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A great experiencePosted Thursday, April 9, 2009, at 6:50 AM
(Editor's note: Ted Bishop spent 17 years as the head professional and superintendent at the Phil Harris Golf Course in Linton. He's now director of golf at The Legends of Indiana near Franklin. He's at The Masters tournament this week and will be blogging for the Greene County Daily World.)
My first trip to Augusta National and The Masters was in 1983. I remember calling my dad from a bank of pay phones located behind the practice tee. "You will never guess where I am," I proudly proclaimed. "I am watching Arnold Palmer hit balls here at The Masters."
Since that time, I have been to The Masters several times and even had the opportunity to play on golf's greatest venue last month. I can tell you, the thrill never diminishes when I step onto Augusta National Golf Club. With each trip, the excitement grows and it is certainly a venue that I will never, ever tire from!
This year is the beginning of an eight-year journey, which will allow me to be a working rules official at The Masters. This responsibility stems from my position as a national officer with the PGA of America. So, how does that feel? Let me tell you, its one thing to make a ruling in the club championship at The Legends of Indiana. But, it will be another to do it at The Masters.
Exciting? Yes, to say the least.
I arrived at Augusta on Sunday. My job as the "junior" officer with the PGA was to buy the groceries and stock the house we stay in with 10 other guests for our week here at The Masters. It was also my responsibility to pick up our courtesy cars, credentials, etc. When my fellow officers arrived on Monday, everything was set to go. We are staying in a private home about three miles from Augusta National.
Make no mistake, our days are long. Wednesday morning we had a rules meeting at 7:30 a.m. The details of the tournament along with our hole assignments were discussed. The meeting lasted about an hour and we join officials from all over the world in orchestrating the rules for The Masters. Cutting heights were announced, but they are confidential - sorry! Chip Essig, PGA, from Indiana is also on the rules committee.
After the meeting, about 40 of us headed up to the green at No. 1 for a short rules clinic on relief granted from Temporary Immovable Obstructions. This is something that most golfers never deal with. Objects like directional signs, TV towers or bleachers aren't something you encounter everyday at The Legends, Otter Creek or Phil Harris!
My assignments are good for a rookie. Thursday I get the green on Hole One. Friday I have the green on Hole Two. These are good spots because I will be done by 3 p.m. and get a chance to watch some of the tournament. Saturday I have the green at Hole Seventeen and Sunday I will work the point between Holes Eight and Nine.
One former PGA Officer joked, "When a player points that finger at you for your first ruling in The Masters, you wish you could become bark on a tree!"
When Arnold Palmer hits that first tee shot on Thursday to start the 2009 Masters, I should have a long distance view right down the first fairway. The first tee time on Thursday is at 8 a.m. Palmer launches the ceremonial rocket at 7:50 a.m.
After the rules meeting, I spent about an hour on the practice tee watching players hit balls. Pick your poison - all major manufacturers have bound bags of balls in a wooden bin. The caddies walk by and choose the ball of choice for their players. Of course, these balls are picked up and then meticulously sorted by brand.
As officials, we have access to the clubhouse. I ate lunch with my wife Cindy. We were joined by Mac Fritz, Titleist/Foot-Joy Tour rep, and his wife Lesa who reside in Greenwood during the summers. Jim Remy, President of the PGA of America also ate with us.
As you can imagine, lunch at the Augusta National clubhouse is a hot commodity during The Masters week. We sat next to the CBS sports crew. It has been my privilege to become friends with Lance Barrow, Executive Producer, and Jim Nantz, voice of CBS Sports. We exchanged pleasantries. Our mutual friend Craig Kelley, Vice President of Media Relations for the Colts, is staying as a guest with CBS this weekend. Jim and I joked about Craig's enthusiasm about attending his first Masters!
Following lunch, Remy and I spent time under the big tree in front of the clubhouse talking with industry leaders from various golf establishments. Many were terribly dismayed by the distasteful article that appeared in USA Today on Wednesday casting a very unfair light on The Masters and the industry of golf.
This place is special. Where else can you find Jack Nicklaus eating a casual lunch at a table on the lawn before heading to play 9 holes in a par three tournament? Or how about Palmer, always the king of charisma, smiling and shaking hands with anybody that extended the offer?
This is a tradition like none other. Words can simply not describe Augusta National.
I hope you enjoy the next few days as we embark on what promises to be another memorable Masters. The weather will be nearly perfect- mid 70's and sunny each day according to the official meteorologist. The television viewing audience will be at an all-time high for Sunday's final round and CBS hopes that a guy named Tiger is in contention!
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