Apr 062006
Authors: Grant Meech

With April comes spring, warmer weather and longer days. Cabin fever is evident as people itch to be outdoors and girls start wearing sundresses again, hooray! Professional and recreational duffers come out of the woodwork and begin to tear up the pretty green grass of golf courses. And with golf comes the Masters, the greatest golf tournament ever.

For 70 years, the greatest golfers in the world have come to Augusta, Ga., to tame the Augusta National Golf Course in search of the coolest sport coat ever. Forest green usually doesn’t look good on many people, but to these athletes, it never looked better.

The Masters is the mecca of golf, the shrine of the PGA, the Super Bowl of the majors. Except it’s less accessible than Mecca and the location doesn’t change every year like the Super Bowl.

Golfers from all over the world long for a Masters jacket. Many would trade in all their other tournament victories, just for this jacket. It’s that prestigious.

The PGA of America has four major tournaments: the Masters, British Open, U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

But the others don’t even come close to the Masters. And what a name. It isn’t the Masters Open, the Masters Championship or even the Masters Tournament, its official name. You just refer to it as the Masters. And if you win, essentially you are the master.

The Masters is the most exclusive tournament in golf, possibly in all of sports. The Augusta management has a list of ticket recipients so exclusive that it isn’t made public and the people on the list don’t know if they’ve even got a ticket. And if you are on the list, you still have to pay $175 for the ticket badge. For the regular Joe, get ready to shell out $2,000 to $10,000. And that’s just for the practice rounds. Practice rounds don’t even count. Augusta National even limits the number of fans to practice rounds!

And don’t think about buying a Masters hat or a shirt from a guy on the street or at some mall. Masters merchandise is sold exclusively at Augusta National and only during the championship. Sure you can eBay something but it may be a knockoff, rip-off or a fugazzi. And you don’t want that. I heard of a guy who paid a caddie $500 for his overalls (all of the caddies wear overalls during the rounds). Some caddies don’t even wear underwear under those things.

But all of this makes the tournament great. The prestige, the history and the mystery of the Masters are what makes the drama during the rounds so much fun to watch. The Golf Channel wouldn’t devote a week to it if it weren’t so important. Bobby Jones wouldn’t have it any other way.

Golf is an unpredictable sport in which a matter of inches can determine whether you win or lose. But here are some guarantees for the 2006 Masters:

The course will look amazing and the azaleas in Amen Corner will be bright and beautiful. Jim Nantz will be in the CBS booth. There will be limited commercials, leaving no time for refills or bathroom breaks. Tiger Woods’ caddie, Stevie Williams, will get mad at a photographer and he’ll wear a bright red shirt on Sunday. And on Sunday evening in Georgia, someone will wear a new green jacket.

On Sunday, I will be sitting on my couch with a cold drink and my remote nowhere to be found because I won’t need to change the channel.

Grant Meech can be reached at sports@collegian.com

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