The spring vistas of Augusta National Golf Club strike a chord deep within a golfer. Wherever they may be watching from around the world, the reaction is always the same as the cameras are allowed in after a year of being away. The first glimpse of the journey on Magnolia Lane is not only a reminder that golf’s greatest tournament is soon to get underway, but also that the seasons are changing as the kindness of spring replaces the cruelty of winter.
This is a tournament that transcends golf and gives people hope. Indeed, the stop-off in Augusta Georgia in early April is the most anticipated on the golfing calendar for many different reasons. That’s why some 40,000 to 50,000 patrons per day attend the playing of the Masters, with over 250,000 witnessing some part of the action over the course of the week.
— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 5, 2021
Above all, though, one of the Masters’ greatest attractions is the traditions that are immaculately observed each year. Regardless of how exclusive these are, it does have a habit of making the viewer at home feel a part of it all. Indeed, it is the build-up to the first tee shot after dawn breaks on Thursday that plays such an integral part in the uniqueness of the Masters.
The Champions Dinner
It was German enlightenment philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing that once claimed that the waiting of pleasure is a pleasure itself. This rings particularly true when applied to the build-up to the Masters. Indeed, before the legendary ceremonial first drive is hit in anger on the Thursday morning by Messrs Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, the Champions Dinner has to take place.
The reigning champion of the Masters has the honor of selecting the menu for the dinner which is invite-only to those who have won a green jacket in the past. Naturally, the contents of the menu always create many talking points as fans go over the choice of food in great detail. Indeed, forget the many secrets to a good golf swing and trying to win the Masters, on Tuesday evening, it’s all about impressing the world with your taste in cuisine.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) April 6, 2021
It must be said, there have been a few hit-and-miss menus over the years and some curious dinner choices from past champions. From Bernhard Langer’s wiener schnitzel to Sandy Lyle counting on his American colleagues wanting to eat the Scottish delicacy of haggis, the Masters’ champions dinner has seen and tasted it all over the years. But it’s not all bad though.
Jordan Spieth was the 2021 winner of the prestigious Texas Open in San Antonio sponsored by industry leaders Valero Energy. The event takes place before the Masters every year, and has perhaps produced the best champions menu in recent times, after treating fellow Masters winners to an authentic Texan barbecue.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 8, 2021
In fact, many past Masters winners will be hoping that Spieth wins the 2022 event so that they can enjoy the Texan’s menu again. Luckily for them, as of the 14th of April, the 27-year-old is at odds of 12.00 to win a green jacket, so, in 2022 so there’s every chance that the delights of a Texan barbecue will be back on the menu the following year.
The Par 3 Contest
The day after the Champions Dinner and the ceremonial Par 3 Contest takes place, which provides the otherwise competitive week with a relaxed feel as the players’ families caddie around the short course. In some instances, family members who aren’t in any way golf inclined are even allowed to take part.
This is a great advert for the game and undoubtedly encourages many at home to start playing the wonderful sport of golf.
Incidentally, no one has ever won the Masters after winning the Par 3 Contest. That’s right, winning the event could to some extent improve a player’s short game, but it will almost certainly ensure that they fly out of Augusta on Sunday evening without a new luminous jacket. Players that find themselves ahead often go into a bit of a panic as they remember the curse of the par 3 tournament. More often than not, you’ll find they hand the club to a family member to take a shot, while this is allowed, it automatically disqualifies a player from winning the event.
Following the conclusion of the Par 3 Contest, a small ceremony will take place for the unlucky winner whilst patrons slowly begin to trickle out of Augusta National and onto their rented accommodation for the week, passing some 1600 recently bloomed azaleas on the way. The spring sunshine falls through the towering trees as the course empties, the traditions have been observed and the main event awaits.
Once the sun goes down on the Wednesday evening, an eerie hush falls over Augusta National as only a few hours now stand in the way of the course and the next Masters winner.