Guy Heveldt: My day working in golf heaven

By Guy Heveldt

"Good morning Sir, welcome to the Masters."
"You're going to have to pinch me."
"Sorry, Sir?"
"I need you to pinch me so I know this is real."


I've made it. Heaven. At least, golfer's Heaven. Welcome to day one of my first ever Masters experience.

I'm nervous. That seems weird, even to me. But this has been at the top of the bucket list since I started watching the Masters in the mid 1990s. Not only top of the sporting bucket list, the top of the general life bucket list.

Even walking through the gates towards the brand new, palatial media centre, everything is perfect. The media hub is unlike anything I've ever seen in my life. From an incredible, state of the art media working "arena", to a buffet-style top-range restaurant, emitting aromas you can only dream of at seven o'clock in the morning.

Looking out the window from my desk "D34", I look straight down the practice range. Thankfully, it's far enough away that even the best of Dustin Johnson's bombs won't quite come through the front window, although he's not too far away in the time I watch him from the balcony.

Bubba Watson hits out of the pine straw on the second hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Monday. Photo / AP.
Bubba Watson hits out of the pine straw on the second hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Monday. Photo / AP.



After opening my laptop, looking like I was going to break into work, which I promise I will do eventually, I get straight back up, walk out of the aforementioned media centre and towards the merchandise store. The much-talked about zoo of the merchandise store. A 300 metre line. Just for clothing and accessories with a little yellow symbol on them. Lining up for 300 metres (no exaggeration) lets you in on some fascinating eavesdropping.

"Why are you here? You've got all the 2016 gear on, you don't need anymore," I hear someone ask an older gentleman.

"Sir, it's 2017. I need the 2017 stuff."

Hard to argue with that, I think.

"How much would you pay for a round here?" I hear one punter ask. "Just you and your buddies (classic American slang). The entire course to yourself," one patron asked his excited looking "buddy".

"I dunno, maybe $5000?"

"Oh I'd pay a lot more."

I silently agree with the "I'd pay a lot more" guy.

After sampling a delicious breakfast in the dining room, it's time to go and walk some of the course.

The first thing I think when I look out from around the first tee, over the ninth green and out to the vast expanse of the course - television does it no justice. Both in terms of its beauty and its undulations. The grass is perfect, the fairways are like the best carpet I've ever walked on and there are hills as far as the eye can see. Holes 10 and 18 are the best examples.

In this April 10, 2016, file photo, Jordan Spieth waits to putt at the 18th green during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta. Photo / AP.
In this April 10, 2016, file photo, Jordan Spieth waits to putt at the 18th green during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta. Photo / AP.

From the 10th tee down to the 59-yard bunker at the bottom of the fairway, the drop is alarming. It's a constant downhill roll and, as I put my "I hope I get pulled out of the media lottery to play the course" hat on, I lick my lips at the thought of extra distance off the tee. 18 is similar, although, this time, straight uphill. Keeping the "I hope I get pulled out of the media lottery to play the course" hat on, it dawns on me that I will need to miraculously gain some muscle in the next week if I'm to make it to the green from the bottom of the hill.

After seeing the back nine, my walk around the hallowed fairways and greens is cut short by the impending threat of a substantial storm that hits Augusta. It means I spend the rest of my afternoon in the media centre.

Over six or so hours, stories are told and opinions are gathered between the media. Most would expect Masters Monday would mean Masters discussion. Who's going to win? Who needs a drastic form reversal? Who will a softer course suit? Hardly any of that's discussed. Instead, the talk of Augusta National is actually the LPGA Tour and, more specifically, Lexi Thompson's four-stroke penalty at the ANA Inspiration. The debate behind me was between two British journalists on differing sides of the spectrum. About three rows down, the same discussion occurs, although these two particular men were in agreement about how ridiculous the entire thing was. I had to nod my head.

An hour or two later, Rickie Fowler is asked his opinion about the Thompson drama. He laments the state of golf's rules if a television viewer can completely change the outcome of a tournament, especially a major. "There's no question it should be ended. I don't think you will find a player who thinks otherwise," Fowler says, expanding on it by saying he thinks there's already been a push from players to have it changed. A fascinating first press conference for this Masters rookie to attend.

As players and patrons file out of the gates at Augusta National, a tornado warning is issued for the area. That spells the end of my day too.

I'm already dreaming of what Masters Tuesday will bring.

- NZ Herald

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