A lot of people ask me why I like the Masters so much, or what it is about Augusta that makes grown men croon like teenage girls at a boy band concert. I have few answers; it's hard to explain beyond "do whatever you have to do to go once. You'll understand, everything will make sense."
For now, though, I'll try to give you a an inside look at golf's yearly foray into Georgia's most famous sporting event. Let's get to a few superlatives from a day on the grounds.
Most outrageous stat: I'm not particularly proud of how much money I spent at the merchandise tent, especially since this was my fifth time to attend and it's not like I needed anything new. I felt better though after talking to the lady at the checkout counter: "what's the highest total you've seen so far?" I asked (keep in mind it was 8:45 AM). "Well, I haven't seen anything crazy yet, but this girl behind me just checked a guy out who spent $8,000."
"Goodness", I thought, "he might as well have had Blake Griffin drive his Kia into the tent and had somebody light the thing on fire."
Most appropriate article of clothing: I saw a 90-year old man trolling Amen Corner sporting a lazy green hat with the word "HOOTIE" emblazoned across the front in bold yellow block letters. I laughed a little and then he turned to the side, Martha Burk's name was stitched just above his ear with a bright red X slicing the letters into fourths. I stopped laughing. Out loud, anyway.
Best deal on food: People rant and rave about the pimiento cheese, and with good reason. It's a solid choice, make no mistake. But dollar for dollar, it's pretty difficult to top the sweet tea-and-chocolate chip cookie combo I started putting together. The temporary sugar high is unparalleled and the prices are almost awkwardly affordable. About half the time I find myself feeling like I'm stealing when I walk out of the food tents.
Celebrity sighting: There were three. Well two and a half. First the half - Peter Uihlein's dad, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which owns Titleist. I actually talked to him for a while; you'd never guess he was anything more than a proud dad following his star-in-the-making son around the course. The other two I saw were Marshall Faulk and Emmitt Smith. Faulk looked like he still had a wheel route or two in him and I think Emmitt just wanted to hit a few balls on the range.
Worst dresser: Ryo Ishikawa. Speaking of boy bands, was he wearing skinny jeans to play in on Friday? Somebody needs to introduce him to Davis Love III or get him a new sponsor, one of the two, I don't care which.
Best spot to watch: Jamming yourself between fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen with a clear shot at tee shots flying over the fraternity row seated below the sixth tee is a pretty ideal spot to catch some golf. You know, if you ever get the chance to go.
High-five of the day: Peter Uihlein had just yanked his drive on #9 into the pine straw, nearly decapitating my wife in the process. We gathered around the Titleist orb, staring at it as Pistol Pete stared back at us. Uihlein and his caddy ambled on down to the ball with which he was going to try and bend around the #1 fairway and back towards the #9 green. As he's about to hit he starts squinting at something off in the distance, at least 200 yards away. "Is that Rick?" he asked. I nodded. "Hmph, cool" and he went back to tearing through the needles.
He put a bad swing on it and blew through his fade, running it up the first tee box and nearly hitting Rickie Fowler (or "Rick"), who had just teed off on #1, in the process. The amateur sauntered off, almost guilty-looking, towards Puma's poster child and the two Cowboys exchanged high fives just before the #1 fairway - one scrambling to find his stroke before the back nine, the other preparing for a birdie-infested round of 69. They looked like two dudes just kicking it on a Friday afternoon at the course. It made them seem a little less famous and me a little more extraordinary just for having witnessed it.
Here's to jam-packed leaderboards and Amen Corner Edition polo shirts. Unlike any other.
- Wally Uihlein