Frozen in time, Masters conjures a golf heaven

Mon Apr 6, 2015 1:26pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Golfers glide along as if walking on air and the crowd is polite and smiling at Augusta National Golf Club, where time stands still like a Norman Rockwell study of bygone days when the Masters rolls around.

The deep green grass is perfectly groomed and azaleas are in bloom when the first major championship of the year returns to the Georgia pines each April for a glorious reunion where more golf history will be made.

"The Masters is a monument to everything great in golf," Jack Nicklaus, winner of a record six Masters, said of the tournament co-founded by legendary Georgia golfer Bobby Jones.

Players are treated like royalty at the tournament founded in 1934 and where the focus is strictly on golf and tradition, while the memory of greats such as Sarazen, Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus and Player and their exploits hang in the air.

Fans, or patrons as they are known at Augusta, lucky enough to have secured tickets, or held them through the decades or had them willed down to them, feel part of a civilized family outing staged on a grand scale.

The feeling is reinforced by throwback prices at concession stands, where a pimento cheese sandwich goes for $1.50, the ham and cheese, $2.50, a beer for $4 and chips or candy for $1.

Former CBS sports president Neal Pilson, who negotiated 19 of the one-year deals that has kept the Masters on the U.S. TV network from 1956 to the present day, calls it "the most unique event in American sports."

Green is the color of the Masters, from the paper cups for soft drinks and beer, to the plastic wrapping of the sandwiches, to the jackets worn by members of the exclusive club and draped over the shoulders of the latest champion.   Continued...

A golf patron takes pictures of the azaleas along the tenth fairway during a players practice round ahead of the 2015 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Phil Noble