Day before the flight
When we first thought about offering one of our customers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to come with us Augusta for the Masters, it sounded like a great idea. All we had to do was make it happen, but that was way back last summer and so there was ages to go yet...
It also seemed a long way off when we got together with Your Golf Travel to source the packages the customer would win, and still a long way off when we teamed-up with OnlineGolf.co.uk to run the competition to win a pair of tickets, flights and accommodation for the 2016 tournament.
It started to get real when we emailed the winner to tell her she had won the tickets and would be going to Augusta, and then even more real when she didn't believe us because it was such an amazing prize and we had to promise her we weren't joking!
But it got REALLY real when this arrived: our 2016 Masters pack: lanyards and wallets to carry our tickets in; guides to the course and the tournament; details of our flights - and even the telephone number of the guide who's going to be looking after us when we're there.
We fly on Thursday: there might not be any Stewart Golf trolleys on the course at Augusts but at least there's going to be some Stewart Golf customers in the crowd!
Day 1 of the trip
Needing an armed state trooper to escort us back through into customs to retrieve a suitcase we had left completely unattended for about 45 minutes at Atlanta International Airport wasn’t quite the start we were anticipating to our Masters Adventure, but it didn’t turn out all bad.
As well as getting the suitcase back, our oddly friendly but heavily armed official turned out to be a huge golf fan who gave us what looked like a great tip - Jordan Speith to win - and also gave us our first Masters lesson: it’s not just about the golf, it’s about the food too.
We’ve brought two Stewart Golf customers - Jonathan and Jane Blake, from Hampshire - to the Masters with Your Golf Travel after they won a competition we ran with Online Golf at the end of last year and the beginning of this. We flew in yesterday from London and are at the tournament on Sunday to see the 2016 Masters champion crowned. We’re off to Augusts today but not to the Masters: we’re playing golf instead, this time at Forest Hills Golf Club.
But there were three things Trooper Antidade said we absolutely had to try before we watched or played any golf: waffles; Chick-fil-A; and grits. Thankfully, not all at the same time.
Sadly, none were on the menu at the restaurant we found last night - but the golf was. The tournament may be in Augusta, but everywhere in Georgia claims the Masters - we’re staying in Athens, about 90 minutes drive from Augusta, and almost every bar or restaurant in the city had a monster TV on the wall and there’s only one show in town: golf.
A Good Old Boy Salad and a mixed berry pie had to take the place of waffles and Chick-fil-A, but we did get to try grits at breakfast this morning and no matter how big his gun is Trooper Antidade is wrong about them…
Sunday at The Masters
On any other day, a 4.45am alarm call is NOT what you want to be getting. On the day you're going to the Masters, you wake up pretty much every hour wishing it would happen!
The Stewart Golf customers we've brought to Augusta with us as part of a competition we ran with Online Golf and Your Golf Travel came with us to play at the Georgia Club, and that only whetted our appetites for today: visually, it's a very similar course, so we know what to expect.
All the shorts and tee-shirts we packed have been jettisoned: it's jeans jumpers today, with temperatures likely to be in the 50s rather than the 80s of previous years.
The viewing plan is all sorted too: walk every hole then settle down in one of the grandstands by the 15th green to see that hole plus 16 and the tee shots on 17.
Bring it on!
A British winner of The Masters
Honestly, if we'd have known that a Brit was going to wait for Stewart Golf to be at the Masters to win it again we'd have come years ago!
Everything about yesterday turned out to be perfect: the journeys; the Southern welcome; the food; the food prices ($15 for sandwiches and drinks for four people that would have cost £40 anywhere else!); the weather; the viewing positions we got right by the 18th green; the weather; the course; the golf; and finally the result.
It's difficult to sum up the course in a few words but the one thing you get NO sense of on the TV is the change in elevation: from the tenth tee to the tenth green it's the equivalent of a ten-storey building!
And long: 23,000+ steps around when a "normal" course is c18,000.
For the winners of our competition - and for us - it was a day we'll never forget and a trip we'll never forget - if only we had had the foresight instead of "buy a Stewart Golf trolley and you could win a trip for two to the Masters" to say "buy a British-built Stewart Golf trolley and see the frst British golfer in 20 years win the Masters"!