Monday, April 6, 2015

15 Insights for the Novice Masters Attendee

In the weeks leading up to the Masters, I scoured the Internet looking for tips and insights on how to approach my ever-so-fortunate Saturday at the Masters. The “planner” in me wanted to have some semblance of structure….and to not look like a wide-eyed, dumbfounded kid in a candy castle. Yet surprisingly, it was very difficult to find anything beyond the standard media and AP articles. On a few forums, a patron or two “willingly” gave up their favorite viewing spots, but other than that…nothing.

It’s only taken me a year, but in honor of the upcoming Masters, here are 10 random observations about the Masters that you may not know:

1. No electronics - They're serious. Don't. Even. Try it. Upon entry you go through metal detectors and there will be no warning. Your ticket will be taken and you’ll end up with sitting in some trashy Augusta restaurant, tears in your eyes, drowning your sorrows in bottomless Miller fucking lites. BUT, if you do end up on the other side - frolicking in the absurdly manicured green grass - remember that you have to act like its 1995 and establish a “get lost” meeting point with your friend.

2. Dapper Pay Phone Booths - In one section of the course, past one of the many concession stands, you’ll find three rows of telephone booths. Yes telephone booths. Like the old school Bell Atlantic pay phones, just dappered out with some Masters-colored green framing. These telephone booths are there for one reason – to call your jealous friends and remind them that you’re at the Masters. Naturally calls are free but remember to bring a piece of paper with some phone numbers scribbled down (because the only number you probably still remember is your home phone growing up).

3. Tee Sheet BFF - When you walk through the gates, you're handed a one page tee sheet with a schedule of the golfers’ tee time and a course map on the other side.  For 8 hours, this is gold. DO NOT LOSE IT. Use it to stalk golfers. Use it to pre-plan seating locations (e.g. stake your claim next to a tee box BEFORE Adam Scott walks up blast a drive).

4. Buy a chair, leave the chair, return to the chair - The massively awesome gift shop is beckons you to spend a month’s paycheck on memorabilia. But for $30 (cheaper than a crapper camper chair at Dick’s Sporting Goods) you can buy a Masters camping chair. Why? Well, once the gates open, you can place that chair nearly anywhere on the course. Just put your name on it and walk away. No one will move it (this is hallowed grounds, thou shall not steal at the Masters). Last year, I put my chair 2 rows off the 18th green and was able to come back later in the day, to relax and watch the final groups roll through.

5. The Patron - You're referred to as a patron. Not a visitor. Not an attendee. A patron.

6. Embrace the roar - Without a phone to check scores, the large white scoreboards dotted throughout the course become your method of tracking the leaders. For instance, you’re sitting in your beautifully placed green chair on the 18th green when you hear a load roar from to your 2 o’ clock. Quickly you unfold your tee sheet to get a sense of the possible Hole number and do mental math to determine the possible pairing on the hole. The crowd begins to whisper and wait in anticipation. You and 50 other pairs of eyes dart to the scoreboard… And slowly, like changing the inning at a baseball game, you see that your favorite player climbed one on the leader board.

7. Bugs – You can leave your bug spray at home, there are no bugs on the course. Zilch. They're been eradicated by an unknown force (probably high-grade, flower-scented, Monsanto juice). Hmmmm, don’t think about it and move onto the next tip.

8. Impeccable Service and Efficiency - From the lines in the concession stands and the corrals at the gift shops to the plethora of bathroom attendants, you are treated with every ounce of respect and full service. Every bathroom stall is wiped down before you go in. Every gift shop corral has two people smiling and happily bagging your gifts (which, by the way, are stored in a back room so you don't have to lug your 5 bags of overly-zealous purchases around the course). And the efficiency of which you move through said lines would make a German engineer class jealous.

9. Concession Prices - Remember that middle finger the Masters committee gave to their sponsors a few years back? "You know what...we don't need you guys and this noise. We're going to broadcast the Masters commercial-free." The point is, the Masters committee is not out to make a profit on their patrons. Concession prices have been frozen in time (e.g. beers are $3).

10. Concession food - Now what can you get at said concession corral? Think Southern mom packing your school lunch in the 6th grade. White bread and pimento cheese. Ham and cheese on white. Carefully wrapped, sliced diagonally.

11. Zero non-Masters branding - It isn’t apparent until you get there but everything is Masters green. Basically, the committee said, there’s no f-ing way that a camera catches a patron drinking a Gatorade and they get free advertising.

12. Souvenir cup bandits - Each Gatorade (err "sports drink") or "light beer" that you buy comes in a awesome plastic souvenir cup. Don't be surprised if you see the 26 year, croakie-wearing frat brother, foraging for renegade souvenir cups at the end of the day. (NOTE: I did not forage for any of my cups)

13. The course is NOT FLAT - The oceans of hills, bends, and dips are flattened out by TV cameras. The elevation changes from tee to green are ridiculous and you’ll find that you may have to actually exert some energy. Just remember if the course is wet, it’ll be slippery.

14. Attire - It shouldn’t need to be said but don’t be an idiot and wear jeans. Wear golf attire… However, chose wisely on the shoe choice. I wore boat shoes, which seemed like a great choice; HOWEVER, the pathways between holes are layered with turf-like rubber. You think a rock in your shoe is annoying? Try 5 million little rubber pieces.

15. Stay in Columbia, SC - I'm going to be honest, outside of the golf course, Augusta didn't look like a place I’d want to hang out for a few days. So if you want to get away from the crowds and avoid the price gauging hotel fares, fly into Columbia airport in South Carolina. It’s a beautiful artsy college town with good restaurants and hotels. And it's only a short, one hour drive, which you won't even remember because you're too hopped up on adrenaline

That’s all I got… Happy Masters eve.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Experiencing a Saturday at the Masters

During your visit to the Masters, you meet and interact with scores of fellow patrons. The ice-breaking lines are easy. You all like golf. You all are amazed at the conditions. Oh, and you all like golf. Soon enough the conversation turns to where you live and your epic journey on getting to a small town in Georgia. Most people I found seem to go for multiple days – sponsored by their company, received as a gift from a vendor, or by burning leprechaun blood combined with golf tees. Yet no one I spoke to had won tickets through the online, public lottery. People were amazed that I had this great fortune, which makes the following story all that more incredible:

Last June an email popped up in my Gmail inbox.

From: Masters Tournament.
Subject: 2014 Masters Tickets
Message Preview: 2014 Masters Daily Tournament Tickets Random Selection Congratulations. The Ma...

Needles of adrenaline raced down my arms. My hands were dead weight in a sea of anticipation.

I opened the email.

Congratulations. The Masters Tournament is pleased to announce that our random selection process for 2014 Daily Tournament tickets has been completed and your application has been selected. You have until July 15, 2013 to make your payment or your ticket allocation will be forfeited.

“Practice rounds? Tournament rounds? Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. "

Please click the link below to access the Masters Ticket site sign-in page. SIGN IN by entering your complete email and password.

Password incorrect.

"Fuck FORGOT PASSWORD! Oh my God. Oh my God."

3 minutes later, I discovered that I was selected for the opportunity to buy tickets for Saturday at the Masters.

Saturday, April 12, 2014.

My dad's 59th birthday.

Later that day, I called my dad and invited him to accompany me with the Masters; yet, the serendipity of this story isn't finished here.

For Christmas, I ordered a leather key chain from Etsy with the coordinates of the Masters engraved (33° 30′ 0″ N, 82° 1′ 20″ W, if you're wondering). I figured that he would look at it in the months to come and look forward to this once-in-a-lifetime event and bucket list for any golfer.

2 weeks later, he told me had cancer.

Radiation started in February. 9 weeks. Every. Day.

Yet coincidentally, every day he had those geographical coordinates staring back at him - reminding him that on his birthday, this year, he was going to the Masters with his son.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Slivers of light creep through the tall pines that dot the parking lot at Augusta. Walking steadily and purposefully, we make our way through the main gate. It's 7:30 am and the early morning rays cast an ethereal glow on the white and green fixtures of Augusta Golf Course. Passing through the security checkpoint, our stride takes us pass the practice range on our left. A beautifully manicured set of landing zones and pins stand proudly against a quiet backdrop. This concept of immaculate care interwoven with pride and integrity will be carried throughout the day.

The paved path beings to slightly curl to our right and we pass the first of many pristine restrooms that occupy the course. The ground beneath us begins to slope downward as a large concessions pavilion slowly frames our vision to the left. An equally large memorabilia pavilion begins to mirror its brother to the right. Slowly, the two large yet inconspicuous buildings funnel our vision to the horizon. Our eyes scan up and a small patch of green glistens with the morning dew.

We are here.

A firsthand experience at the Master's is like no other. There are sporting events made for TV. Sporting events made for tailgating. And sporting events made for Heaven. The Masters is the latter.

The HD cameras that spot the landscape hardly do the course justice. To get a sense of the fairways at Augusta, think AstroTurf - the finest AstroTurf of all the land. But then replace the synthetic grass with real grass and then you'll start to understand the fairways at Augusta. Perfect. Pristine. And *every* fairway is like this. You could search the entire course and yet every spot is the same firmness, the same perfect cut, and ready for potential infamy.

And if the fairways represent AstroTurf then on this day, with the warm Georgia sun baking the course, the greens represent soul-crushing sheets of glass. While the camera adds 15 pounds to a person, a camera turns a three-dimensional, undulating work of wonder into a flat sea of calm green. Standing there in person, every approach shot seems to be uphill while pristine deep bunkers guard false fronts, sudden dips and razor sharp pin placements. Hole number 10 could easily be converted into an intermediate ski slope - huge elevation changes and a rippling fairway that would make Salvador Dali jealous.

The number of staff, attention to detail, and service from the Masters is second to none. Friendly "good mornings" and brief yet positive exchanges at cash registers are the norm. As I entered the gentlemen's restroom, the attendant at the front door offered to fix my collar. Albeit a simple gesture, it was a theme that reverberated throughout the day. Not to be outdone, the greens on the course receive equally exquisite (if not better) attention. In the early morning light, six staff attend to each green, carefully trimming, rolling, and manicuring them in a rehearsed dance that echoed across the 18 greens. Giant tail-like brooms sweep away errant pollen buds before the players even take their first sip of coffee.

The public lottery for ticket sales and exclusivity of Masters membership provide a crowd that borders on perfection (*Note, this was a Saturday without Phil or Tiger so the crowds were lighter). Patrons all have their spots and the opportunity to be a handshake away from world class golfers is becomes a common occurrence. Throughout the day I found myself closer to the action than if I was pasted to a 60" HD TV on a stool at the bar. On Saturday, the glass screen melted away and I had the privileged to walk alongside Couples as he casually sauntered down the Par 5 15th; to line up directly perpendicular from Adam Scott's tee shot and awe at a golf swing of perfection; to witness the jovial smile of Matt Kuchar as he glanced at the woman next to me who had just become the recipient of a half-broken, somersaulting tee; and to crouch just a few yards behind Jordan Speith on the practice putting green, watching as his youth confidence showed me the line to the cup.

Everyone cherishes their favorite spots on the golf course. We hold them close to our heart - scared vows where a slip of the tongue could suddenly send our cherished perch into an unwelcome mob of patrons. In some ways, no one wants to share their secret locations; yet in other ways, it doesn't really matter. Everyone's experience is different and we all need to find our own hidden gem.

I discovered one of my diamonds mid-afternoon on Saturday. As logic dictates on a golf course, the 1st tee, 9th green, 10th tee, and 18th green all congregate back to the same location. On this special afternoon, I found myself watching approaches and putts to 9 and then turning around to see similar approaches and putts on 18. Surprisingly, that wasn't even the best part. I learned to time the putts on 9, so I could make my way over to an empty 10th tee box and situate myself just a few yards from the right-hand tee box marker. A-list golfers came barreling up the ninth tee - Kuchar, then Fuyrk, then Couples. Adam Scott, Jordan Speith and Jonas Blixt followed. And as tradition dictates, after finishing their putts on 9, they headed to the 10th tee - arriving at a daunting downhill par 4 that was accompanied by a widely grinning patron just a few yards from the right-hand tee box marker.

My Favorite Memory

On Saturday, the gates open at 8am and a large throng of patrons, respectfully congregate between the concessions and memorabilia pavilions waiting to be let on the course. As the ropes drop, patrons disperse like uninhibited marbles searching for a resting place to station their Masters-emblazed camping chair. After setting our chairs just a few rows back on the 18th green (you can leave your chairs all day, they won't be touched), we now still had 2 hours before the first golfer (Rory) would tee off.

With a coffee and egg salad sandwich in hand, we trace the footsteps of Bobby Jones and Sam Sneed and carefully make our way around the back nine. With only about 20% of patrons present, these two hours provide some of the best magic of the day. The early morning smell of golf accompanies us as we arrive at Amen Corner.

I stare down the green of the infamous Par 3 12th. The rope keeps me just a mere 5 yards from the Championship tee box. Setting my coffee down to my side, I close my eyes and breathe. Quiet, calm breaths. The noise of the morning shuffle melts away and I open my eyes. Like the golfers in the coming hours, I rotate sideways, turn my head, and mentally cast my tee shot to the Heavens.

So on this Saturday, April 12th, 2014, on my dad's birthday, four weeks after completing radiation therapy, we had the privilege of playing the back nine of Augusta Golf Course before the golfers had even set foot on the first tee.


As I'm sure you can tell, the events from this past weekend were absolutely incredible. Check back soon to read Part 2 of this story where I'll share short insights, tips and observations from spending Saturday at the Masters.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Five Unconventional Tips from my Kitchen Remodeling Experience

During this past Spring, I embarked on the epic journey of talking, walking, and sleeping remodeling, of waking up in the middle of the night with cabinetry cold sweats, and of becoming hyper-vigilant of trim and back-splash selections at local restaurants.

We're all taught the basics of kitchen remodeling - "Hire someone you trust." "Work within your budget." "Don't take the first quote." But what else could one learn from past experiences? From this endeavor, I picked up five unconventional nuggets of information that I'm hoping people may find useful during their remodeling process.

Tip 1. Relocate your shit purposefully. And neatly
I cannot emphasize this enough, especially if you're living in a one-bedroom condo. I can tell you from experience that having a bedroom, a closet, a side closet, and the floor absolutely littered with kitchen and bar articles gets old very, very quickly.  You forget that you're actually going to need to get to your clothing. Half of my room was nicely packed and orderly, the other half...terrible. And as a result, I found myself tripping over my wok handle on a daily basis.

A messy room just breaks the flow of your general well-being. Life will feel chaotic. Retreating into your bedroom won't provide you with any solace if it looks like a set from Hoarders. I had trouble sleeping admist the chaos.

So channel your 7th grade Tetris skills, steal computer boxes from work, and take time to carefully relocate your kitchen. With purpose. 

Tip 2. Used technology to your advantage
Compare two different ideas: Mood boards and color palettes are mainstays for a seasoned interior decorator. Swatches of fabric, strokes of paint, and samples of material are carefully constructed to provide holistic glimpses of the future. However, in the words of our friend Sweet Brown, "Ain't nobody got time for that." (Jump to the 0:30 mark to hear the original quote and 0:52 for the sweet sweet remix).

Therefore, do something that every kid with an Instagram account is doing right now. Download Diptic, take photos with your phone, and use this handy app as a replacement to the hot glue gun burns, the embarrassing trip to Michael's, and an evening lost to making interior decorator-quality color swatches.
This Diptic was pretty aggressive. The granite hadn't come yet and the floor wasn't in, but I impatiently wanted to test color samples
Get fancy with Microsoft Paint to convey ideas:
Pictures are better than words. Enough said.

Tip 3. Take Pictures...lots of them
I took pictures throughout the whole kitchen process. Pictures for memories. Pictures to show friends. Pictures because well, pictures. But lots of pictures means that if you need to revisit a possible issue you may have unwittingly and accidentally documented your issue during your paparazzi frenzy.

We used a series of pictures similar to this one in order to "remember" where we placed the electrical junction boxes

Tip 4. Ask for opinions but trust your gut
Definitely ask for opinions; however, make sure you ask a follow-up question to their response. Ask why they answered the way they did. 

I couldn't decide on the granite for my kitchen. And knowing me, if I have trouble deciding on a small purchases, I'd be screwed with the granite selection. You can't fuck up granite. You can't say that you want to return hundreds of dollars of heavy rock. It's a gigantic piece of stone. Once it's in, it's in. (No pressure)

I posted the above photo on Facebook and these were the responses that I received: 

  • "Left reminds me of Swedish west coast. Red granite."
  •  "Left might pick up tone in floor"
  •  "Right is more manly.....are u....manly?/ So the question is, do you want your granite to say "oops I missed a spill", OR.... "Welcome to my kingdom, I have sex here....a lot".
  •  "Manly schmanly - the darker it is the harder to clean."
Even though I'm may be missing out on the whole sex-kingdom thing, I took some of my friends' advice, used Diptic, and chose the lighter color. 

HOWEVER, think hard about buying that easy-to-clean, ceramic counter top stove. Even though it's been a few months since the remodeling, I'm still bitter about my decision here. Everyone said "it'll be so much easier to clean" however, I didn't ask myself a critical question. "Will this decision kill my cooking style?"

I should've gone with my gut (I could careless about how easy something is to clean!)

For me, the cast-iron skillet was the mainstay of the kitchen. Besides moonlighting as body armor, my cast-iron skillet made the greatest steaks ever. And now...after the range had been ordered......and installed.....I read the warning pamphlet: there anything that you can actually cook on this?

Tip 5. Immerse yourself for easier decision making
House Porn. Really. really is house porn. Download the app. Visit the website. Stare at thousands of photos. Favorite some. Make Ideabooks. Stare at more photos. Eventually, you'll find yourself subscribed to their newsletter, idealizing designer photos, and holding up the iPhone app to compare cabinetry pulls at Home Depot. But don't fret at your temporary domestication, you've rifled through what feels like 10,000 photos, so snap decisions should become second nature.

For example, my contractor called me one morning at 7:30 AM to ask me what kind of grout I wanted for my tile backsplash. (At 7:30 AM I can't even find the "on" button to the coffee maker).  Actual decisions?!? Fuck...

In my groggy state, I blurted something along the lines of:

" really would be....grbsh bashws....contrasty?..zzzz..lets do gray?"

That decision ended up hitting the mark and I can only think that my snap judgement and instinctual response was based on the hundreds of photos I had seen on Houzz.


If you have any other remodeling questions, definitely let me know. I posted a few photos below. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Seared Tuna with Sauteed Green Beans

Yes I know this looks very close to my Tuna Tataki recipe but its slightly different (plus its just another example of how easy it is to cook tuna). The tuna was cooked a few minutes longer and unlike the Tuna Tataki recipe, it wasn't marinated ahead of time.

Seared Tuna Ingredients
  • 1 lb tuna
  • Cajun/Blackening Seasoning
  • A little olive oil
  • Salt, Pepper
Cooking tuna may be the easiest thing to cook ever. Easier than improvising Mac n Cheese. Easier than cooking popcorn. And easier than Washington sports team winning in the post-season (too soon?).

Recipe Guidance
  • Coat the tuna with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and any seasoning of your choice
  • Turn a skillet (cast-iron or teflon) on High
  • Sear each side of the tuna for 1.5 minutes
  • Remove from heat
  • Serve

Sauteed Green Beans
  • A few handfuls of fresh green bean
  • 1 Sweet Onion
  • Sesame seeds
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Soy Sauce
Don't buy canned green beans. They're terrible.  Canned green beans will not get you anywhere in life (don't even buy them for the canned food drives). Buy fresh green beans. Spend the 5 minutes painfully cutting off the edges - fresh crunchy green beans are awesome, trust me.

Recipe Guidance
  • Rough chop the onion
  • Heat the skillet at Medium-High
  • Add a dash of olive oil, throw in the onions, and cook until soft-ish
  • Add a little soy sauce and the green beans
  • Toss in some sesame seeds for kicks
  • Saute until green beans are warm but still crunchy (5 min or so)