The Masters was postponed this year due to the ongoing concern of the coronavirus. [Photo credit, Golf.com]
You know when you don’t really deserve something and it comes your way?
You thank your lucky stars over and over and over.
It might be a loving spouse, an incredible job, an out-of-the-blue experience bringing sudden tears of joy.
We’ve all experienced one or more of those moments when you are thinking, “I really don’t deserve anything close to this but I’m certainly not complaining.”
Augusta National, home, sweet, home of The Masters is that place for me.
What started back in early 2010 as a casual conversation with then Amarillo Globe-News Executive Editor Dawn Dressler about something I dreamed of covering as a reporter, has turned into a “don’t wake me up from this dream because I don’t believe my good fortune.”
Part of that good fortune is the immense golfing talents of Amarillo native Ryan Palmer.
You see back in 2010, Palmer qualified for The Masters and I was granted a press pass to cover him, along with helping out writing stories for the Augusta Chronicle (Globe-News’ sister paper).
Lance Lahnert has covered The Masters since 2010. [Provided photo]
That also happened to be the year of the “Tiger Tell All Press Conference.” So my first experience at The Masters was on a Monday, dressed in suit and tie (a rookie reporter mistake, everybody else was pretty much in golf shorts and shirts) sitting in the front row of one golf’s legendary press conferences and even getting called on to ask a question.
You had to show a little green ticket to prove you were allowed in the press conference. It remains a treasure of mine.
I know, who cares about some stupid press conference with Tiger weaving and bobbing questions of his personal life like a good Ali fight back in the day. You are at Augusta National covering The Masters.
And you’d be right.
Fast forward 11 years and today the first round of The 2020 Masters – well, all four rounds – has been silenced by COVID-19.
People may get sick of me wearing yet another Masters shirt or visor, but I can never be silent about having spent more than 50 days walking up and down the hills of Augusta National and writing stories about The Masters.
Lance Lahnert’s seat from the luxurious media work room at The Masters. [Provided photo]
- The first time you walk out on Augusta National, your jaw drops from the beauty before you.
- The 50th time you walk out on Augusta National, your jaw drops from the beauty before you.
- Several of the greatest wordsmiths ever to sit down and cover The Masters from all over the world. How else would I have ever had one lunch with the late, great Dan Jenkins (we talked about Putt Powell)? How else would I have stood next to author and columnist John Feinstein and we walk back to the media room together.
- While the wordsmiths are hauling in writing awards for their prose on Tiger, Phil and Jack, my claim to fame is writing a yearly column in search of a weed, finding one simple weed at Augusta National. So for I’m batting 0-for-53 on days looking for a weed.
- Good gosh, I won THE LOTTERY. Yeah, you can take that lottery when you win hundreds of millions. My name was drawn from the annual lottery of media to play Augusta National on the Monday following the event. I played in 2010, the year Phil Mickelson won and made that incredible shot through the trees at No. 13. I stood right there merely hours after he performed the shot. You float around the place, you don’t play it. I tell everybody I shot 86 that day. Eight-six photos in 18 holes. That has to be a record.
- This may be blasphemy but the egg sandwiches (also wrapped in green paper) are better than the legendary pimento cheese sandwiches.
- The food is ridiculously cheap in price.
- Although everybody wants a ticket for one of the four main rounds, the only time you can take a camera in is during the practice rounds.
- No cell phones allowed on the course or out of the press palace. And I mean NO CELL PHONES.
- My assignments have led me to interviews with Tiger, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Freddie Couples, Dustin Johnson and so on. Pretty dang cool. From these interviews I’ve become a massive fan of Sneds – Brandt Snedeker – because the way he handles himself with the patrons and media. Such a nice guy.
- I attend every ceremonial tee shot early Thursday morning. Each year as a favor to Plainview’s John Horne I seek out his University of Houston college roommate Jim Nantz and tell him John said hi. Last year, Nantz stops before I say a word and says, “I know what you are going to say, you do that every year. Thanks you very much.” I’m still in a shock a year later.
- I call Augusta National “The Happy Place.” Everybody who is there – except a golfer or 20 after a bad shot – is delirious to be there.
- TV does not do the undulation of the course justice. It’s so hilly.
- The gift shop is insane, and does insane business. I can’t imagine how many hats, shirts and yellow flags fly out of there. I have a hat and flag from each year I’ve attended.
- I took a photo of Ryan Palmer and Judd Burkett (Chad Campbell’s caddie) together after a practice round. Both graduated from Amarillo High and played on the Sandies golf team together. A thrill for me. Small world.
- So many memories, but indeed the coolest thing that has happened to me is the press friends I have met at The Masters. The staff of the Augusta Chronicle are amazing at what they do cranking out a 25-page section each day led by former sports editor John Boyette, who knows more about history of The Masters than Google. Brent Maycock from Topeka is so cool a friend and the Savannah writing dynamic duo of Dennis Knight and Nathan Dominitz are two of the nicest men I’ve ever met. Gary Smits of the Florida Times-Union is simply The Man.
- The crazy thing is the Masters powers that be must think Amarillo is in a foreign country as I always sit next to writer from outside of the U.S. My first few years it was Massimo Lopes Pegna, a writer for Italy’s famed La Gazzeta dello Sport. Massimo is amazing.
- Hey, I accidently photo bombed Tiger behind the 18 green last year while he hugged his family gaining my 15 seconds of fame.
- The level of skill the golfers show always amazes me.
- I do shed tears every year at The Masters. My first year there in 2010 I had my dad with me. That is, his ashes. They were dropped under a tree at No. 16. First time I walk the course each year I visit that tree. It’s quite a chat we have. Quite a cry for me. We never visited the place while he was on this Earth. (Note: It is illegal to drop ashes at Augusta National, I learned later. My apology was accepted long ago). Man, what a view my dad has each year.
The pimento cheese sandwich is a staple at The Masters. [Provided photo]
For me, these next these four days will be a time to reflect and thank my lucky stars for receiving a gift from above.
I’ve checked off my No. 1 bucket list sports item – over and over.
It’s called attending The Masters.