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Column: An experience like no other
Tammy Davis.jpg
Tammy Davis

It’s always exciting to be a part of a history. It’s even better if the historic event is in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Last weekend I was lucky enough to be a part of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur championship.

My escort for the day was a local who has caddied at the course. Because I was a newbie, he made sure I checked off all the must-see items.

First stop, the pro shop

Think Walt Disney knows a thing or two about customer service? The Augusta National Golf Club (ANGC) makes Disney look like Walmart. They are crowd control and customer service masters.

Like Disney, the folks at the ANGC are also masters at merchandising. This year there was a new product line bearing the logo for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship. That magnolia blossom represents much more than golf at the course known for magnolia lane. That logo represents history.

The ANGC folks want people to relax and enjoy watching golf. No lugging loot all day. The check-in/shipping is right next door. The couple ahead of us worried about some of their items going missing. Clearly, they didn’t know how the ANGC operates.

At the end of the day, I went to collect my treasures. The young man apologized and said there would be a delay. “You may have to wait 45 seconds,” he said. “Well, it better not be 46 seconds or heads will roll,” I thought, but did not say out loud. I’m glad I didn’t. Before I knew it, he was handing me my package. Walt Disney would have been impressed.

Next stop: Pimento cheese and peach ice cream

A trip to ANGC would not be complete without the famous pimento cheese. If you think Chick-Fil-A is efficient, you haven’t seen anything. Augusta National makes Chick-Fil-A look like Church’s Fried Chicken. The food is delicious and the crowds are handled with ease. Courtesy and class are the names of this game. Someone told me the wrappers are green so if trash falls to the ground it won’t show up on television. That must be an urban legend because trash is never on the ground for more than a millisecond. ANGC would never allow that.

The pimento cheese was as good as I had hoped, no surprise there, but what did surprise me was the cost. In the pro-shop, I paid $11 for a pair of logoed socks. In the snack shop, we bought two sandwiches, two lemonades in souvenir cups, a bottle of water, and a bag of chips. Total due? $10.50. I asked my guide why they didn’t charge more. “They don’t need your money,” was the answer. They certainly do not.

You have two choices for dessert: ice cream sandwiches and moon pies. I went with the ice cream, and I’ve dreamed about it every night since. They wedge peach ice cream with bits of real peaches between two sugar cookies. The ice cream tastes like it’s been freshly churned. It may be one of the best things I’ve ever had, and it was $1.50.

Attention to detail

I was expecting port-a-potties. No. Each little bathroom cottage was spotless. At my first stop, a little bit of water splashed on the counter. A team of women were at the ready to wipe down the counter. How did bathrooms look at my last pit stop? Pristine. When the bathrooms are spotless at the end of the day, you know you have a first-class event.

The grounds

Photos don’t do it justice. TV doesn’t do it justice. My words will not do it justice. Augusta National is stunning. A team of experts make sure of it. A chance the azaleas will bloom too soon? No worries, it’s rumored they just ice them down until the time is right. The best that money can buy makes for a beautiful back drop for golf.

It’s OK to say no

The folks at Augusta National remind me of a strict parent or a mean teacher. They don’t mind being the bad guys. It’s good to have high standards. Good parents know this. Good teachers know this. Augusta National Golf Club knows this.

If you want to see the best golf in the world on the prettiest course in the world, there’s one catch, and it’s a big one. Cell phones stay in the car. No electronics at all. No cameras, no smart watches. They do not play.

Here’s what happens when you say no to distractions: people enjoy and appreciate the moment. They are present. Without the distractions of technology, you slow down and take in the majesty of an event like the Master’s or the Augusta National Women’s Amateur championship.

The folks at ANGC are control freaks, and it works for them. If you must have a photo, you can use their photographers in front of their selected backdrop, the clubhouse with their logo in beautiful yellow flowers. Don’t even think about a crazy pose. They grant online access to the one photo they select. Unlike our friends at Disney, the photo is free to guests. Classy move. People would pay for that shot but remember, they don’t need our money.

Once we had made all the stops that a newbie must make, it was time to see some golf. The women did not disappoint. (More next week.)