Covering the Masters
One of the coolest things about covering my first Masters was seeing the thumbs up Angel Cabrera gave Adam Scott during the playoff.
Cabrera was on the 10th green in the playoff, and Scott’s approach shot landed inside his. He turned and praised the Australian golfer in the heat of competition.
Scott eventually won his first major at Augusta in 2013, but we all won with that rare display of respect and admiration in the most intense moments of a major. I’ll always remember that.
It was a historic Masters week before that, since Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore were walking Augusta National wearing green jackets for the first time. They were spectators for the Masters as members at Augusta National for the first time, but they were so much more. Their presence signaled change. The two were named the first female members in club history in 2012, and Augusta finally showed it was moving forward.
What a week in Georgia.
As a sports reporter, I have been lucky enough to cover countless awesome sporting events like the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals, national college football championships, high school championships, golf majors and more.
I covered four U.S. Opens, and walking those majors inside the ropes is truly one of the best “seats” in sports. I chronicled the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where Tiger Woods won on essentially one leg in an exciting 19-hole Monday victory over Rocco Mediate. It’s the last major Woods has won, and one of the greatest sports moments I’ve ever witnessed. I’d also covered U.S. Opens at Congressional, Olympic Club and Pebble Beach.
They were all breathtaking.
Yet a couple colleagues repeatedly told me there was nothing like covering the Masters. They had covered it for years, and both men even played the course, a lottery opportunity for reporters to play on the Monday after the event.
With their encouragement, I knew I would find a way to get to Augusta, but I worked for a paper without a big travel budget. I pitched an idea to my editor in which I just needed the cost of the flight. Golf writers and fellow FORE magazine contributors Tod Leonard of The San Diego Union Tribune and Bob Buttitta of the Ventura County Star would help with the rest.
The first year, my direct editor declined the trip. The following year, John Huh would play in his first Masters, and he was a local player for our Los Angeles-based newspaper. He played high school golf at Crescenta Valley and would be of interest to our readers. He was a virtual unknown when he earned his PGA TOUR card and would play in his first Masters in 2013 as a 22-year-old.
I pitched the idea to an executive in 2012 for the following year, and the trip was approved. The credential application, due in November, was approved as well.
I still had the open invitation for a place to stay. Leonard, who is also a friend, rents a house in Augusta every year with other sports writers. A good deal could run spectators $10,000 a week. The housing rental market is a grand one the week of the Masters, and some residents can pay their mortgages for half the year with one week’s rent. Augusta is a small city in Georgia, and there aren’t many hotels, either, so that was an important piece to the puzzle for me.
I planned my flights around the same times as Buttitta’s itinerary, who is also a friend and allowed me to carpool with him so I didn’t need to rent a car. The drive from Atlanta to Augusta is about two hours and then there were daily trips to the course.
There were seven reporters at the house, and they didn’t mind that a female reporter would reside in the sun room for the week. I barely slept much though as the sun peers in early in the morning, as one would expect from a sun room.
But what I remember most fondly from that was was friendship of fellow colleagues. Walking the hallowed grounds. Sitting at Amen Corner and realizing how impressive it was even though it looked so small compared to its larger-than-life appearance on television.
It was eating those Pimento cheese sandwiches – and maybe they taste better at Augusta – in the press room. Best darn food in any stadium, arena or course I’ve ever been to, by the way. You could sit in the press room from morning until midnight with food and snacks to keep you company and watch on television.
But then you’d be missing the beauty of the course, the spectators and the inexpensive snacks on the course. You probably paid thousands to get in, so you save once you’re in the gates.
You’d miss the big oak tree behind the clubhouse. It has such brilliant presence. We conducted interviews there, and I talked to Huh several times. I even spotted Jim Harrick, the former UCLA basketball coach there.
You’d miss the famous scoreboard, too. I wore a “Run for Her” T-shirt for a photo opportunity in front of the famous scoreboard and sent it back to the organization. The 5K run/walk benefits ovarian and other women’s cancers, and they loved to share photos of their teal shirts in different corners of the world. This was a dandy.
The only thing I missed was putting my name in the lotto system for reporters to play the course the Monday after the Masters. My sports editor at the time told an executive I wasn’t a good golfer and shouldn’t be allowed to enter. I’m not, but neither are most of the reporters who play. And, I have good golf etiquette. Would he say that to a male reporter? I’ll never know.
I spent a considerable amount of time in the gift shop, continually filling orders for friends for polo shirts, hats, mugs, flags and more. Made a stop there every day. Made a lot of folks happy since merchandise can’t be ordered online.
What I’ll remember most is the friendship displayed between Cabrera and Scott. And the generosity of my friends to help me get me to the Masters. That deserved a thumbs up, too.