A Masterful Start

A Masterful Start

In 1997, I was invited to join an industry group attending the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Watching the pros get in their last practice hits before the tournament, I noticed a skinny kid hitting prodigious drives and made a mental note. 


The tournament is sold out many years in advance and there are a limited number of passes in circulation. Many Augusta residents make deals with planners who in turn sell packages that include passes to the tournament and rentals of private homes. Our planners emphasized that a pass “is worth more than your life.” On the first tournament day, wanna-be spectators tempted us as we approached the gate: “$500 for your pass for the day . . . $700 for just the morning—take my car keys for collateral.” 


Augusta’s first hole is a 455-yard par 4, slight dogleg to the right with a fairway bunker on the right side. The fairway slopes down at about 200 yards then back up at about 250 to 275 yards, making about 280 yards the difference between a shot that will jump forward and one that will hit the hill and die. As the day progressed, most of the spectator action was on the left fairway ropes in the 250- to 275-yard range. This was 1997, and a 300-yard drive was still a big deal. 


As morning gave way to afternoon, I suggested to a friend that we move to about 320 yards from the tee. He said, “There’s no one there. Everyone’s hitting about 275 right into the hill and dying. That’s where the action is.” My response was there was a rookie coming up who can really smoke it. 


He agreed, and we soon heard the faint announcement that the Stanford University kid who recently turned pro was next on the tee. THWAK! came the unmistakable sound of club hitting ball as the kid with the 27-inch waist uncoiled. The ball sailed straight toward us, hit the top of the hill, and jumped forward stopping about 10 feet away from where we were standing. “Who the hell is that?” my friend asked. “The scorecard has him as Eldrick Woods,” I said. 


After consulting with his caddy, Eldrick, AKA Tiger, hit a wedge into the green and two putted for par. Hmmm. A 455-yard par 4, and the kid hits driver, wedge for par. This truly is a game with which I am not familiar.


 

—Bill Monn, vice president of client management, Ewald Consulting