A Speechless First Look at Augusta National

It was still dark on Sunday morning when Charles Warren, Jayce Hargrove and Bradford Chandler boarded one of the shuttles from the Marriott Hotel in downtown Augusta to Augusta National Golf Club. But none of the three youngsters, who were participating in the Boys 10-11 division of the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, was the least bit sleepy. In fact, they were downright chipper as they settled into their seats, and understandably so. They were going to the home of the Masters, on the eve of Tournament week, with their golf clubs in tow.

As the van pulled out of the hotel parking lot, Warren, from Huntsville, Ala., spoke of how he had attended the Masters last year, walking the golf course with his family during the final two rounds. “We had to leave before the end of the Tournament on Sunday because of the rain,” he said. “But we did see Adam Scott on No. 2.”

Like the vast majority of the participants in National Finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt, neither Hargrove, of Hobbs, N.M., nor Chandler, of Fairfax, Va., had ever been to Augusta National before. But they talked excitedly about the many Masters they had watched on television, and readily named their favorite golfers: Rickie Fowler, in Hargrove’s case; Rory McIlroy in Chandler’s.

But when the shuttle began to make a left turn off of Washington Road onto Magnolia Lane, the boys, who were seated together in the van, with their fathers in matching shirts a row or two behind, suddenly became hushed.

“Wow!” muttered Warren under his breath. They began craning their necks from side to side as the van rolled slowly into the Club, their mouths slightly agape. They looked through the old magnolias at a chipping area on the East Range to their left and then to the West Range, the former practice facility, on their right.

As the shuttle got closer to the Clubhouse, all eyes went front and center as the boys stared at the white flag pole before them, and the stately Augusta National Clubhouse behind it. Then the shuttle turned to the left and stopped by the chipping green. The doors opened, and the kids scurried out, for a moment too excited to talk.