Memories of the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club are unforgettable!

V Krishnaswamy
Wednesday, 8 April 2020

This Monday I should have arrived in Augusta for my annual golf pilgrimage. For almost ten years now, I have always arrived in Augusta on the Monday of the Masters week. Be it on a flight from New York or by the bus from Atlanta.

This Monday I should have arrived in Augusta for my annual golf pilgrimage. For almost ten years now, I have always arrived in Augusta on the Monday of the Masters week. Be it on a flight from New York or by the bus from Atlanta.

The wait for the flight at the airport in New York or at the bus stop in Atlanta to get to Augusta is always the most anticipated one, for I know I will be in Augusta in a few hours.

It is a ritual. Get to Augusta; check into the house; pick up the credentials in the day time; visit T-Bonz Steakhouse on Washington Road in the evening and the week is all set for the most beautiful tournament the game of golf has.

I first came to Augusta when Jeev Milkha Singh became the first Indian to tee off at the Masters in 2007 – I will come to that later. 

As for me, it was only from 2012, that I became a ‘regular’ at the Masters, and the Indian papers would carry the reports nicely and display it superbly.

The Masters became a part of my life – it was the tournament I would wait for the whole year. No sooner did one Masters get over, I would start thinking about the next one scheduled 51 weeks later.

In recent years, I have been fortunate to stay with my great friends from the Asian Tour, including Cho Min Thant, the CEO and Commissioner of the Asian Tour, who plays some mean golf himself. He is a busy man with meetings through the day in the Masters week.

Then come the evenings when he goes to official parties and dinners, and I head to the Media gatherings. One of the dinners is with the European Tour chief. The host used to be George O’Grady initially and nowadays it is Keith Pelley.

A sun-downer followed by an amazing dinner and awesome wine. It is always a formal affair, a sit-in dinner and great golf chatter as scribes from all over are gathered at the venue, which is the ‘next door’ club – Augusta Country Club.

One day during the Masters week is reserved for the special party thrown by Dr Pawan Munjal, CEO and Managing Director of Hero MotoCorp, sponsors of tournaments on multiple Tours – the PGA Tour, European and Asian Tours and the Ladies European Tour.

It is an ‘Indian evening’, and Munjal takes great pride in showcasing India – the food and ambience is superb. And yes, late into the evening he also shows his love for jazz.

Memorable indeed. And we have yet to come to the golf course, the prettiest in the world and at its best in the year. Then there are all those landmarks – starting with the Magnolia Drive, the Founder’s Circle, the Crows Nest, the Rae’s Creek, the Hogan Bridge, the Nelson Bridge, the Sarazen Bridge, the Butler’s Cabin, the Eisenhower Cabin, the Arnold Palmer plaque, the Jack Nicklaus Plaque, the Record Plaque, Ike’s Pond and the Eisenhower Tree, which was so severely damaged by the ice storm in February 2014, that it had to be removed.

My favourite sitting place – the Grandstand in front of the Amen Corner and I am always armed with a couple of Pimento Cheese and Egg-Mayo sandwiches and a beer. Make it two!.

Going back in time, it was in late 2006, the season Jeev Milkha Singh turned corners after years in the wilderness. I saw him end a seven-year title-drought drought at the 2006 Volvo China Open in Beijing. He achieved a Volvo double by winning the season-ending Masters of Valderrama. 

That year he also won twice in Japan and rose to get into Top-50 of the world by the end of 2006 and was crowned Asian Tour No. 1.

That year he called me up during the Christmas week. I was out shopping with the wife, who was irked at my taking a call even in the market.

So, an Indian would finally set foot on the haloed turf at Augusta National. And then Jeev said, “You know where you are going to be that week, right. No ifs and buts. Just be there.”

End of conversation.

My next job was getting the credentials. The Media department at Augusta National was amazing – they understood what it meant for Indian golf. And it was all set.

I was off for the Masters – with two other Indians journalists – Joy Chakravarty, who now lives in Dubai, and Prabhdev Singh, a former editor of Golf Digest, India.

Accommodation in Augusta during the Masters week is a tough ask. But Jeev arranged it for us with the rest of his family. It was the greatest week of my golf writing career. Great golf, dinners and drinks every day, great Japanese food courtesy his Japanese sponsor and trips in a stretch limousine, again courtesy Jeev’s sponsor.

On the golf course, Jeev made it better and even made a brief appearance on the leaderboard – an Indian on the Master’s leaderboard. Wow!

Arjun Atwal became the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour in 2010 – and to date, the only one to do so – and earned a spot into the 2011 Masters but missed the cut.

In 2015, Anirban Lahiri had a superb early season and rose into Top-50 and played the 2015 Masters.

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