Even with all the coverage attendant to the first men’s golf major of the year, The Masters, there are some things that you may never learn. Here are a few tidbits from this year’s 78th edition at Augusta National.
Long Story: When the Masters comes around in 2015 the extensive changes to Berckman’s Road will be completed and the club’s integration into Patron Parking will be improved. A by-product of the expansion is greater flexibility on that corner of the course. Look for the field to discover a lengthened par 4 5th hole. The hole currently plays up hill at 455 yards with the big hitters reaching the cross walk.
There Goes the Neighborhood: Although the only permanent venue for a men’s golf major, Augusta National changes every year. Since the arrival of current Chairman Billy Payne significant alterations in policy, style, and structure have taken place.
A recent Golf Digest article details the club’s real estate ventures over the last few years as they have purchased all land adjacent to the club save Augusta Country Club. Estimates are the club has spent in excess of $50 million over the last decade. Homeowners on Berckman’s Road were rumored to be getting buyouts of $1 million for properties that my local real estate source estimated to be valued at no more than $150,000.
The club will next relocate the road separating the course from the Patron Lot and refine entrance and egress from the course tournament week.
Hours of Visitation: Hardcore Masters fan will know that the biggest change to the golf course this years is the Eisenhower tree guarding the left side of the fairway at the 17th hole. A winter ice storm terminally damaged the tree and it was taken down two months ago.
The tree is gone but not entirely. It has not been turned into firewood or mulch but “lies in state” in storage until the club decides how to properly dispose of it. Don’t think key chains or coasters in the merchandise area. Think “benches” or monuments honoring the late President and former member for whom it was named. Eisenhower encountered the tree as a player with the same zeal he had for negotiations with a Democratic Congress.
A Tradition Unlike Any Other: Monday evening in Augusta during Masters week has regularly featured an in town gala called the Mayor’s Reception – a ‘fan experience event” affordably available to the public, usually locals.
This year the Mayor’s reception was off the calendar for the first time in recent memory. It wasn’t for lack of support or enthusiasm but rather an available golfer to be a part of the festivities. Usually a former champion had been solicited to headline the event but this year no player stepped up to staff it.
It may not be as crass as it sounds. A member of the committee told me that they couldn’t move on to the next invitation until the invited player pending declined the invitation. “We simply ran out of time.” It is probable the soiree will be back next year with adjustments and enhancements.
What you don’t see at Augusta National: On the grounds of the club near Butler Cabin where the television green jacket ceremony takes place is a new building known as the Founders Club. Rumor is this is for elite partners of the event. If you were able to see what is under your feet as you face the new building is the near completion of the club’s new wine cellar. If you think the membership is a select group, the club’s wine cellar is reputed to house one of the world’s great wine collections.
Never mind: There has been much talk about the first major in years without Tiger Woods in the field and the impact on the event. Golf purists will tell you one player isn’t as important as the Masters. But the Masters attracts more than just golfers. According to one report when Tiger announced his decision to not compete a rental car agency in Atlanta got 250 cancellation notices. And the unofficial street price for Master’ badges is more of a bear market this year.
Sons Day: This year was the first year a father and son have played the Masters at the same time. Former Masters champion Craig Stadler, playing in what he believes will be his last Masters, saw his son Kevin qualify for the first time. But St. Louisans will note that Bill Haas, son of Belleville native Jay Haas, has been in the field the last few years. I
There have been a total of eleven Father/Son combinations in Masters history. The Haas stand alone in one historic way. Jay and Bill are the only Father/Son combination to have had the outright for one round of the tournament. Jay in 1995 (2nd Round) and Bill this year (1st Round). The Loves, Davis II and Davis III shared overnight leads. The elder having tied Bob Goalby after the first round in 1964.