I feel very honoured to have received an invitation from the Championship Committee to attend this year's Championship and also to be representing the PGA of Australia on the Rules Committee.
I did get thrown into a bit of a panic on Saturday afternoon as I completed my gardening chores when I received a warning message from Virgin Australia to say that there would be industrial action taking place at Sydney airport on Sunday and that I should be there three hours before my flight time. This was always going to be a challenge given that my flight from Melbourne, the earliest of the day, didn't arrive until 85 minutes before take off. Fortunately things went my way and I made it safely to LA.
While running for my flight in Sydney I met with Dr David Cherry, formerly of Golf Australia and now with the APGC, and so began an interesting couple of days of travel by air and road.
After a stop over in Atlanta on Sunday night which allowed us to catch up with a number of our Rules colleagues from around the globe who are also officiating at The Masters, we drove to Augusta. I could tell that we were getting close to our destination when we started seeing road names such as Bobby Jones Parkway.
I was anticipating difficulties in getting on site as I had opted to collect my credentials on arrival rather than risk having them disappear in the postal service. I was simply armed with a printed entry pass that had been emailed to me and my passport was in my bag in the boot of the car. Fortunately, David had his parking pass with him as his efforts to get a rental car in Atlanta had fallen through, and the police officer on duty seemed to think he knew me from somewhere and waved us through with little or no hold up.
Suddenly we were driving down Magnolia Lane towards the famous clubhouse with the Georgia shaped lawn and Masters flag in front of it. This was a very exciting moment and, as a first timer to Augusta, you almost have to pinch yourself to make sure you really are there.
The Officials car park is a fair distance from the Clubhouse but there is a host of volunteers in golf carts just waiting to transport you back up there after you drop off the car. Our mission for the day was to pick up our credentials and any other bits and pieces before heading off to find the house that we are to be staying in for the week.
One of the great things about working at international events is meeting some of the awesome representatives from the other Tours and golfing bodies. We all become very good friends and so it is fantastic to catch up with officials from the European Tour, PGA Tour, PGA of America, PGA of GB & I, Asian Tour, R&A and USGA and, of course, meeting the officials from Augusta National for the first time.
With credentials safely on board it was off to find PGA house for the week and catch up with the other staff attending The Masters for meetings and work off the golf course.
Tuesday at Augusta
Even arriving at the Magnolia Lane entrance at 7.45am there was a steady stream of patrons flowing into the course to watch practice day and probably the par-3 competition.
I wanted to get there early so that I could walk the entire course on my own and start to become familiar with the layout that I have seen so many times on TV. Believe me, TV does not do the presentation of this golf course justice! I could almost swear that the whole place is covered in synthetic grass as there are absolutely no blemishes anywhere – not even on the grass that we park our cars on! The forecast had been for a cool morning and so I put a jumper on but it soon warmed up into a stunner of a day.
None of the Australasian players were out on course in the morning and so I focused on looking at each hole and reading the hole by hole notes that had been provided for us. This is basically a document that lists every artificial object on the golf course so that you can start to mentally prepare for any possible Rules situation that could occur during the tournament. As we are allocated a specific hole for each day of the Championship, we really only need to focus on those four particular holes. We are provided with the details of our roster at the Wednesday Rules meeting but I managed to get a sneak peak at my stations before heading out on course.
I must admit that walking the course this morning provided a lot of information to take in. This was not just because of the number of possible scenarios that could present themselves but also because of the fact that, when looking at a particular hole you can mentally recreate special moments from The Masters involving specific players.
I have not really seen a great deal of the front nine from TV coverage other than hole 9 but the back nine is really special. After our meeting tomorrow morning we will walk the course again and I think I will be able to focus on things a bit clearer.
Catching up with some of the world's best Rules Officials is a great experience. As I said before, we become very good friends and it is just a thoroughly enjoyable time talking about recent rulings that have happened at events or seeking their opinion on rulings that may have happened involving you.
This afternoon it was great to catch up with several of the PGA Tour officials that used to come down to New Zealand and Australia when events were co-sanctioned with, what was then, the Nationwide Tour.
I also had to make the compulsory pilgrimage to the merchandising area to buy a few mementoes of the tournament. I always get a pin flag from the big events as they are a great reminder of the tournament and also easy to pack! As with any Major, the shop is a sea of people once you get inside, all trying to go in the opposite direction to you! These shops are absolute gold mines as people usually buy several items and leave with their wallets much lighter than when they go in.
Before heading away from the course I was fortunate enough to catch up with Jason Day and Danny Lee on the range. I had hoped to say hi to Adam as well but he was purposefully hitting balls when I arrived and so I thought I would catch up with JD and Danny on the putting green. They are both great guys and it is always a pleasure to chat to them. Unfortunately I missed Adam but will look out for him, Leish, Bowdo and Cam Smith tomorrow to wish them all the best.
Tonight we have a BBQ planned at PGA house and so I must sign off and get myself ready. It will be an early start tomorrow as the Rules Meeting starts at 7.30am sharp and I will need to be there early.
Can't wait for tomorrow to come!
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