Peter Malnati Masters Rookie Diary: ‘Wanna go on a date with me?’ and getting over the awe factor at Augusta National

Editor’s Note: Peter Malnati qualified for his first Masters by winning the Valspar Championship last month. The 36-year-old veteran hadn’t won in nearly nine years on the PGA Tour. He’s sharing a first-person account of his experience daily only at

After all these years, I had so many expectations and had heard so much about Augusta National that it seemed like one of those situations where it could only be a letdown because I was so incredibly excited. Well, guess what? It wasn’t a letdown.

On Saturday, we got to our rental house for the next nine nights and settled in a bit. I looked at my wife and I said, “You want to go on a date with me? Let’s go drive down Magnolia Lane.”

That afternoon, we drove to the course and at first, we drove in the wrong gate. I’m not sure what gate it was supposed to be but it definitely wasn’t Magnolia Lane.

Hopefully that’s my only bogey of the week. We drove down a few more gates before we found the right entrance. I don’t know if the security team has the reputation of being knowledgeable golf fans, but they all recognized me. That’s never happened to me before so that was pretty special. They congratulated me on my win and welcomed me to Augusta National. Alicia and I got to have that moment where we drove Magnolia Lane together.

I got registered and checked out the practice area and gym but during that first visit I didn’t so much as see the first tee or the ninth hole.

On Sunday, the real fun began. I got to take in the Drive, Chip and Putt from a distance and worked out and after a quick warmup on the range, I teed off around 10:30 am. There’s quite a bit of play on Sunday but I felt like I had the course to myself. It was just me, my caddie and my longtime coach. I played all 18 holes. There’s a lot of courses that you play that are beautiful to look at but not that interesting to play; then there are the opposite that are incredibly interesting to play but don’t have that wow factor. Augusta National in tournament conditions was one of the most beautiful golf courses I’ve ever seen and at the same time one of the most interesting golf courses to play. It seemed like every shot had something to think about.

Probably my favorite moment of my first time around the course was after my tee shot on No. 11. Walking down the hill, you get to the landing area of the tee shot and you get far enough out there over the hill to see the 11th green, No. 12 and the azaleas hidden back toward 13 tee, the bend in the fairway on 13. It was a Wow moment – I’m here at this spot that I’ve watched since I was a kid on TV and I’d never seen it in person. When you did, it’s more than you could ever imagine. It’s surprising just how beautiful it is in person. You knew the azaleas were going to be there, you knew the conditioning was going to be nice but it really is a beautiful property.

Peter Malnati  hits his shot from a bunker on the second hole during a practice round prior to the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. (Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

I told everyone my goal was to get all my awe out of the way on Sunday so I could just go to work starting on Monday. I think I did that to a large degree. It’s still incredibly cool to be at a place you’ve dreamed of being and being here for the first time. I’m still enjoying that and taking it in.

On Monday, I played the front nine by myself. That’s usually my most productive practice. Seeing that it is a course where experience is said to be invaluable, I’m open to the idea of playing the course with somebody who has had success her and been here many times but I really love the peacefulness of being out there by myself.

That’s kind of my plan. I haven’t set up a practice round with anybody yet. For now, I plan to play nine holes the next couple of days and learn my way around this course and have an incredible first Masters.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek