Friday, April 15, 2011

30 Days of Pictures: Day 15

Day 15: A picture of something you want to do before you die

Ahh, the "bucket list" post. Sure, there a dozens of things I would like to see, do, achieve before I die and this past weekend, I was lucky enough to cross one off the list.

I was in Las Vegas from April 6-8 participating in Inc. Magazine's GrowCo Small Business Conference. While watching a concert in the Cosmopolitan's Book & Stage lounge I was introduced to a person who would make it possible for me to cross a major "must-do" off my bucket list.

That individual was Frank Wall, the publisher of Sports Illustrated. He and I had unknowingly worked together while he was in his previous role and we got to talking about his new job, my position and the strange circumstances that brought us together. At the end of the evening he mentioned to me that he had an extra pass to The Masters that Saturday and Sunday, and asked if I was interested in being his guest. Now, I had planned to fly back home Friday night, spend Saturday with my girls, then fly to Charleston, SC via Atlanta on Sunday for a meeting I had scheduled in Kiawah Island, SC. So ... I was heading to the Southeast anyway, and SI would help me rearrange my flights as well as put me up in the extra room in the house they were renting in Augusta.

I called Michelle, and lucky for me I have an incredible wife who said "this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, you can't not go." I immediately emailed Frank and he got me in touch with his assistant who handled the arrangements for me (thank you so much Lee!). She sent me my new itinerary, and at the end of the conference on Friday I was on a plane en route to Atlanta to then be driven to Augusta. I was absolutely over the moon. Pulling into the driveway at 2:30 AM on Saturday, I was exhausted but ready to go in a few hours to step foot on the course at Augusta National and watch the legend that is The Masters.

Saturday was a blur. We walked the front nine, following Ian Poulter, Ricky Barnes, Matt Kuchar and Martin Laird until we got to the tenth green where our folding chairs were waiting for us. This is one of many traditions that makes The Masters so special. If you set down a folding chair with your business card in the pocket, nobody will sit in it or move it. Your place is secure. I've never experienced anything like that. We then watched the rest of the field come in on ten before following Tiger Woods, K.J. Choi, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy in through 18. It was hot, I was exhausted and sweaty, but I didn't even care.

Sunday I had to leave the grounds by 2:00 in order to catch my flight to Charleston, but we spent the morning having lunch and cocktails in the clubhouse (did I mention that it was a clubhouse pass? Unreal), talked with some of the golfers waiting to take the first tee, walked the grounds around the clubhouse, did a bit of shopping then headed to watch Phil Mickelson tee-off on the first and a few groups come in on the seventh green before heading out of town.

The whole experience was unreal. The grounds were pristine. The crowd, knowledgable and polite. There were no hospitality tents or corporate branding. Even the sandwiches, chips and beer were labeled "The Masters". If you brought in seats or umbrellas or water bottles with corporate labels, they had to be checked at the gate or the label removed. No cell phones or cameras allowed (which I found disappointing, simply because I wanted to capture this experience for eternity). Everything was like stepping back in time. The people we met were as nice as can be. No drama, no rudeness, everyone was polite and just reveling in the fact that they too were at The Masters. Like No Other.

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