Spring began at 7:02am (EDT) on March 20, 2013 in the Northern Hemisphere. It was welcomed especially by many Americans bidding farewell to some very cold weather. Spring has always been my favorite season… bar none. It’s a time of renewal, longer periods of daylight, warm sunny temperatures, and a sense of rebirth. It’s also a reminder to golf fans that the Masters is just around the corner, and soon one of the greatest sporting events in the world will tee off.
Each year the Masters is held at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Golfing legend Bobby Jones teamed with Alister MacKenzie to design this masterpiece in the early 1930s. The end result is one of the finest golf courses anywhere, and in my opinion, the best run sporting event in the world. Little did they know back in the day that this tournament would become one of the supreme and best organized sporting institutions ever! Organizational excellence by the leadership and within its traditions are foremost at the Masters.
I’ve been fortunate to attend the Masters on several occasions, and each time I’ve visited Augusta National, I’m reminded of its beauty and opulence. Watching this event on television, while capturing much of the splendor of Augusta National, can never replace that feeling of excitement once you cross the turnstiles and enter these hallowed grounds. The azaleas and magnolias are breathtaking, and the manicured lawn and golf course are simply spectacular. The main - possibly undetected by the television audience - ingredient is the organizational excellence that defines this great sports institution.
A few traditions that make the Masters a great event:
· The Masters is held on the same course every year - Augusta National. The club opened in 1933. One year later, the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament was held and since then, the top-ranking golfers are either invited or have to meet certain qualifications to play. Previous Masters winners enjoy a life-time exemption. While other major tournaments rotate location/course venues, the Masters is always held at Augusta National.
· Each year, the winner of the Masters Tournament is awarded a Green Jacket to commemorate his victory. Winners must return the jacket to Augusta the following year, where they are stored and made available to the players when they visit.
· The Champions Dinner was started in 1952 by Ben Hogan. Each year since then, the previous Masters tournament winner hosts a dinner for the past champions. The winner chooses the menu and pays for the meal.
· Pimento Cheese sandwiches are a staple at the Masters. There are eight types of sandwiches sold at the Masters but the Pimento Cheese is my favorite. Although the exact recipe is a secret, it’s basically pimento cheese on super-fresh white bread. I first attended the Masters in 1995, and my last visit to Augusta National was in 2008 – the sandwich still sold for the exact amount - $1.50. Some items at the concessions have gone up slightly in price, but not the Pimento Cheese! No inflation here.
· Azaleas and Magnolia Lane – The land that is now known as Augusta National was formerly a tree nursery, and is heavily populated with the natural beauty of azaleas, magnolias, and other shrubs and trees. The azaleas just happen to be in full bloom during the same time the tournament begins each year (what a coincidence)! Magnolia Lane is the 330 yard road that leads to the clubhouse which is lined by 61 glorious Magnolia trees.
· Augusta National Golf Club has consistently chosen CBS as its U.S. broadcast partner but does so in successive one-year contracts. Due to the lack of long-term contractual security, as well as the club's limited dependence on broadcast rights fees, it is widely held that CBS allows Augusta National greater control over the content of the broadcast, or at least perform some form of self-censorship, in order to maintain future rights.
· The Masters tournament does not have fans in attendance – at least, they're not called fans. They are known as patrons. You’ll hear it often during the television broadcast. Also, while on the grounds, patrons are told not to run. Walking only, please…
A few other noteworthy items that make this event so superb:
The food and beverage vendors stop selling beer at 4 p.m. – no exceptions. If you feel the need to overindulge in alcohol and become a nuisance, you will be removed from the grounds and your badge will be confiscated – forever. This rule, I’m sure, ensures that the patrons who enjoy the event are not disturbed by someone who can’t control their consumption.