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The Master’s Revisited

As promised I thought I would share some of the highlights from my annual trip to Augusta Georgia and the hallowed grounds of the Augusta National Golf Course.  Tickets are very difficult to come by to the tournament.  Since I am a Class A member of the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America, I get one ticket to the practice rounds and all four tournament days.  That ticket can not be given or sold to anyone or my credentials will be taken away forever.  Unfortunately some superintendents have tried and met with disastrous results.  I have put my name in the lottery drawing for tickets, but so far have had no luck.  Tickets are only about $50 a session face value.  You can go through a ticket agency and get them for anywhere from $500-$1500 a ticket.  A ticket to Augusta remains one of the most sought after tickets in sports.

 As you have seen on television, it is truly one of the  most beautiful golf courses on earth.  What doesn’t come through on television is the elevation changes on the course.  It is an extremely hilly golf course.  The greens are not only as fast as the tour players face each year, but they are very rolling as well, with some greens having several levels.

While the course is naturally beautiful especially with all of the azaleas, the care and maintenance is off the charts.  Money and labor are unlimited and I have seen some extraordinary examples.  I watched a greens mower go over the same green 5 times…talk about a close shave.  While a lot of places trim the cup with a cuticle scissors, they send out teams to do the same to sprinklers out in the fairway.  To control the flowering of the azaleas they can put cold or warm water on them and one year they had ice bags under the pine straw to slow down the flowering so they would be perfect on Sunday.  While greens slow down after heavy rains, Augusta has a sub-air system that is a series of pipes and tubes that can literally vacuum the water through the soil to keep it firm.  During the heat, that same system can force air up to the grass to keep in cool.

Augusta has bentgrass greens just as every golf course in our area has.  Most southern course do not have this cool season grass and instead have bermuda greens.  That is why the golf course is closed at the end of May and does not open again until mid October.  I have been told that the property looks like a hay field with only the greens being green.  They allow the greens to grow long to stay alive in the southern heat.  The impeccable rye grass tees, fairways and rough die out each summer and have to be reseeded every fall, as the rye grass is an annual cool season grass.

Food concessions continue to amaze me.  The most expensive food item is a barbeque  sandwich that will set you back all of three dollars.  The traditional pimento and cheese sandwich or the egg salad are $1.50.  Sodas are $1.50 and a beer is only $3.00…a far cry from the $8.00 beers at Busch Stadium.  Now the pro shop is an entirely different story as they are very proud of their Master’s logo and you will pay dearly for souvenir items.

You hear a lot about southern hospitality and it is on full display at Augusta. If you speak to anyone they always add a “sir” on to the answer.  The whole town is like that as the tournament brings in millions of dollars to their city.  Hotel rates are at least $300 a night at the least expensive hotels.  Since school is out for spring break families will rent their houses out for several thousand dollars for the week and then take the family on vacation.

As for the golf that week, it was as spectacular as the golf itself.  From a 14 year old making the cut to the dramatic playoff to win the green jacket for Adam Scott and Australia, this tournament had it all.  I feel very fortunate to have been able to be a part of the drama that is “The Master’s”.

Par for the Course

Tom Benyo Class A GCSAA

Willow Springs Municipal Golf Course

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