rate that was at least somewhat within my burgeoning budget.
So, next April 6th, while most people are contemplating which fertilizer to apply to their spring lawn, Becky and I will be crawling all over the most renowned golf course on Earth, marveling in person at the colorful azaleas I have seen only on TV for nearly 60 years, and seeking autographs from whomever will agree to give us one. At some point, I will cross over the bridge at Rae’s Creek and maybe devour a famous pimento cheese sandwich. I can hardly wait. One note: when I learned of my good fortune, I immediately called my eldest son, Dave, and said, “I hope this doesn’t mean I’m going to die next year, because I’ve always said I want to see Augusta National before I die.” Not to worry. Come April 6th, 2020, alive or not, I will be in Heaven at Augusta National Golf Club. Fore!
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