First impressions: Players recall first trips to Augusta National
March 19, 2015
By Sean Martin and Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- March 19, 2015
- This is the view of Augusta National's clubhouse as people approach from Magnolia Lane. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Setting foot on Augusta National for the first time is a memorable experience. The exclusive club is open to the public just one week per year, and it's not exactly easy to find a member to host you during the remainder of the year. The club's membership roster is kept secret, but it includes titans of industry, politicians and Hall of Fame athletes.
It's difficult even for professional golfers to get through the gates. The fortunate few gather at Augusta National each April, though. Since many of us won't make it down Magnolia Lane, we decided to have PGA TOUR players tell us what they remember about their first time on the hallowed grounds.
WEBB SIMPSON: First time, I was 12. I played with my dad and my swing coach, the head pro at my home course, Ted Kiegel, and Haley Roberts, a member. I'll never forget it. I shot 80 from the members' tees. Had a blast. I'll never forget it. Two things (struck me). One, it was a lot hillier than I'd imagined and the greens were a lot smaller. On TV, they look pretty big. But they're really small and obviously, I couldn't get over how fast they were.
JIMMY WALKER: We played about 2009, in January or December. We had a great time. My dad birdied three out of four par‑5s. My dad and I got to play together for the first time. We stayed in cabins. It was amazing. I shot even par on the first day we played, and it was very wet. It played really long. Then the next day we played in 38 degree weather. I think that's the only place on the planet you will go out and play when it's 38 and drizzling. We played the back nine. We played nine holes. I shot 1 under and it was nasty. I remember the first day I hit driver, 7‑iron up into 18. Then the last day we played I hit driver and a hybrid into the green. Played completely different. It was hard, but it was cool. What a great experience. My dad, staying in the cabins. I think we stayed in Palmer's cabin. Played the Par‑3 Course. We did it all. It was ridiculous.
BILLY HORSCHEL: The first time I stepped foot on Augusta was the Saturday before the tournament last year. It was pretty cool. The first observation is that it is a lot more undulating and sloped around the whole course than what it shows on TV. Augusta is an unbelievable tournament. There’s a lot of history to it. Bobby Jones is someone I think who everyone knows, and what he has done in the game of golf is unbelievable. I think I was more excited to play the golf course for the golf course itself and the way it was designed. That’s what I was excited about more than anything. The glitz and glamour, and this and that, I’ve never been one to get too caught up in that.
BRIAN HARMAN: I think I had just gotten my driver’s license the first time I played. As good as it looks on TV, it looks better in person. That’s what’s so cool about it. I’ve always pictured myself playing in that tournament. Growing up watching it, I always pictured myself competing there. So, for me, even when I was 16, it may sound crazy but I was going to use it to get ready, as a practice round. Obviously, it’s took 12 years to get there, but I had a good feeling I’d make it there one day. I think I hit the 13th hole in two. Every hole has a story on it. There’s always a few signature holes on every golf course, but on that course, they all are.Even when I was 16, it may sound crazy, but I was going to use it as a practice round. I had a good feeling I’d make it there one day.
RICKIE FOWLER: I think the biggest thing for me was when I walked out of the clubhouse, just kind of seeing where everything was, seeing it on TV, you don't really understand the routing of the course or what kind of land it's built on, how much movement there is, elevation change. The thing I remember most is turning in and the guards actually letting me in and driving down Magnolia Lane.
MORGAN HOFFMANN: We played the Augusta State tournament and went over to (Augusta National) to watch the practice round. It was my goal to never set foot on Augusta until I played it for the Masters. Coach (Mike McGraw) was like, ‘No, you need to come out and watch the practice round.’ There’s not many guys who don’t want to go to Augusta, but it was cool. It’s a dream come true to be there. I went up for a practice round a few weeks ago. It’s my favorite course I’ve ever played. There’s nothing like it, the history there. Just walking over some of those bridges. It’s really special. I played it with just one of the local caddies and no one else. He put the hole locations out and showed me some of the secret breaks. It was a really cool experience. It was a perfect day. It was the best experience of my life.
BRANDT SNEDEKER: I went and played Augusta my freshman year of college. Driving up Magnolia Lane was a pretty special experience, because of how iconic that lane is. Getting goosebumps, the hair standing up on your arms. Even though it’s just a fun round, there’s nerves because you want to play well. Probably the thing that strikes you most is when you walk out of the back of the clubhouse toward the first tee, you see the undulation for the first time and kind of get a view of the whole golf course. You don’t realize that on TV. It’s a really special experience and a lot of fun. They gave us a little tour of everything, showed us the Champion’s Locker Room, showed us the trophies and all of the memorabilia they have in the dining areas. I remember I went for 13 and 15 (in two). I knocked it on one of them and hit it in the water on the other. I broke 80, which was the main goal for the day.
ZACH JOHNSON: I was there as a spectator in 2001, when I was on the mini-tours. Vaughn Taylor is a good buddy and is from there. He had tickets. I remember walking the golf course, all 18 holes, basically twice that day. I know I saw Jose (Maria Olazabal) skipping shots off of the pond on 16. The Hooters Tour had a week off and we had been playing in the Carolinas. I didn’t get to play the golf course for the first time until Tuesday of tournament week (in 2005). I didn’t have an opportunity to go early. I was living in Orlando, and the week before I was the defending champion at the BellSouth, which was a 54-hole tournament that ended on Monday (because of weather).
J.B. HOLMES: I was about 17, 18 (when I went to watch the tournament). Me and my dad went. It was a lot of fun. Every piece of grass was manicured. ... There's no weeds, no nothing. It's like a different world in there. It's a special place, for sure.
CAMERON TRINGALE: I remember driving down Magnolia Lane for the first time and seeing the yellow flowers that make up the logo that’s right in front of the clubhouse and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really happening. I’m really going to get to play.’ It was my freshman year at Georgia Tech. We were trying to think about what song we would listen to as we drove down Magnolia Lane. We cruised slowly (down Magnolia Lane). I have no idea what song we played. It could have been gangster rap or opera music. We had a wide range of genres on our team. Someone else was driving. I drove later in my career so that I could get the Volvo down Magnolia Lane one time, maybe make it worth more when I sold it. (The clubhouse) was so different than I thought. It was so classic and so old-school inside. It seemed like it was back in time. I didn’t feel uncomfortable, but I definitely was on my best behavior. I remember just wanting to hit the 12th green because everyone was saying how hard it is and I was like, ‘No, it’s not that hard. It’s a 9-iron to the middle of the green.’ So I had to hit the green. I hit it on the fringe, just off the green. The first tee shot, too. Talk about nerves for a round that didn’t really matter. I wanted to play well so badly.
NICK WATNEY: I qualified and I went there in the winter time. I played 36 holes there, by myself. Well, I take that back. The second 18, the guys that I played with were leaving, so they were, like, what are you going to do. I was flying out the next day so I wanted to play again. So I went around Augusta by myself. So it was amazing. I was a little nervous just in November. It's a very special place. It just seems bigger than it does on TV. The hills are a little more extreme. Everything's a little bit more green and vivid -- almost like you've got to pinch yourself that you're actually there. It was an amazing experience.
DAVIS LOVE III: We played when we were at Carolina. We won the Augusta tournament so we got to go a whole bunch of us and play. So that would have been 83-ish. Oh, we were a bunch of college kids. We were dumbfounded. I don't think I'd ever played greens that smooth or fairways that perfect. Back then it was, maybe, Muirfield, was the only place that was that good. So it was incredible. Scared to hit the ground. Scared to say the wrong thing but it was fun. That was a big goal of our team. We wanted to win that tournament so we could go play.
AARON BADDELEY: As an amateur, I got an invite after I won the Australian Open as an amateur. I was 18. I would have been 19 when I got to Augusta. I'll never forget. I hit my second shot on 10. It was an 8-iron. It was dead silent. I hit this shot. Just the noise, the way the shot sounded in the trees, I was like wow. It was unbelievable.