Column: Welcome To Final Day At Augusta National!
AUGUSTA, Georgia – I knew I had reached Augusta’s mecca Saturday morning a touch after 6 a.m. when I was stuck in traffic on Washington Road.
Yes, make note, stuck in traffic for a women’s amateur golf tournament, but not any tournament – the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
It is the ultimate goal of this field to tee it up on Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club.
Friday was a fun walk and play and learn round; oh, and a dinner and putting contest under the lights on the Augusta National putting green that included a concert by Niall Horan (Irish singer-songwriter). Saturday was all about a good finish.
If you watched on TV early Saturday, the crowd was in place at Augusta National Golf Club’s iconic tees (the round went to two tee starts at 1 and 10 because of the impending weather forecast) and when LSU’s Latanna Stone stepped on the first team before a gathering crowd, there also was Annika Sorenstam and Dr. Condoleezza Rice seated right at the gallery ropes.
Like longtime members that have been at the first tee to welcome golfers to The Masters, Sorenstam and Dr. Rice, along with Nancy Lopez have in the four years become the face of the tournament at the opening tee when the players come through.
Now I know, I’m being spoiled this week as one of at least five sports communications groups that are covering their players in the event and experiencing the “press building,” but if any of us didn’t leave here learning something about our craft, then that’s a big mistake.
And, “press building” is such a generic term for this place that has a writer’s arena overlooking the practice range and short game area (nothing like watching the day break from here). Plus, as best I can tell, we are somewhere behind the big scoreboard off the first fairway. That’s where the media picks up a shuttle to and from the building. I know we are dropped off and picked up in an area next to main concessions and the area where the merchandise shop is but my exact location would be hard to explain.
Speaking of the golf shop, it was estimated that the line to get merchandise today was extremely long. There were a lot of people on the course watching golf, but before the course was evacuated, there may have been close to have many in line. That makes me wonder if part of the reason tickets are getting harder to get for this event is that many come this day to get their merchandise fix for this year’s Masters.
And I will say this, there are so many friendly marshals and workers that it sometimes may seem a little unbelievable, but the little extra “have a nice day,” “enjoy your visit,” “sir, this way please,” makes the experience that much better. Augusta National is just different when it comes to its rules and traditions and it is what it is. But this is a trip a sports fan has to make if they can.
The tradition like any other is now a part of women’s amateur golf and the game is better for it. It’s great to see, and you’ve seen the TV shots, of the kids and parents out here and in this event, there is a little room for them to be up close to the ropes and see people that look like them play the game they are hopefully going to love as well.
Yes, it’s a bucket list item to come here, even for media people like me and as this Saturday as gone on more and more of the media coming in for the big show are taking their place in the arena as they call it. But those of us who cover college golf are proud of our players that have advanced to even get a start in this event.
Only 72 players get a spot in this event. That’s it. There are no qualifying events that everyone can enter. There are criteria that gets them the best field in women’s amateur golf and that’s it. That’s why Chairman Fred Ridley’s idea to play this event the week before The Masters has been a gem.
So, for Stone, Ingrid Lindblad and Carla Tejedo to make it to this week and in Stone and Lindblad’s case multiple times is something to be saluted. Tejedo used the word “motivated” when describing her want to get back here again and she just might. Stone is planning another year of play so she could get a third chance at it in 2024.
No matter how you play, the memories that everyone who comes to this event gets to experience are pretty important. But now it is time for LSU and other schools to begin to get ready for conference championships. For the Tigers, it means the chance to defend the SEC title won a year ago in Birmingham.
So, it will be on the road for some more golf starting April 12. Until then, hope you have enjoyed “Geaux Lowe” as we tried to bring you some of the color of this wonderful event and these two wonderful golf venues in Augusta.