I’ve always enjoyed watching or covering that little golf tournament amongst the dogwoods and azaleas, but never more so than now. That’s because for the first time ever, I played Augusta National.
You got a minute? Let me grab my invitation from the Green Jacket folks, and it says right here on Augusta National Golf Club stationary:
Monday, April 14, 2008 (that’s the day after last year’s Masters, by the way).
Terry Moore, 8:55 a.m., 10th Tee.
Please present this card at the Main Gate (Gate #2) for entrance to the Club grounds and at the tee for 18 holes of golf.
I’m still tingling.
Before this experience, I ranked Augusta National among my top five sports venues, which is significant. I’ve been just shy of everywhere — from various Olympic sites to Wrigley Field to Daytona International Speedway to Notre Dame Stadium to old Boston Garden to Lambeau Field — while spending three decades covering most major events. Well, after this experience, Augusta National ranks among my top 1a, 1b or 1c in sports venues.
It certainly didn’t hurt Augusta National’s place in my heart after I strolled into Amen Corner as a rookie on the course and promptly conquered No. 11. In other words, I wasn’t spooked by Raes Creek behind the green or the famous winds in the area. I dropped an eight-foot putt for par, and I thought about responding with one of those Tiger fist pumps. But I decided to go old-school — you know, act like you’ve been there before, even if you haven’t.
My Augusta National caddie was excited, though. Then again, maybe he was thinking about getting that tip at the end.
Later, on the No. 15, I didn’t repeat “the shot heard ’round the world” by Gene Sarazen, but I did the equivalent for me: I parred that hole, too. Courtesy of splendid tee and approach shots, I survived the 530 yards featuring that pretty but imposing pond in front of the green and that scary bunker to its right.
Oh, and I have to tell you this: On No. 16, which is played over water with three bunkers hugging the slopping green, I came within inches of a hole-in-one.
Keep this quiet, but I blew my birdie putt and made par. I also won’t tell you what I did on the other 15 holes.
All I know is that I played Augusta National, and life is good.
Anyway, if any of you wishes to share your Augusta National playing experiences, feel free.