This is Gary Player’s description of a visit to Augusta National. He is, of course, referring to the spellbinding beauty of the place, beginning with the 300-metre drive from the gate to the clubhouse along Magnolia Lane, which is flanked on either side by 60 magnificent magnolia trees grown from seeds planted way back in the 1850s when the place was a tree and flower nursery and not a golf club.
And then there’s the golf course itself, which is probably the world’s most recognisable and can’t be beaten for beauty and drama. It is a sacred place on the golfing map, and come Masters time there is not a blade of grass out of place, with the edges of the bunkers trimmed with scissors.
Player, of course, was talking about choking with emotion. He never choked on the golf course, and Augusta was no exception. He won the Masters three times, blitzing the back nine in just 30 shots en route to a 64 in his 1978 victory, and was twice a runner-up.
And as for the “Patrons” (Augusta National talk for spectators) at the Masters every year, well you have to behave yourself. No “running” to get a good spot behind the ropes, no autograph requests. If you get caught with an iPhone in your hand, you’ll be escorted off the premises.
You obey the rules at Augusta National. Clifford Roberts instituted these during his reign as the club’s chairman from 1931 to 1976.
Roberts, for instance, insisted that all caddies at the Masters should be black and employed by Augusta National, so up until 1983 the players could not bring their own bag men. “As long as I’m alive golfers will be white, and caddies black,” he thundered. Thank goodness those days are long gone.
You don’t dare step out of line at the Masters, which reminds me of a story about someone who did, and got away with it. Sam Snead, who was raised in the backwoods of Virginia, arrived at Augusta in 1946 whereupon his manager, Freddie “The Cork” Corcoran, did his best to promote him with the press.
He told the golf writers: “You scribes don’t know how versatile Sam is. Why, he could throw away his spiked shoes and beat the field in his bare feet.”
The reporters snickered, but Corcoran urged Snead to do just this in his practice round: “Sam, show ’em how you used to murder par in your bare dogs back home in the hills,” he said. Snead then kicked off his shoes and socks, rolled up his trousers, and belted a big drive down the middle of the first fairway on his way to a 68 in his bare feet.
“I drew quite a crowd,” he would later write in his book Education of a Golfer, “and next day a couple of shoe manufacturers who signed up golfers for endorsements passed the word that I ought to be shot.”
How Roberts missed this Huckleberry Finn-type stunt by a man who would also, like Player, go on to win three Masters, is a mystery because, if he’d known about it he would have been choking with anger.
Some of the competitors will choke at this year’s Masters, such is the pressure.
Even the wonderfully talented Jordan Spieth felt the weight of the Masters history last year. One man will undoubtedly choke with emotion as he dons the Green Jacket on Sunday evening.
And as for you and I and the Patrons, we may also feel the odd lump in the throat as we witness the high drama over Augusta’s do-or-die holes.