Green Jacket Diaries: "How the Hell Did You Get a Badge?"
By Stephanie Wei under General

I don’t get nearly as giddy (and sappy) for any other tournament like I do for The Masters. You know what I mean — something about the Green Jackets, the azaleas, the white jumpsuits, the gagillion absurd rules and even Jim Nantz. Sadly, The Masters is the only major championship I’ve yet to attend (yeah, I’ve even been to the British Open in Sandwich!). Every year I think, “Next year is my year. It’s going to happen.” Clearly, it didn’t work out…again. But because I love hearing stories from The Masters, I’m starting a feature, “The Green Jacket Diaries,” where I post your experiences. If you have an anecdote/observation/encounter/whatever to share, please email them to me (steph.wei@gmail.com). Like now. Please. Oh, if you’re there this week, it’s required you send me something interesting — it’s only fair. Thanks!

To kick off Tiger’s Masters Week, Intern Kevin shares a story from his time at Augusta in 2008. [Ed. Note: Intern Kevin requested his “tour professional friend” remain unnamed for illogical, silly reasons. But he doesn’t mind if you figure out the identity of this mysterious player (which should be pretty easy).

As a serious golfer who grew up in middle class suburbia, The Masters tournament always seemed like it was played on another planet. I would spend Masters week in the northeast slapping it around on the muddy fairways of the 9 hole course where we were members and head home to watch the tournament take place on the most pristine course in the universe. I had a sort of love/hate relationship with the tournament. I knew when I heard he familiar music and ultra sap of Jim Nantz that it was at least a sign of better weather coming my way.

I was good enough to be a decent high school golfer and marginal college player. Post-college I got out of golf completely and didn’t miss playing or thinking about the game. After breaking up with the game for a few years, I happened to notice that an old friend from junior golf had steadily progressed and worked his way on to the Nationwide Tour. I started following his results and before I knew it, I was inflected with the golf bug.

I made a fairly quick decision that I wanted to make my career in the golf world as a club professional. I was able to get a good job at a great club even though my game lagged way behind. By this time, my tour professional friend had a successful, but non-Masters invite worthy rookie year on the PGA Tour. However, his 2nd season started off with a string of missed cuts.

Meanwhile, In March I had a chance to play with him and his instructor (who at this point was my boss) as they tried to work on things to turn his season around. It must have worked as three weeks later, my friend was in contention for his first win and The Masters invite that comes with it. As it happened, he finished the surprise victory that Sunday.

My plan was to drive from my winter job in Florida to my summer job in the Northeast during Masters week. But I got the idea to take a detour to watch my friend in his first Masters. For a few days it seemed like I had a team of people working on getting me an elusive badge for Thursday’s round. Several times I was told that something had worked out only to find out within hours that it had fallen through. Things were so tight that I was told to drive on Wednesday night to Savannah, Ga., and wait for further instructions.

Just when I was ready to give up, I was told “my people” were still working on it and I should drive to Augusta. So, I arrived early Thursday morning badge-less and fairly frustrated with the whole ordeal. I parked down the street and decided to at least walk around Washington Road and look down Magnolia Lane, still thinking it would be the closest I would ever come to getting inside.

Around 11am I received a call to go to a certain address and show my drivers license. Then I was handed a badge and told to bring it back by 8pm. I signed documents, where I think I agreed to give up my firstborn child if I lost the badge. I didn’t care — somehow it had all worked out.

As I stormed through the gate (still worried I’d be denied access), I looked at a map and plotted my course to the 5th hole, all the while completely ignoring the fact I was actually at Augusta National Golf Club. Then as I was walking across the 9th fairway, where I was stopped in my tracks by the thing I had always heard about, the “Masters Roar.” This cheer came up from the bottom of the valley and reverberated through the trees.

I’d always heard that annual “patrons” could listen to the sound and pretty much figure out what had happened. Sure enough a guy said to me “That was either an eagle on 15, though it may have been loud enough to be a hole-in-one on 16.” It turned out that he was right, it was an ace on 16. From that moment I told myself just to enjoy the fact I was there.

I met up with my friend’s group as they were walking to the 6th tee. He gave me a warm welcome, too. When he saw me, he asked, “How the hell did you get a badge?” (I chose to withhold that I practically scaled mountains and battled bears for the golden ticket.) He made the turn a few over par, but went on to shoot a bogey free back nine, mixing in a few birdies on holes I had watched on TV every year for more than 20 years.

It was totally surreal to watch a friend, who I had seen struggling to gain confidence less than a month earlier, looking totally at home playing in the most prestigious tournament in the world. I had a strange sense of pride, even though i had done nothing to help him get to that point! As I left ANGC that day I realized why everyone is in love with The Masters.

Thank you for sharing, Intern Kevin! Anyone figure out the identity of his secret “tour professional buddy”? Anyway! Send me your stories, please. Only a few hours until Arnie and Jack tee up to hit the ceremonial first shots on Thursday morning. SoexcitedIcan’thideit.