The trip had been planned months in advance, my excursion to golf’s mecca, Augusta National, with the three best friends that anyone could have. All we needed to do was win the admissions lottery.
Tickets to the Masters Tournament are in high demand these days, going for upwards of $2500 for a single round. To walk the grounds of America’s most famous golf course, unless you’re willing to pay that exorbitant amount of money (and some people are), all you must do is enter their annual lottery and be fortunate enough to have your name called.
This is easier said than done.
Of course, it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Yours truly won the Masters’ lottery and attended a Wednesday practice round back in 2012. But every year since then and before, I had struck out swinging, as had my travel companions Liar North, Brotha E and the Don Calvino. These opportunities do not grow on trees.
Our luck changed in 2023 as Liar North’s name was called. His would be plucked from the countless millions who enter every year. The remaining three of us would make his invite list. And why wouldn’t we, considering all the pictures we have of him with farm animals which, I might add, were taken willingly.
For months, we’d planned our get together and what better time to do so? One could make the case that this is the best sports weekend of the calendar year. In a matter of days, we would catch the Men’s Final Four, the Women’s Final Four, and an NBA game as teams jockey for playoff position. You have Major League Baseball in its very first week, NFL free agency in full swing, the draft rapidly approaching and, of course, Masters’ week. Throw in a few friendly rounds of golf and you have yourself a weekend that sports fans can only dream of.
We would all convene in Charlotte at Liar North’s palatial estates, his family’s hospitality unrivaled. We stared giddily at our Masters’ tickets as they laid on his kitchen counter, knowing that within days, those freshly printed pieces of paper would grant us entry into golf’s most hallowed grounds.
Like most PGA Tour events, the Masters Tournament doesn’t start until Thursday but the pros that qualify, which means the best golfers in the world, descend early into Augusta to play a few practice rounds, take notes on the course, carefully read greens, chum along with their friends on tour, put on a show for the fans and most importantly, get their minds focused for golf’s biggest stage with the hopes of putting on that fitted green blazer Sunday evening.
While not as intense as the weekend’s action, practice rounds are a great time for fans to attend: the players are more casual and accessible, you’re allowed to bring cameras (just not cellphones) which are otherwise not permitted come tournament time and you get to see players hit multiple shots from tee to green, hoping this will help them come Sunday.
It’s a special week indeed.
But before we get to Augusta, let’s tease you with…
A little taste of Eric Gales. Sorry, that is, the Grammy-nominated Eric Gales.
The elongated weekend’s opening night began with a trip to the Ramkat concert hall in Winston-Salem to experience some soulful blues and ridiculous guitar. We have a lot to discuss here so I’ll just leave you with a clip or two of the insanely talented Eric Gales and let you groove for yourself. And if you ever get the chance to see this guitar god perform live, I highly, highly recommend.