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CU at the Masters

Related … “Brendan Quinn answers your questions on his round at Augusta National” … from The Athletic (subscription required)

“For those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation is possible”

If you are a golf fanatic, this is for you. If you aren’t, my apologies, but CU at the Game is CU at the Masters this week, with my ability to bring CU coverage limited to night time updates (though I do have a new NIL interview with a CU student athlete in the bank for this weekend, and will be able to post stories more frequently on Saturday and Sunday).

But, for this week, it’s all about the golf …

My introduction to the game of golf came inauspiciously enough.

My step-father had done some work for the local nine-hole public course, and was rewarded with a season pass. He didn’t play, so they offered him a family pass instead. At dinner that night, he asked if anyone in the family was interested in learning how to play. As an 11-year old at the time – who didn’t know any better – I volunteered.

The next thing I knew, I was taking lessons with a bunch of middle-aged women, with an instructor, as fate would have it … who was my middle school gym teacher. The women were more interested in gossip, so my gym teacher took pity on me, and took the time to teach me the game. My equipment was rudimentary: I had a bag with a three wood, 3,5,7, and 9 irons, and an old putter.

It didn’t matter – I was hooked.

The nine-hole course was a short bike ride from our house, so I began playing regularly. I started reading golf stories which appeared in my Sports Illustrated magazine, and began watching tournaments on television. It was the early 1970’s, so I quickly became a Jack Nicklaus fan, watching the Golden Bear hold off the likes of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller.

My golf career as a player peaked as a member of the Bozeman high golf team. I was good enough to earn a letter, but never good enough to challenge at a tournament.

My love for watching golf, however, continued unabated.

Growing up, I quickly became a big fan of watching the majors. ABC usually had the coverage, with the immortal Jim McKay the host. I still get chills just thinking about the openings McKay would do, with “Love’s Theme” from Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra playing in the background (my memories are mostly about his openings for the British Open, but the only example I could find on YouTube was from the 1987 U.S. Open, which can be found here).

Still, growing up in Bozeman, Montana, where we only had two television channels for much of my youth, and didn’t have a McDonald’s or FM radio until I was in high school, the thought of ever attending one of these spectacles was beyond my wildest dreams.

That was then.

Life has been more than fair to me, with reasonably good health, a good education at the University of Colorado, a lovely wife, three kids, and seven grandchildren. A modicum of success as an attorney has afforded me the ability to not only maintain my season tickets to watch my Buffs (even though I live 700 miles away from Boulder), but also to follow the Buffs to bowl games in four different time zones (I missed the Aloha Bowls), and to watch my team in storied venues such as those found in Austin, Athens, College Station, Columbus and Lincoln, as well with games in over half of the stadia of the Pac-12.

I’ve also been able to travel to watch my share of golf along the way.

My first taste of attending the majors came in 2001, when our trip to England afforded me a detour to Royal Lytham and St. Annes for the British Open (won by David Duval). I followed Duval around the first round, and he won. I was also able to follow Rory McElroy around the links on his way on the first round of his victory at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

In between those two opportunities to witness “The Open” (never the “British Open” anywhere except in the US), I have been able to visit two of the most storied courses in golf history.

In 2005, our family took a trip to the British Isles, with a weekend at St. Andrews the centerpiece of the trip. Very much by design, I wanted to be in the stands as my golfing hero, Jack Nicklaus, played his final round as a professional. Though the Golden Bear did not make the cut, he did give us all one last thrill with a birdie on his final hole, and I’m proud to say I was in the stands to witness his final round. (A few years later, when Nicklaus was in Bozeman for a charity event, I was able to obtain his autograph on my ticket for that wonderful Friday, as well as one on the five pound note printed by the Bank of Scotland in his honor).

In 2010, Brad Geiger (he of the CU at the Game podcast series) and I spent a week on the Monterrey peninsula, volunteering at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. It was a great gig. We volunteered to drive VIP’s around four for days of the week (in Mercedes SUV’s), and received passes for the other three days. Suffice it to say, we had a glorious time (the Open was won that year by Graeme McDowell. If you are interested, I did a series of reports that week for the then nascent CU at the Game website. Those stories can be found here).

Brad and I at the 6th hole at Pebble Beach

Brad and I at the 6th hole at Pebble Beach

CU at the U.S. Open … 18th tee at Pebble Beach

CU - at the 18th hole at the U.S. Open!

In my world, there is a Triple Crown of historic golf venues … St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf; Pebble Beach, perhaps the most scenic of the historic venues; and, of course, Augusta National.

The home of the Masters, Augusta National golf course is perhaps the most well known golf course in the world this side of St. Andrews. While the other three majors rotate their sites, the fourth major has only one home. As a result, golf fans are very familiar with the course – or, at the very least, the back nine. The drive down the hill on 10, the magnificent par-3’s at 12 and 16, the game-changing par-5’s on 13 and 15, all leading up to the champion’s walk up the 18th fairway. If you are a golf fan, you know the Masters golf course.

It has been my dream for the better part of a half century to make the pilgrimage to Augusta National, and this week I am here.

I was on the course for the practice round on Wednesday, which did include a weather delay – but that only served to allow me to spend more time – and dollars – at the gift shop.

I didn’t miss a thing on Thursday, though. I took great pains to be there for the opening ceremonial tee shot, which was made in the early morning mist (the last vestige of the storms which had run through the area for the previous few days) by golf legends Gary Player, Tom Watson (for the first time), and, of course, Jack Nicklaus.

Did I mention that I am a huge fan of the Golden Bear? There was no chance I was going to miss his opening shot of the tournament.

Some 12 hours later, I reluctantly called it a day, as the final pairings of the day – Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele, followed by Matthew Fitzpatrick, Brooks Koepka, and Rory McIlroy – completed their rounds. Before following the final groupings of the day, I had the pleasure of following Padraig Harrington and Mike Weir early, followed by keeping an eye on the Hideki Matsuyama/Justin Thomas and the Adam Scott/Scottie Scheffler/Tony Finau pairings midday.

The course is magnificent, and the feeling it gives you when you walk onto the grounds is hard to describe – I had a grin on my face for first two hours walking the course.

I can’t describe how much it meant to see Amen Corner in person for the first time – It’s everything you believe it would be, and more. The course, as you may have heard over the years, is not only meticulously maintained, it is much hillier than it appears to be on television – it’s a hike up and down this course, and there is not a single flat lie to be found anywhere.

Some quirkiness that you don’t see on television. Behind the grandstands on 11 and 12 (one of the best spots to sit in all of golf), there is … a huge concession area. There are actually a number of very large concession areas throughout the course, not that you would ever see them on television.

Also, I was able to watch Tiger Woods make a birdie putt on 16, but it was quite by accident. I was following the Spieth and McElroy groupings on the front nine while Woods was playing the back. Okay … picture the 16th hole. Across the pond from the green is a large, sloping hill, filled with patrons. Got the mental image? Okay, now, guess what is up further on the hill, beyond the patrons. It’s not a forest of Georgia pines, or an azalea plantation. Up above and beyond the masses on the 16th hole is … the fifth fairway.

Other oddities … no phones on the course, ever, and no cameras except during practice rounds. As a result of the phone ban, patrons (don’t dare call them “fans”, or, God forbid, “a crowd”), are completely out of touch with the rest of the planet while on the grounds. Augusta National actually has banks of courtesy phones, so contact with the outside world can be made. Knowing I would be phone-less while on the grounds, I actually bought a cheap watch for the occasion, just so I could track time on Wednesday so as to not miss my Zoom hearing.

Oh, and you’ll like this. Augusta National likes to keep up the pretense that none of their patrons would sell one of their badges (not tickets). As a result, if you are somehow booted from the grounds, you are not only banned for life – the patron also loses the rights to future admission. The company I got the badges from (you don’t get to keep them. They have to be returned each evening) actually made me surrender my driver’s license for the day, and had me sign a form stating that if the badge was lost or revoked, they would charge my credit card $8,500 (no pressure there to keep track of your badge).

Now, about those pimento cheese sandwiches …

Pimento cheese sandwiches are the signature dish of the Masters. So, of course, I had to try one (just like I had to try haggis in Scotland). My grade: a C- … My guess on the recipe: Take two pieces of white bread, and spray Cheez Whiz in between the slices.

Oh well, it is what it is.

Friday for me is another full day of Masters watching, before I start my trek back to Montana (I like watching golf tournaments in person on Thursday and Friday, when there is a full field, and the fans – sorry, patrons – are spread out throughout the course.

Before heading home, though, I will hit the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Saturday, paying homage to the Colorado players (and coach) who are enshrined there.

Just in case you thought I had forgotten my true fanaticism …

Go Buffs!

Stuart

8 Replies to “CU at the Masters”

  1. Great report Stuart. I forgive you for taking this week off and only writing about golf. Have a great day tomorrow. Can anyone catch Sheffler? We will see. I have been so fortunate to have played Pebble on several occasions. But I’ve never been to Augusta or St Andrews. Bucket list adventures for sure!

  2. Good stuff, enjoy !!!
    The US Open will be down the street from us this June in Brookline, MA…
    The ‘Greatest Game Ever Played’ movie is a true story of an amateur that wins the 1913 US Open at Brookline CC, inspiring event…
    Come visit !

  3. Enjoy! Tough not to love it! I have been and it is truly a bucket list event. You will also enjoy watching the Master’s on TV in the future and truly understand what a great hilly course it is!

  4. Great article. ty Stuart. On a side note, great article on Derrick White and his huge success with the Boston Celtics in the WSJ today.

  5. Glad you’re digging your dream Stu. But, as a CU alum, I gotta say, if you don’t bust through the line, and streak the 9th green with only your CU at the game hat on, you’re doing it wrong. Either that, or night putting. Tanks fed nuttin, Danny!

    Go Buffs

  6. Of course I accept your apology Stuart. Your work with Buff football far outweighs my disdain for golf. And you are also right about my inability to understand but it does enable me to understand your extra extra bit tolerance for VK. (smiling as I say that)

  7. Wow……….Out of the closet!

    Mein Gott we are lucky. Golf and CU.
    Living a dream.

    Congrats on the big “Tri”

    The courses you mentioned:
    Done
    Been
    Played
    I’m doing yard work, going to PT and watching on TV. It is amazing the feeds they have on.
    Two tv’s, two computers (Each with an add-on big screen) meaning 6 screens I am seeing every angle. Frigging amazing.

    Go Big Tiger………………Although my fave is Jordan (who is lost again)
    Have a great rest of your trip. I watched the ceremonial. Didn’t see your CU hat

    Go Buffs………………Can’t wait for Robo’s 1000 word report on the scrimmage. (Can’t make it myself)

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