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Column: Celebrating my first time at the Masters and my sister's birthday

Apr. 11—Today is a special day.

It marks the 50th anniversary of the first time I ever set foot on the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club.

And it also marks the 50th birthday for my sister Angela.

Let those two facts sink in for a minute.

Yes, I attended my first Masters Tournament on the same day my sister was born. Don't blame me; I was just 8 years old.

It's long been a running joke in our family about just how valuable — and scarce — Masters tickets can be.

The story goes that my mother gave birth to my sister early on the morning of April 11, 1974 at the old Aiken County Hospital. My grandmother Estelle was a patron and had badges for us to use, and Dad had planned to take me that day.

As Mom recently said, there wasn't anything we could do. In her typical style, she encouraged us to go. As my grandmother Rani liked to say, we planned a lot around a ball game. I guess this would qualify, too.

Mom was a school teacher, and back then she said they didn't have the whole week off. Just the Thursday and Friday of Masters Week.

Her school friends kidded her about her efficiency; she worked up until the very end and gave birth to Angela the next day.

After we were assured that Mom and Angela were doing fine, Pops and I took off for Augusta. I don't remember much, to be honest, but I do recall being in awe of how green the grass was on the course.

Pops remembers me being in love with the concessions and eating a bunch of stuff, probably candy. I'm sure it cost him under $10 back then.

I know that Gary Player won his second Masters that year, and for some reason I have a mental image of seeing him dressed in black sitting in a white lawn chair. But that could just be an old photo I saw and burned into my memory bank.

It was a few more years before I returned to the Masters. I think Angela might have gone with my grandmother on occasion. I took up golf in the summer of 1980, and I was quickly hooked.

Getting a chance to go to such an important tournament became a priority for me, and I was able to go a couple of more times in high school.

When I went to USC Aiken, I was able to work on the leaderboard at No. 6 for a couple of years. That was a great experience.

I started writing about golf while in college, and I'm forever in Bob Stoner's debt. He was the sports editor of the Aiken Standard, and he made sure I went to the final two rounds of the 1986 Masters. That was the first one I wrote about for the paper, and it remains my favorite. If you haven't heard, some guy named Jack Nicklaus won that day.

But enough about me. Going to the Masters remains a family tradition, and my wife, Kathy, and Angela coordinate the two patron badges I now get. Angela typically goes on Thursdays with my Mom, which only seems right.

Alas, Mother Nature doesn't seem to want to cooperate this year. Today's forecast is dreadful, with nearly a 100 percent chance of rain and wind gusts up to 40 mph. I'm hoping they can at least get out for a little bit today.

Our tradition includes me setting their chairs out at a good location — sorry about that time I put you by the bunker at No. 9 on a windy day — and then I go out and visit them when they arrive. That usually involves me bringing snacks or helping carry their purchases from the merchandise shop. But I don't mind.

Masters Week is highly anticipated by all of us, and this year is no different. We all enjoy the food, the shopping and the sightseeing. Not to mention the golf.

I hope it's a tradition we can carry on for many, many more years.

Happy birthday, lil' sister!

Thanks for reading.