Sirens blaring, mandatory evacuations, high winds and severe storms are not what golf enthusiasts expected during their Masters Tournament experience at Augusta National Golf Club, but that’s what Mother Nature served up for the practice rounds of the tournament.
“I definitely enjoyed it despite the wind. It was a great experience and I had a great time,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Hernandez, a Sailor stationed at Fort Gordon. “My favorite part of the experience was just getting to be there, getting to see inside and what the Masters is all about; how beautiful of a course it is and all it has to offer.”
Experiences is what the tournament served up this year and for the first time in the history of the event the Par 3 Tournament was cancelled on April 5, but that didn’t deter golf fans from coming out earlier in the day.
Fort Gordon service members were able to access the grounds through the Augusta National lottery and a lottery offered through Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. DFMWR breaks down the allotted 100 series badges into one-day access in order to allow 400 service members to attend.
“It was exciting visiting the Masters due to the history of the event,” said Spc. Mary Williams, 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, who’s been at Fort Gordon for more than a year now. “I am a history nerd and the long tradition of the Masters and how much it brings to the city of Augusta is pretty admirable. I’m not really much of a golf fan but I wanted to have the ability to say ‘yes’, I went to the Masters.”
Fortunately for all the attendees, they were able to witness Sergio Garcia, the 81st Masters Tournament champion, play consistent golf. Sergio followed up his 1-under par 71 on April 6 and a 3-under par 69 on April 7 taking down Charley Hoffman, and then, ultimately beating Justin Rose in a playoff to win his first major title.
“All good things that happen to you in life help, with your professional, your job, whatever you want to call it; for me, it’s my hobby and job at the same time. So all those good things, and being surrounded by great people that you know, that are not afraid of telling you what’s wrong with something when you do something wrong that’s something that I feel like I’ve always been very blessed,” Garcia said. “Sometimes things are going to go great and sometimes they are not going to go so great.”
“But what that shows me is that I have a lot of room for improvement, so that is something very positive,” he continued.
Rose gave Garcia a run for his money and entertained millions of golf fans during a play-off that no one expected. Repeating the 18th hole, Garcia nailed down the win when he birdied the hole and Rose bogeyed.
“Two thumbs up from Rose to Sergio....sportsmanship, friendship and a part of what the Masters and golf is all about,” said Lt. Col. Michael Thiesfeld, from Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. “I just thought that was awesome.”
“I distinctly remember saying that it was one of the most exciting nine holes I had ever seen,” said Lt. Col. Chris Smith, from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. “I was amazed at how well Rose and Garcia handled the immense pressure that was building after every hole.”
Both Thiesfeld and Smith had badges for the Wednesday practice round and had to evacuate twice. They were able to watch the final day from the comfort of their homes and remember how beautiful the course was, even if they were only on it for a short while.
“The sudden death playoff between those two incredible golfers was a fitting end to an amazing tournament,” Smith added.
“If someone asked me if they should put their name in the Masters lottery or not I would tell them to go for it,” said Williams. “For not only the experience but also to say your name actually got picked to win something.”
“I would advise someone who is on the fence about entering next year’s lottery to do it,” said Hernandez. “I’m sure anyone that lives here is curious to see what all the secrecy behind the Masters is, so I’d recommend getting in the lottery, it’s definitely worth it.”