A bucket-list day at the Masters with my father


My father, normally a very gregarious man, was staying quiet and attentive. He’s always been an attentive person, too, but this was a more vigilant type of silent awareness. I suspect it was because he was trying to take in as much as possible, paying close attention to everything he saw and listening intently to everything said.

We were at Augusta National Golf Club for the Masters. So there’s that. You’re supposed to be quiet when golf is being played. But even when we were away from the golfing action, he was more taciturn than usual. I’m sure he was trying to pace himself since we were going to be out on the course all day, and, at 85 years old, this was a major bucket-list item for him.

For as long as I could remember, Dad had watched the Masters on TV every year. He said he knew the course so well he couldn’t believe he’d never been there before. It’s a hard ticket to get. Augusta National offers only a limited number of tickets to the public. The bulk of tickets go to members of this private and prestigious club and the people and companies they do business with. Many of the companies rent out “hospitality houses” for Masters Week, the first full week of each April, to host their clients and other assorted guests lucky enough to get an invite. This was how Dad and I got our tickets to the Friday round of the 2017 tournament.

It was all very last-minute. I received a phone call from a friend late Wednesday saying she had two tickets for Friday. The people who were coming couldn’t make it because of bad weather and canceled flights. Since I lived an hour away from the club, she offered the tickets to me, as well as a night in a hospitality house. The first thing I did after saying yes was call my father, who immediately canceled his weekend plans and met me the next day in Augusta.

We bedded down on Thursday night in the master bedroom of Jasmine Cottage, a private, historic home near the club that the homeowners had rented out for the week. Masters Week coincides with spring break week in Augusta so this is how many families fund their vacations, by renting out their houses and getting away from the Masters. I heard tales of others who rent out their homes and use the money to stay in town with a friend and purchase expensive VIP package deals to attend the tournament.

It was unseasonably chilly on Friday morning when we arrived at the gate at 9:00 am. The security line was akin to going through a TSA checkpoint at the airport. Unlike on an airplane, though, cellphones and cameras are forbidden at Augusta National during the tournament, so you can’t take any pictures to prove you were there or share anything on social media. At one point, as we marched from hole to hole, we discovered a bank of landline courtesy phones provided by the club so patrons could connect with the outside world. Dad stopped and called Mom to check in, and for the sheer novelty of calling from inside a famous place so disconnected from the modern world. “I’m calling from inside Augusta National!” was a common refrain I overheard from many patrons while standing next to the phone bank.

Augusta National reveres tradition above all and proudly resists such modern encroachments as digital devices (even the scores on the main leaderboard are still turned by hand), gratuitous corporate branding (you won’t find any here) and, it seems, inflation. The concessions are delightfully inexpensive — only a buck fifty for the traditional egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches and four bucks for import beer (the most expensive item on the menu). The club could easily get away with charging triple that.

My father was amazed by these details as much as he was by watching the world’s best golfers play through only a few feet away from us. Being a retired mechanical engineer, he marveled at the efficiency of everything, from how quickly the lines for the restrooms moved to the flawlessness of the landscaping and drainage systems. He investigated the grounds for signs of weeds and improper edging and reported that he found none.

We left the tournament around 5 p.m. and kicked our feet up in a hospitality tent to rest before the drive home. My father remained quieter than usual, but I knew he was thrilled, still taking in the environment of a place he had long dreamed of visiting.

On Sunday, during the final round, I called home. Dad was watching the tournament on TV and we reminisced about our one day at Augusta National two days earlier. Mom said he had an eager audience with the after-church crowd who wanted to know all the details about his experience.

“He’s telling everyone all about it,” said my mother about my father, who was apparently now back to his old talkative self.

If you go

Tickets

Create an online account at Masters.com to enter the online ticket lottery system for a chance to buy one of the limited number of daily tickets ($115 each) that are offered to the public each year. This year’s tournament sold out last summer, so now is the time to start planning for 2019. Tickets are also sold to the practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Masters Week ($75). If your goal is to see Augusta National instead of tournament play, this is a good option because your odds of getting tickets in the lottery are better. The ticketing system is an online-only process.

Masters Week housing

The Masters Housing Bureau is an Augusta National-sanctioned place to search for house rentals from families who offer up their homes for Masters Week. Rates vary widely and can be negotiable, but expect to pay in the thousands. 706-821-1300; www.mastershousing.com.




Next Up in Travel

There’s something brewing at Ohio hotel, where the scene is hopping
There’s something brewing at Ohio hotel, where the scene is hopping

CANAL WINCHESTER, Ohio — There was nothing obviously out of the ordinary about the middle-aged man sitting near me in the hotel breakfast area, except for the beverages he chose to supplement his morning coffee: a flight of beers. Well, maybe it wasn’t that unusual, considering that I was breakfasting just outside of Columbus, Ohio, at...
With country roots, Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium still raises the roof
With country roots, Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium still raises the roof

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — This was the heart of Saturday night, and honky-tonk singer-songwriter Whitey Morgan had Ryman Auditorium in an uproar. Wearing a determined scowl and a long beard, Morgan prowled the stage as if looking for a fight. Now and again he’d let his band, the 78’s, carry the tune while he paused to pull on a bottle of...
Survey reveals travelers want more automation, control and privacy

Airline passengers around the world are looking to new technology to give them more control and information when traveling, while also making the entire experience more efficient. These insights were revealed as part of the 2018 Global Passenger Survey conducted by the International Air Transport Association, or IATA. The study is based on 10,408 responses...
Assessing 2 new spots in the Pacific Northwest’s little Bavaria
Assessing 2 new spots in the Pacific Northwest’s little Bavaria

Leavenworth is a trip. Nestled against the far side of the Cascade mountains just a few hours east of Seattle, this little town does an impression of a Bavarian village with all its might. The beer flows freely and the music is oompah; buildings are decorated with wooden beams, family crests and gingerbread trim (or their trompe l’oeil versions)...
Harrowing boat crossing leads to a lesson – trust the professionals
Harrowing boat crossing leads to a lesson – trust the professionals

I had repeated it over and over again as the weekend approached: “We’re going on an adventure!” “We’re going on an adventure!” My boyfriend, some friends and I were going to Victoria, British Columbia, for a few days in February. It would be their first time taking the Victoria Clipper, a high-speed catamaran; it...
More Stories