Augusta’s First Perch

For an amateur who has had the privilege to play The Masters their experience at this revered place began in “The Crow’s Nest”, a secluded living space in the upper reaches of the Augusta National clubhouse.  Many of those amateurs return to play again, many of them become winners of the coveted Green Jacket.  But for all of them, the first Masters memories they have are of this cloistered living space and times of discovery shared with other young men they lived with that week in Georgia.

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Dave Kindred’s wonderful Golf Digest article “Boys To Men” describes the experience of living Masters week as an amateur in the Crow’s Nest at Augusta National.  Through stories told by the young players who carry first images of the place indelibly etched in their minds, he reveals what a rite of passage it is for a player to unveil the mysteries that surround the hallowed place that Bobby Jones built.

Stairway to heaven? (Don Furore golfdigest.com)

The challenge begins with finding the Crow’s Nest.  There are no signs, no directions offered to where it is-just that it is on top of the clubhouse above the second floor.  They eventually discover through a door on the second floor marked TELEPHONE, down a hall, another innocuous looking door that when opened reveals a carpeted stairway that looks like it is ascending to heaven.  Appropriately there is a portrait of Bobby Jones himself staring down at them from above at the top of the stairway.

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The rooms are simple but somewhat surreal.  Kindred says, “If not a dorm room–the place whispers rather than shouts–it might be your grandmother’s place: quiet, cozy, immaculate. Its ancient timbers are painted a white as pure as that of the robes, fringed bedspreads and bathroom ceramics. Sunlight falls in from the high cupola’s four sets of windows. The room is all shining whites and Masters greens.”

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These are stories of 20 year olds who are living a childhood dream of playing in a major tournament and the last thing they were thinking about was decorum and rules.  Indiscretion has them climbing on to the roof in their skivvies to check the morning weather or walking into prohibited places like the Champions locker room or hastily trying to make it to their tee time and nearly running down Gene Sarazen or Byron Nelson in the hallway or staying out so late that they have to clandestinely climb the fence to get back on the property.

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The black and whites on the wall make you realize this is a place of great history.  “Lloyd Mangrum signs autographs for wounded soldiers. Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson walk to the sixth green. Lean and hungry, his arms a blacksmith’s, Arnold Palmer stands in a fairway, young, strong and alive.”

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It is like sleeping in a museum  with voices of the past  whispering from the rafters. This article is a scrapbook of the compiled memories of greats like Nicklaus, Watson, and Crenshaw and lesser greats like Billy Andrade, David Chung, and Don Cherry.  Recollections of youthful fascination and discovery provide a unique perspective on the eve of the annual ritual we call The Masters.

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(Click to read Dave Kindred’s Golf Digest article ‘Boys to Men’)

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Dave Kindred

Golf Digest April, 2012

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