Citizens of Statesboro, I apologize for the delay on this column. Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia’s molasses slow play prevented me from writing it sooner. If you’ve won the Golden Ticket in the form of a Masters badge for Sunday’s play, this could help. If you plan on trying to make the trek from Beautiful Eagle Creek to Rae’s Creek in future years, just buy a frame and hang it on your wall (Do not actually put this article in that frame. That would be ridiculous. I was simply advocating supporting Statesboro’s local frame dealers).
Anyway, after making many mistakes in my commutes from Statesboro to Augusta over the past two years of Masters Week, I’m ready to share some insider’s tips on what’s sure to be one of the best days of your life.
Normally, this is a 90-minute morning drive, but during the week when the world makes Augusta home, that number can more than double. Here’s the key -- don’t get onto I-20. You’ll be idly stuck at the Washington Road exit with enough time to watch Jack Bauer kill 87 red shirts. Instead, take Hwy. 56 from Waynesboro, cross Bobby Jones Expressway and turn right onto Old Savannah Hwy. From there, let the GPS or printed directions take you in the back way to Augusta National. If you’re planning on opening the gates with the guards (and you should), taking the right route is essential.
Surprise! If you’re making your first trip to The Masters, you’ll be shocked at the food and drink prices. This isn’t Turner Field. For less than 10 bucks, you can get a world-famous pimento cheese sandwich, a bar-b-q sandwich, chips, peanuts, and a beer. And that’s exactly what I suggest you do. Then, on your way back to the ‘Boro, stop by Sconyers Bar-b-q (open Thurs.-Sat. until 10 p.m.) for a Plantation Platter – the ribs and hash with rice are the perfect way to end the day.
Friends and family make their lists, and you’re expected to oblige with mementos from this legendary tourney. Don’t jump the gun on this. Carrying food, drinks AND bags of keepsakes up and down the rolling hillsides of Augusta National are less than ideal. While you may have to fight longer lines late in the day, you’re arms will thank you for waiting.
Bring plenty of sunscreen and pace yourself. Many patrons arrive at 8 a.m., and by noon, they’re pouring sweat and lumbering up the slopes of Augusta. If you think that could be you, find a seat near the first tee, sitting in the grass on six or in the stands at 12 or 16. By the end of the day, you have to see the flowery beauty of Amen Corner and the players’ shoot for eagles at 15, but you have plenty of time for that.
If, like me, you prefer to walk the course with a popular player grouping, don’t fall into the natural trap of running ahead to get your next spot. Everyone does that. Even following Tiger and his epic galleries, there are always places to watch virtually every shot. So if you want to walk with Nike’s front man, as they say, just do it.
Finally, relax and enjoy yourself. With no cell phones allowed and camera’s prohibited on tournament days, the pressures of the outside world are left at the gates. In The Masters world, there’s no road construction on Main Street, no income taxes to file, and Georgia Southern football has a reliable starting quarterback ready for Paulson Saturdays in the fall.
Enjoy complete bliss.
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