The Masters

NGAWire® | 17Mar14
NGA.com staff writer, Kurt Goetzke

We were in Louisville when Karl pulled me aside…he had some news for me…He had received word from the Masters Tickets Committee and it was great news! Karl had won the Ticket Lottery and had 4 Tickets for Wednesday’s Practice Round and Par 3 Contest…I was very happy for him…it would be his 2nd trip in the last couple years…But the best was yet to come for me…I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but he was talking to me in private about it, so I let myself dream…He coyly asked if I wanted go and that he was also going to ask Andy and Dan…Dan in particular has had a lifelong dream to walk the hallowed grounds of Augusta National…Once my boner calmed down a little bit, I graciously thanked Karl like 10 times and we went about our day…

As the time grew closer, so did the anticipation…A dream was about to come true…Flights to Atlanta were very expensive, but about 6 weeks before the trip, Andy found a great deal on Southwest for $228 Round-trip…I pounced on it after about 30 seconds of crying about the return trip being at 6:00am and having a layover and plane change in Chicago…Dan, unfortunately, was not able to book the same flight at that time because he was in Vegas and missed the window…More to come on that………

Fast forward to the days leading up to the trip…Dan still had not booked yet, as flights were now soaring to the $1,000 range…he was playing a dangerous game of Ticket Roulette, but his commitment paid off in the end…He ended up somehow getting on the same flight (going out) as Andy and I (even though it was over-booked)…he would worry about the return home flight later…Andy, on the other hand, was having major issues getting out of Fenton and to the Airport…When I parked in the Garage (at 6:30am) for our 7:42am flight, Andy was still at 94 and 23 in Ann Arbor…it was going to be close…As I proceeded through a busier than expected North Terminal TSA Security Line, I feared that Andy could be in trouble…After I finally made it, I was approaching the Gate and I heard a familiar name over the intercom: “Paging John Kurncz…Passenger John Kurncz…please report to Gate D5”…I giggled as my phone rang and it was Andy saying he was in the Security Line…I told the Lady at the counter and all was well…we hoped…as I was proceeding back to grab a seat, I heard a familiar “Buddy” and it was Dan…10 minutes later, here comes Andy sprinting (fast-walking the best he could) to the Gate…we all made it! It was off to Atlanta…The flight was uneventful and Karl met us at the Airport in his Wife’s BMW, where we were immediately whisked away to the Graveyard containing the remains of Robert Tyre Jones…on the ground in front of the Headstone were dozens and dozens of Golf Balls…Andy wondered out loud if there were any Pro V’s…He found one and picked it up to find a personal message on the ball…I looked at Andy and he smiled and put it back…it was 50/50 it was going in his pocket…

From there, we went on to eat a yummy meal at Varsity…If you are ever in Atlanta, you have to eat there…Just one word to the wise…the Red Shakers do NOT contain French Fry Seasoning…they contain Cayenne Pepper…My eyes still hurt…

From there, it was off to the Buckhead area to play Bobby Jones Golf Course…5,500 yards of sheer terror after a night of soaking rain…we were treated to 2 sets total of Hickory Clubs and (24) old style Golf Balls…no gloves allowed either…I proceeded to lose half the balls we had and shank 20 plus shots on the way to a 105…I made zero pars…hit zero greens…and Andy and I still only lost to Karl and Dan 2 and 1…sorry partner…Hickory is very tough for a novice with a too quick swing…

From there, it was into Buckhead for some Balvenie Scotch at Churchill’s…our plan was to then find the much talked about Prohibition (Speak Easy) Bar…it was not easy, but we asked around and finally found an old English-style Phone Booth next to a door that said something like “Acme Roofing Company”… “Out of Business”…we knew we had to have a 10 digit code and we did not know how to get it…a couple came up and they went into the booth and got in …then a guy dressed in cool 20’s attire came out and we shamed him into giving us the code…it was Tuesday and early evening, so they were willing to give it up…but, three of us had shorts on and I was Visor Guy, so we were in a pickle…fortunately, the stars were aligned for us…We all had Khaki’s in the Car, so we changed in the Parking Lot (the second time that day I had changed in a Parking Lot) and Andy dialed us in, the backside of the Phone Booth opening up like a secret trap door! Once inside, it was like Nirvana…about 10 patrons, an awesome Bar and Cigar area…Jazz Music playing in the background…Food brought in from other businesses that were near that they reciprocal with…and a Waitress that was fun and attentive, if not overly hot…

From there, it was time to find a place to stay…We decided it was a good idea to get closer to Augusta (the drive from Atlanta is over 2 hours)…we drove a good half hour, 45 minutes to the city of Madison, GA where we found a “Deerfield Inn”…seemed OK from the outside, and it was “only” $100 per night (we got 2 Rooms)…Upon entering the Room(s), we determined they were Bio-Hazards…the unknown “Fluids” on the walls were pretty alarming…Dan’s bed had a nasty lean to it and the Shower Curtain had some long hairs stuck to it…On a happy note, Andy and Dan did get some Chick Fil A that we probably didn’t need, but we still enjoyed heartily…

After a night of restless sleep (either in nervous anticipation for the next morning, or for fear of Bed Bugs crawling all over our Skin), we were up and on the road at 6:00am…GPS told us were an hour and a half or so out still, and as we settled in for the ride, the Highway all of a sudden came to a complete standstill…an accident a mile or so ahead had shut down the Freeway…but we would not be deterred…Andy told Karl to punch it and we hit the shoulder for the next exit…Our friend GPS was again a savior, taking us on a surreptitious route back to the freeway, past all the mayhem…about an hour later, we were getting off at Washington Street and heading for the new, massive FREE Parking area…the walk to the entrance was long, but the anticipation continued to build…our dreams were finally, just minutes, seconds from becoming reality…

As I passed through the gates, I was caught up in the moment…everything was perfect…no other way to describe it…Karl and I strolled over to the range and watched Billy Horschel hit Bunker shots…Andy and Dan soon joined us and we headed towards the hallowed grounds…it was almost exactly 8:00am and the Gates were about to officially open…

Everything was so green…it was stunning…we worked our way around the 9th and 18th Greens for a bit and then starting walking towards 10 Tee, where we would begin our tour of the Back Nine…I was immediately amazed by the size of the Trees and elevation changes…TV can never do justice to the terrain…Dan was taking pictures of everything (Karl got lazy pretty quick and I took over taking pictures with his camera)…he was like a Kid in a Candy Shop…We got up past the 10th Green and decided we needed to get some Fuel for the long walk ahead…$15 later total between the 4 of us, our Bellies were full and we were ready to press on…the view from 11 Tee (and the beginning of our journey around Amen Corner) was amazing…what a monster of a hole…It would be a stout Par 5 for us…the hole is so tight, you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it firsthand…then it was off to 12 and 13, where we would spend the better part of the next hour plus…what a sight…the viewing area to the left and behind the 12th tee has to be the best seats in the house…you can watch the approach shots and in up 11, and the Tee Shots on 12…I could have stayed there all day…we watched Sergio hit up 11 and then Tee off on 12 and followed Jonas Blixt, soon to make a splash during the Tournament proper, up 13 once we had worked ourselves up the right side of the Fairway…It was here that we ran into a guy from Boston who, after seeing that Dan was accumulating Masters Cups as Souvenirs, suggested that Dan, like himself many years before, snag a Pine Cone…he regaled us with a story of how he took one home and planted it in his backyard and he now has a Tree the size of 3 Robert Parish’s…as he was telling his tale, I noticed a nice sized specimen just under the ropes, peaking it’s head up under the Pine Straw…Dan stretched forward with all his might and snagged his treasure (without tearing anything important)…We continued up 13 and watched some more Jonas Blixt…He hit one approach in the Rae’s Creek, but followed with a ridiculous shot to like 10 feet…These guys make it look so damn easy…when you are in line with them in the Fairway, and you see the shots they face into the Greens (he did the same thing on 15 from like 230), it is just crazy how good they are…So, we continued on up 14 and 15 and then we rested in the Bleachers on 15…we could see approach shots coming in, and shots off of 16 Tee…the highlight was them doing skip shots across the pond after hitting there Tee Shots off 16…we then made our way up 17 and 18 and back towards the famous Oak Tree for a little break before hitting the Front Nine…it was getting hot and the hills were relentless, so Dan decided to take a rest and Andy, Karl, and I soldiered on…We immediately found a Bathroom off of 2 Fairway and more Food and Beer…Fuel, Fuel, Fuel! We had agreed to meet Dan back around the big scoreboard around 1:30, so we made our rounds of the Front Nine fairly quickly…we made a stop to help some California Boys get some Stogies lit up, but other than that, it was pretty quick as opposed to the Back Nine…We got back right on time and found Dan…we decided we would check out the Par 3 Contest for a bit, but when we got there, it was like downtown New York during a Yankees World Series Parade…people seemed to be 10-20 deep everywhere…not to mention, there was a NO SMOKING (past a certain point) sign…That made Andy and Karl very sad, and we didn’t stay too long…we lingered over by the 7th Hole and saw former US OPEN (Oakland Hills) CHAMP, Steve Jones and a couple other no names…We then headed back (we saw Gary Player on the way, holding court) to do some shopping (see Yankees Parade comment)…it was mayhem…like herding cattle…but it was so worth it…in the end, the 4 of us dropped about $2,200 and were happy as happy can be…but then, it was time to bid farewell to our Mistress…

As we walked off the grounds, I was struck by how fast everything went…It started to sink in that I had just walked in the footsteps of Hogan, Palmer, Player, Nicklaus, Nelson, Sarazen, Watson, and Bobby Jones…crazy…

We drove back to Atlanta and stayed at a MUCH NICER establishment by the Airport…we gorged on some Pizza and hit the sack early, since Karl had given us a 4:00AM departure time…Dan had a 9:00AM flight that he had booked soon after we arrived, but Andy and I had a 6:00AM flight into Chicago (Midway), which I slept straight through until we were about to land, and the landing was in a word, interesting…If you have never flown into Midway, you come in across the Lake and make a quick turn over a residential neighborhood where you abruptly slow down to make the landing strip…the winds were gusting around 20-30MPH and it was a scary landing, but we made it…I think Andy was crapping his pants…as you may all know, he has a fear of dying in the Water, so that was bad enough…and then we almost took the tops of some houses off…and to top it all off, we were rocking side to like a breakdancing scarecrow! So, after an hour layover, it was off to the D…another uneventful flight until the landing, because of the Wind, but we were home…I felt bad for Karl…he had driven home from the Airport and then gone to work a full day at BMW…I took the rest of the day to reflect on one of the greatest gifts ever given to me by my Buddy, Karl…Words can never describe my gratitude…These are memories I will have forever, and I am so thankful to have been able to share them with Karl, Andy, and Dan…I just hope we can win tickets again and be able to take some of our other Buddies that have not had the opportunity to attend…

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