Masters 2010 Inside the Ropes

On this most unusual of Masters Sundays on which we’ll be watching Tiger win the 2019 Masters instead of history in the making, let me share with you the remainder of our Masters 2010 story. 

Let me start out by saying, thank you, for even considering to read these postings and I hope that while we’re all living in an anxious time for our families, our neighbors, our towns, cities, country and the world at large, we can all stay at home. Nothing protects us, the personal and immediate “us” and the greater “us” of the global community, more than that. 

With that said, here’s the rest of the Masters 2010 inside scoop. 

The Masters is the Disney of golf. I mean the very best of Disney. Everything is curated to perfection of look, feel and flawless operation from the parking lot, the handling of patrons through the entrance, and of course, the manicuring of every single blade of grass. I have this image of the grounds crews out there with tweezers, small sharp scissors and white paint, the clean contrast to the exorbitant amounts of deep green that engulfs you as you enter.

As you walk into the Kingdom of Golf, you pass the merchandise building and come upon the scoreboard and then the first hole. I asked an official looking fellow for directions to the Butler Cabin. He directed us by the clubhouse to the left, up over the rise and then down a slight hill. There was the white brick cabin with a paved cart path that arced around the front from which a long sidewalk curved to the front stoop. As we headed for the sidewalk a security officer met us at the sidewalk with a friendly yet official greeting. “We’re here to visit with Cliff Kirtland,” I said. “Well, he’s right down at the front door visiting with guests. We’ll let them finish and then you can go down to see him.”

I wasn’t surprised by this level of security or that Mr. Kirtland was receiving others. Afterall, I remembered the  large book of tickets to which he referred when we first met. 

So, we stood there, Julie and I, and marked our time discussing our strategy for the day. We attended a Tuesday practice round about eight years before thanks to my good friend and business associate, John Slosar. We walked the course in the order of play, #1 through #18, to get the feel from a player’s perspective. 

Going on a Wednesday this time gave us a chance to see some of the Par 3 tournament. We were discussing how much of that we would want to see when a cart with two men in green jackets drove up and parked near us. I stole a look and said to Julie, “There’s Hootie Johnson.” Hootie had just “retired” from chairing the tournament committee. So, in the lore of the Masters, he’s a very important figure during very critical moments in history. Google Martha Burk and you’ll see what I mean. 

Shortly, our security guard motioned to us and said that we could make our way down.

Mr. Kirtland’s smile welcomed us onto the small entrance patio where he had a single chair from which to enjoy the morning warmth of the sunshine, and welcome people like us. I introduced Julie, we chatted for a minute and then he asked if we would you like to see inside. Never imagining that he would offer we almost tripped over our tongues saying, “Inside the Butler Cabin, ah, you bet!”

He gestured to a door to the left of the front door and asked us to follow him to the second floor. We climbed up a narrow staircase to the second floor and walked into a common room with sofas and chairs. It was very comfortable yet plain, dated but well-kept. He walked us to the back and out on the porch overlooking the Par 3 course where people were beginning to gather and mill around. He was explaining things along the way and then he asked if we had plans for lunch.

“Well, we were just thinking of getting a pimento cheese sandwich.”

“Would you like to eat at the clubhouse?”

“That would be wonderful,” I replied, thinking that he was asking us to join him.

“Come with me,” he said as he walked into a bedroom. It had two queen sized beds and an old 4X3 tv on top of a chest of drawers. He pulled out the top drawer of the chest and it was full of name badges. Mr. Kirtland rummaged through them and pulled one out and handed it to Julie. 

“Here Julie, use this one. It was my wife’s,” he said, as he continued digging. “She passed away last year.

“Ah, here we go. Steve, you can use this one.” He smiled at me as he thrust it my way. “Now you’re all set.” And like that I was christened Mackie Horton. 

“These will get us into the dining area?” I asked.

“Oh my, yes. Those will get you into anywhere that you want to go.” 

I almost fainted. It was like being named, if not king, then prince for a day. 

We put on our badges, chatted a little more before he walked us back down the stairs. We left him on the front porch with a promise to stop by and return the badges. We passed a couple in the queue waiting to meet up with Mr. Kirtland, the most popular man on campus. As we walked by the security guard he smiled and said, “You don’t need both your day badges and the name badges at the same time.”  

We walked back up to the clubhouse, feeling a little like Cinderella going to the ball. Excited but not yet comfortable nor familiar with our new found all-access pass. 

We checked in at the hostess area for a table to sit outside. If you’ve been to the Masters before, you probably saw the outside dining area with green and white umbrella tables outside the clubhouse. We were seated with another couple already eating. We talked a little with them while looking at the menu, ordered and sat back for a second. Then a man in a green jacket walking by us caught my eye and I pulled up my camera and caught a few photos while whispering to Julie, “Honey, be cool, but it’s Arnold Palmer.” 

Mr. Palmer made his way to a table just inside the ropes separating the dining area from the public. He and his wife, they were fairly new newlyweds, sat down and got comfortable. I saw a few folks outside the ropes beginning to take notice. I took a photo of Julie with the Palmer table behind her and then I felt eyes turning to my right. I looked over and there, dressed in a bright yellow golfing shirt, was Jack Nicklaus, again walking right by us making a beeline to Arnold. 

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The King in his Green Jacket
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The Golden Bear

Jack went over and greeted his old competitor and longtime friend and his wife. They talked for about five minutes, laughing, cajoling and talking like the two legends that they were. During all of that, the rope line became a wall of admirers, getting a taste of history themselves. 

We ate and luxuriated in our good fortune. Then we paid and started walking around that area right outside of the pro shop. Over here was Sir Nick Faldo holding court. Over there was Paul Casey being interviewed. And then, people parted and there was Tom Watson! 

Oh my. Golfing legends everywhere. 

DSC_0170Meeting Tom. I was completely tongue-tied. I mentioned his work at Greenbrier and he lit up  copyWe walked around a little bit more, talked about going into the pro shop and seeing what we could see, but something in between shyness, humility, and a weird feeling of invasion of privacy prevented us from going in. I don’t know whether it was lack of bravery or just a feeling of maybe overstepping the boundaries of civility, but whatever the case may be, we did not go in. Given another opportunity, you betcha we’d go in. But on this day, we worked our way down to the Par 3 Course to see what we could see.

It is truly amazing as the nine hole course worked its way around two ponds. The sea of people rimming the pond reflected all around in a pointillist picture of human colorful dots. We walked the nine hole course, saw Rory and Adam Scott teeing off with Johnny Miller. We saw Steve Stricker whose daughter was caddying for him. 

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Looking down the shoot of magnolias gracing the edges of the the water at The Par 3 Course

When we headed to the main course it was like swimming upstream as the majority of people were heading into the Par 3 Course. But, we made it and walked down #9 and around Amen Corner. At this time of afternoon, hardly anyone was on the main course. It felt like a park. It was so approachable, serene, like we had it almost to ourselves. 

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Then, we walked back by the Butler cabin where we found Mr. Kirtland at his station. We thanked him and thanked him and got a picture with him, and gave back the keys to the castle. With two hours plus of a drive home, it was time to close the lid on the day. But, not before taking a left into the store and buying bags of merch. 

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Our host, Cliff Kirtland, in front of the Butler Cabin

And with that, our glass slippers turned back into tennis shoes, and we found our car and our way back home. We weren’t to go back again until nine years later. The year Tiger took it all. 

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The haul from the Merch shop.

6 thoughts on “Masters 2010 Inside the Ropes

  1. Great story, going to have to look up the word pointillist so I can use that with my truck driving buddies. As always Julie looks great you on the other hand, not so much.
    Love ya
    John

  2. I don’t blame you for looking up any word in my writing, nor recognizing the obvious; Julie has always outlooked me.
    FYI did you notice her on the side of the Faldo photo?

  3. Great read Steve, you are a great writer which is no surprise by the quality of the work you did for us for so many years…
    I can’t believe you had to pay for lunch though:) hopefully you were able to expense it as good will for the community!
    Thanks for sharing such a great experience with all of us.

  4. Great read Steve, you are a great writer which is no surprise by the quality of the work you did for us for so many years…
    I can’t believe you had to pay for lunch though:) hopefully you were able to expense it as good will for the community!

    1. Ha ha. Right Tom. Instead of spending $1.25 for a pimento cheese sandwich and $.75 for a coke we enjoyed a $40 lunch!
      Totally worth it to sit near The King.

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