I got hooked on the Masters, and golf in general, when I was in college. I dated a guy who lived in Augusta, and his family had tickets to the Masters tournament. I didn't realize at the time how significant that was. Apparently there's a waiting list, and there's a waiting list to get on the waiting list, and the only way to get on THAT list is for someone to die. And apparently people don't die with any regularity in Augusta. If I had known just how huge it was to have Masters tickets, I might have given a little more serious thought to marrying him.
Nah. Just kidding.
We went to the Saturday round in............I believe it was 1981. Or 1980. There were two ways to go about watching this tournament. You could find a spot and squeeze in among the other thousands of people there and watch all the golfers as they came by that hole. Or you could pick a golfer and follow him around the course, sprinting from hole to hole hoping to get a decent glimpse.
But even if you never got a glimpse of a golfer or a birdie putt, it was worth it just to be there on that magnificent course. The azaleas for which the course is so famous are always in full bloom, because they plan it that way. Seriously, in the years when we have had an unusually warm spring around here, I have seen photos of ice bags packed around the azaleas to keep them from blooming before just the right time. And I'm sure the watering restrictions in place last year due to our severe drought did NOT extend to Augusta National. There are magnificent dogwoods, magnolias, and all sorts of other beautiful flowers and trees.
It is simply breathtaking to be there, never mind the history, the fanfare, the legions of famous golfers who have walked those same stretches of pristine, perfectly manicured grass.
The year I went to the Saturday round, we chose to follow Jack Nicklaus around the course. He was playing with a little-known hunk of an Aussie golfer named Greg Norman. I had no idea who he was; I just thought he was easy on the eye.
It doesn't really matter what the "official" date of spring is. For me spring really begins when they play the Masters.