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Memories of the Masters: Like nothing else

Maybe you’ve heard of the man who upon making his first visit to the Masters was so overwhelmed that he sampled the fairway grass, opting for a little more ruffage than the tournament’s famous egg salad sandwiches.

There was the man, who came all the way from Japan and showed up at the tournament gates with his golf clubs – mounted on a pull cart – believing his practice round ticket meant he could play 18 holes. A polite security person explained to the gentleman that he could only watch others play golf that day.

There was the grown man found sobbing in the circular driveway in front of the iconic white clubhouse on Sunday afternoon. He had a bagful of merchandise in one hand, a beer in the other and cheeks full of tears after watching Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson chase the green jacket. Asked if he was okay, the man shook his head yes.

My brother in law, John McGlone, awoke at the crack of dawn one morning, and began a walk of several miles to Augusta National so that he could trudge another 18 holes with Arnold Palmer. He caught a ride to the course along the way and stayed with Arnie through the hooked tee shots and bogeys, because Arnie and Augusta go together like pimento cheese and white bread.

The Masters is about Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen’s double eagle. It’s about Amen Corner and Billy Joe Patton, Jack Nicklaus in ’86, Tiger Woods in ’97 and Mickelson in ’04.

But it’s more personal than that. It’s about the feeling of seeing Augusta National in person for the first time. Whether your gate pass came through the practice round lottery, the use of a tournament badge for a day from a friend or you’ve had tickets in the family since the days they used to have a parade through downtown to push ticket sales, there’s a first-time feeling that stays with everyone fortunate enough to experience it.

The magic is in the way that feeling remains, no matter how many times you go.

This is my 32nd Masters and every day I’ve been there, I’ve looked across the golf course and marveled at what I’m seeing.

It’s simple and cliched but true – it’s not like any place else. While you can take issue with the club’s reluctance to add female members, you can’t deny the impact the place has on people, particularly those who love the game despite its wicked ways.

It’s like the Biltmore House, only more impressive. It’s not the real world for most of us but it’s hard not to be impressed.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to go to the Masters, there’s a moment or feeling that comes instantly to mind. One first-time visitor says he didn’t speak for the first hour he was on the property. He didn’t know what to say.

So much now doesn’t match our expectations. We demand instant information and attention spans have shrunk to the point we can’t sit through commercials during our favorite television shows. Almost everything seems so 27 seconds ago.

But the Masters, with its hand-operated scoreboards and $1.50 soft drinks, still delivers. An Augusta native who had attended every Masters was quoted a few years as saying people come now just to breathe the air. Pollen never seemed so good.

The players have their memories and so do the patrons. It’s a dad with his kids. A friend with a friend. A guy from Peoria talking to a woman from Augusta who sits in the same spot on the same hole every year.

It’s Fuzzy Zoeller pulling a fan out of the gallery to hit a tee shot on No. 12 during a practice round.

It’s Tiger’s name on the leader board on Sunday and the buzz humming across the property.

It’s the hundreds of people posing Monday for a photo beside the yellow flower bed shaped like the club’s logo in front of the clubhouse. They may not be back but they won’t ever forget the day they attended the Masters.

It’s like nothing else.

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Readers: Have you attended the Masters? What are your fondest memories? Post them in the comments section below.

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