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The best seat in the house

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Rob Hodgetts | 20:01 UK time, Friday, 10 April 2009

Augusta, in among the seat forests, Friday - We all know the Masters is unique, but I didn't realise quite how unique until I learned about the seats.

Every morning, great plantations of green folding canvas chairs sprout up all over the course.

Patrons rush to their favourite spot, plant their seat and then go for a wander. Sometimes all day. It doesn't matter, though. It'll still be there when they get back. And their coat if they left it.

Tiger Woods and spectators, eighth green, Augusta

"It's Masters etiquette. An unwritten code," says 78-year-old Charles Barreras, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who has been to 44 Masters tournaments.

By 0915 Friday morning there were 10 rows of vacant seats already in place around the 18th green. Only seven groups had teed off.

Cheryl Roht, who has been coming to the Masters since 1992 through tickets that her father bought in 1964, was five rows back. "You can't get the front ones. The members get kids to rush in and put their seats down for them," she said.

Down at Amen Corner, behind the 12th tee, the scene was the same.

"The gates opened at 0730 - we were six rows back - and we got the second row here. It's called speed walking," said Steve Soechtig, of Denver.

"It's the greatest spot in golf. The wind swirls around here, it's crazy."

I told them how amazed I was with the whole seat thing. A guy behind butted in. "It's a bit like watching football in the UK, right?" he said. "Er, not so much," I laughed.

Moving on, the entire length of the 13th fairway was lined with chairs, like the most stunning doctor's waiting room you've ever seen. The seats themselves - you can bring your own but no arm rests allowed - cost $29. And there are thousands of them. They have a little clear pocket on the back in which you put your business card.

Wading into the thicket of chairs behind the green on the short 16th, I met Charles, patiently waiting for play to reach him. He came to his first Masters in 1964 and had brought his great-grandson along. Christian is only 10 but is already on his third visit to Augusta.

Crowds, 16th green, Augusta

"I've seen a lot of changes and got a lot of memories of this place," said Charles, who has only missed one Masters in 45 years.

"The stands change and they've lengthened some holes, but some of the changes are quite subtle. Like people in the front row of the sitting areas used to hang their tee-time sheet over the rope so they could see who was coming next. You're not allowed to do that now."

Charles recalled seeing Arnold Palmer hit a tee shot which landed in a lady's handbag, and was also sat a few seats away in 2005 when Tiger Woods conjured up that wonder chip-in for a birdie from the back fringe. "That chip won him the tournament. The roar was amazing," he said. Of course, you can still stand behind the seating, but when the action hots up you have to be tall.

Charles told me of his favourite Masters in 1970, when Billy Casper beat Gene Littler in an 18-hole play-off, and recounted tales of Tony Lema, of Chi Chi Rodriguez, of Gary Player and of his favourite player Lee Trevino.

I asked him about Tiger Woods, who he described as "phenomenal". "But I don't like his negative attitude," he said. "He's so doggarn good, he doesn't need to throw clubs or beat on bushes like I've seen him do down on 13."

To be perfectly honest, I was very tempted to blow off this blog and spend the day watching golf with Charles. But duty called.

There's a big crop of chairs on the hill down the left side of the 16th fairway, too, next to the lake. From here you can see the tee and green of the 16th, the second shots and green on 15, the sixth green and the 17th tee.

Turtles, 16th fairway, Augusta

There I met Brad Blankenship and father-in-law Mike Connolly, from Colorado. It was their first time at the Masters, with tickets that belong to Brad's aunt. So Brad gets Mike's daughter and Mike gets Masters tickets. Seems like a fair swap.

"This is a cool spot," said Brad. "You can see six things from here. And there's water. When they hit it in, we can... laugh. And there's turtles." And he was right, four of them crawling out of the lake and having a munch on the first cut, like semi-aquatic sheep.

"It's heaven," said Brad.

"Well, not quite heaven. Maybe golfing heaven," Mike interjected.

"It's heaven," said Brad again.

"But you got to have a chair."


  • Comment number 1.

    Great blog m8! Don't suppose there's any complimetary tickets knocking about are there? I'll even step in for Tiger if he has to pull out through injury or something. I'll let you caddy!! Come on, pull some strings will ya...!

  • Comment number 2.

    I second MrRossko - great blog, well written and fantastic to get such a good feel for all the behind the scenes stuff! Keep it up and keep the entries coming. Come on the Europeans!

    One question - is even the food on sale 'Masters perfect' or the usual Yank abombination....?

  • Comment number 3.

    Sorry Mr Rossko - nothing doing, though I have put my name in the media ballot to play the course on Monday. If a miracle happens and I'm pulled out I'll let you know. (although I wouldn't hold your breath and make plans or anything. In fact, if I do get in, I'll let all of you know by splashing the news on the front of the whole blimmin' website!)

    Eversoslightlytubby - I can't possibly comment. All I can say is that there's no cheese in sight. Not.

  • Comment number 4.

    By the way, if anyone from Augusta National is reading this, I was, of course, referring to the cheese-based products on offer outside of the property.

    The fayre inside has been absolutely first class. Better than that, in fact. And if you could see your way to helping my name emerge from that ballot, it will taste even nicer still. Which, just to emphasise once again, is pretty darn nice. Thanks.

  • Comment number 5.

    Two wonderful days' coverage so far... Looking forward to the next two days! I just look at that wonderful bridge and water and just dread to think what the Health and Safety Police would do if that were on a British course, with no handrails!

    Also, it's good to see the branding on the team's microphones, both here and also noted with the Grand Prix coverage, but does it have to look like Dymo Labelmaker tape, just stuck onto the wind-shields?

  • Comment number 6.

    I remember some 50 odd years ago, David Davies then writing for the Birmingham Post & Mail, played on the media day at The Masters and played a good drive near to a lake, his caddy told him to play a provisional, David said, "but I can see the ball down by that log!" reply, "that's no log, that's an aligator!" A provisional ball was played with no penalty! Is that a local rule? Nice coverage by the BBC, can we see more tee shots and why do comentators call Rory McIlroy 'MAcIlroy'? There is no 'A' in his surname.

  • Comment number 7.

    McIlroy is pronounced correctly. Just as he does it himself. How else would it sound......M'Kilroy with emphasis on the second syllable?
    I also have a surname which starts with McIL which causes me no end of hassle as most illiterates don't even try to pronounce the rest properly.
    Mc is often pronounced MACK, particularly when followed by a vowel.


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