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Waiting for it

The shakes have not started, but the withdrawals are going full steam.

The greatest spectacle in the world is a little more than two weeks away, and I have yet to feel green fairway grass under my feet this year. That's right I have not played golf since December.

I've touched my clubs twice -- once to take them out of my car, once to put them back in my car. I've putted around the office a little, but nothing in the fresh Georgia air.

But knowing that The Masters is just a few weeks off makes it all OK.

I must admit, it hasn't always been this way. Even though I grew up on the golf courses of Thomson and Augusta, the Washington Road spectacle didn't hold a lot of prestige in my world. I took it for granted the couple of times I was able to attend a practice round in the past, even turning down tickets a couple of times.

All that changed about five years ago. I got my first chance to see the tournament as a member of the media -- a privilege I will always treasure.

While the experience gave me the chance to meet some of my heroes, it also showed me what the Masters means to the world. I saw people ambling in awe of the course. I saw people cry as they remembered a lost loved one who came to years of tournaments. I saw people spend hundreds of dollars, just to take a piece of Augusta home to their family and friends.

I met one gentleman from England who took his first trip overseas to attend the Masters at Augusta. I met another pair of gentlemen who grew up as neighbors, but hadn't seen each other in nearly 30 years until they met in the refreshment center by the 17th green. Faces in the crowd on television, each with a story in reality.

After a couple of years spending the first full week of April at the Augusta National Golf Club, I have become a convert. There's no more special place in the world of golf -- and few places that rival it in the rest of the world.

I'm not sure if I'll get out there this year or next, but I'll treasure my next pilgrimage to The National. Consider me all grown up now and more than capable of appreciating the special opportunities of life.

Speaking of appreciating life's experiences, I recently took the opportunity to see another one of my heroes. And I took my grandmother.

Nana has always been a big Willie Nelson fan, so when tickets went on sale for his Feb. 28 Augusta show last October, I jumped. It was her first concert in more than 20 years, and she wasn't disappointed -- even if the show was "too loud."

As for me, I've checked another thing off my life's "to do" list. Next up, rollerblading or whitewater rafting.

Then again, maybe I'll just stick to golf and concerts. Those usually don't involve broken bones or blood.

Web posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004

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