Man on the Street at the Masters
by Tony Dear
Crane Comes Through
Portland-born Ben Crane (pictured above) is making his fourth Masters start this week but equally important (well, almost) to him was his appearance at the Augusta Golf Breakfast at Warren Baptist Church Tuesday morning. A thousand golf fans turned out in the rain for the event that in the past has attracted the likes of Tom Lehman, Payne Stewart, Larry Mize, and Zach Johnson.
Crane and his wife Heather talked with the crowd about life on the PGA Tour (“It’s glamorized,” said Heather. “People don’t see the long hours lugging bags through airports while the family wrangles kids.”), and Ben spoke of his experiences at the Masters.
“As a kid, I remember watching Jack Nicklaus in 1986 (Crane was 11),” he said. “That was so exciting and, like a lot of young players in the field this week, it inspired me to play more golf.”
Crane, who says he makes his first stop of the week at the Fresh Market (much like a Whole Foods Market) on Washington Road then spends his time away from the course hanging out with his family, missed the cut in 2006 and ’07, missed the next two tournaments and wound up tied for 24th last year after a final round 68. Not surprisingly, he loves everything about the tournament and won’t specify a hole or a shot that concerns him particularly.
“There are no bad holes at Augusta National, so I’d have to say I like them all,” he says. “I honestly see every shot as an opportunity and look forward to each and every one of them.”
My New Favorite Sandwich
I have never seen pimento cheese mentioned anywhere other than in articles about the Masters and I’ve certainly never seen it on the shelves at my local CostCutter.
According to Wikipedia, “it’s a southern comfort food made with sharp cheddar, mayonnaise and pimentos which are cherry peppers.” For just $1.50 you can get a couple of sandwiches full of this sublime cheese spread wrapped in a green Masters bag. Add a $1 packet of chips and a $1.50 bottle of water and you have a very tasty, almost sufficient, back-nine snack for just $4.
Besides the pimento, there are egg salad sandwiches that are just as delicious. But disaster occurred on Tuesday afternoon when the machine that makes them broke down. “Machine”? Yes, sadly, news that the egg-salad sandwich-making machine had broken down came as a severe disappointment to people who envisioned an army of septuagenarian members’ wives up at dawn and pumping out sandwiches from the clubhouse kitchen.
Thank the Lord for Amen Corner
It might be considered the trickiest stretch of holes on the course but can there be a more beautiful patch of ground on God’s green Earth.
After entering the grounds yesterday, I headed straight for the 10th hole, walked down the dizzying slope (sturdy shoes a distinct advantage), continued on down the hill into a stand of pines added to the right of the 11th hole a few years ago and caught my first glimpse, between the sturdy trunks, of the bottom part of the course.
To be honest, having watched the tournament on TV so often, seen countless photographs, read so many articles and books, and heard so many first-hand accounts, nothing really surprised me about the course, and Amen Corner in particular.
But nothing disappointed me either. The slopes, colors, angles, and atmosphere were just as I expected. But no matter how much you see, read or hear, somehow you can’t quite imagine just how disarmingly beautiful it is.
Bubba’s Just Having Fun
Bubba Watson is obviously one of those people who performs at his best when he’s having a good time.
Out with his friend Aaron Baddeley during Wednesday morning’s practice round, he arrived on the 15th tee and ripped a piercing bullet 340 yards down the middle.
After teeing up his ball, Baddeley’s ball dropped to the ground and he had to re-tee it. “Can you just hurry it up a bit,” Watson said quietly.
Moments later, as Watson walked off the tee, a cigar-chewing patron exclaimed, at a volume the members probably wouldn’t encourage, how easy he made the game look. “It is,” Watson deadpanned.
After walking the main course for six hours, I headed over to the Par 3 Course for the garden party that is the Par-3 Contest.
Exhausted and aching from head to toe after scaling Augusta National’s strenuous climb back up to the clubhouse, I didn’t much fancy taking on the mass of patrons crammed into the gorgeous but restricted acreage, so stood at the 1st tee of the Par 3 layout for a while and watched Hubert Green, who tied for second at the Masters in 1978, 1973 champion Tommy Aaron and a handful of other past greats tee off on the 130-yard hole.
As I walked away to go and make my merchandise purchases (the house/club always wins – just have a limit and stick to it), I noticed Craig Stadler hitting a few putts on the tiny practice green adjacent to the tee. Having watched him a dozen times before, I moved on and froze a moment or two later as an enormous cheer went up following the Walrus’s ace on the first hole. (pictured at the right: Ian Poulter at Par-3 Contest)
Tony Dear is an editor and golf travel writer from England who’s lived in the Northwest for five years. He recently published the book, “The Golfer’s Handbook.”