As a rule, teenage boys are not the chattiest individuals. Especially when they are up before dawn has broken.
But the foursome of 15-year-olds riding early Saturday morning in a van from a downtown Augusta hotel to Augusta National was positively mute. Excitement built and conversation started to flow, however, as their vehicle began to climb up Washington Road and got closer to the Club, with one of them, Clay Merchant of Noblesville, Ind., remarking that he had come to the Masters with his father in 2012, “the year that Bubba Watson hooked his wedge to win the playoff on the 10th hole.”
Mason Quagliata, who hails from Scottsdale, Ariz., allowed that he had attended the practice round on Monday last year. “This place is a golfer’s paradise,” he said. Then he clammed back up.
The skies were still dark when the van turned off Washington Road into the club, and a third competitor, Jack Johnson from Chaska, Minn., said: “I wish we were coming up here an hour later, so we could get a better feel for Magnolia Lane.”
Each of the boys craned their necks as the driver inched down the lane. They admired the stately trees that canopy the road, and the fourth member of the group, Cavan Jones of Roswell, N.M., perked up when he saw the short game area to the left of the Clubhouse where the boys would prepare for the morning’s competition, the lush green grass and white sand bunkers illuminated by portable flood lights. “That looks amazing,” he opined. Standing by was a standard bearer in white coveralls holding a sign that read “14-15 Boys.”
Their ride took a sharp left turn and then came to a stop. And when the door opened, a pair of Augusta National members greeted the competitors. “Welcome to Augusta National,” they said as they stuck out their right hands.
Once again, the boys were speechless.