Have you seen the movie Antz? Woody Allen plays the unlikely hero as a neurotic worker ant. His adventure saves the colony and princess against the evil ant general. Z, (ant Woody) escapes with her highness to a place called "Insect Utopia." Actually it's a garbage dump, ripe with all things luscious and beautiful to little fliers and crawlers. They buzz and slither around in a hypnotic state.
Last week I had such an experience. Good friends, Dr. Henry "Painless" and Laura Antolak, went on line early last year and snagged tickets to Wednesday's festivities at Augusta.
That's right. My wife and I were on a collision course with "Golfer's Utopia."
We were going to pay homage to the most beautiful golf course in the world, Augusta National, home of the Master's Tournament.
Golf is chess with sand, water, wind, and trees
The tube doesn't do Augusta National justice. The beauty and ambiance were so overwhelming people were walking trancelike around the course….and those were the pros.
The rest of us sauntered around dazed as we walked amongst legends. We inhaled the azaleas and took in the shimmering pristine ponds in Amen Corner, traversed by the Hogan, Nelson, and Sarazen bridges. Towering pines lurked, with wind vane tops to instruct the players on club selection. The sand traps are so alluring you want to jump in them just to experience what pros see as they opt to blast out. Augusta greens are hallowed and feared for their slick hidden undulations and fringes that cast miss-hits into disaster.
As we hiked up the 14th fairway, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player ambled closer in an ancient hunt for their balls, laughing and joking after 50 years of competing with each other. My shy wife, Joni, shouted, "We love you Gary!" He stopped, blew her a kiss, removed his hat and bowed to her. I reciprocated by giving Gary a bald bend, surely blinding him as he flubbed his next shot.
I knew a golfer that was so unlucky that when they went to bury him he lipped out
Then we funneled to the stands on the 16th, a peninsula par three with lake from tee to green. That's where we found out about "skipping at the Masters." In practice rounds fans demand that the golfers hit a second tee shot from the base of the lake. The idea is to skip the ball off water then onto the green.
After several groups played through and skipped to the amusement of the throngs, up came Nicklaus, Player, and the European Amateur Champion. After hitting their drives, the "SKIP, SKIP, SKIP…" chant built to high pitch in the crowd. Up first, Player chose the multi-skip and his ball sank just before the green. The amateur skipped it once and the dimpled orb hydroplaned onto the green four feet from the hole. Amazing!
Then it was Jacks turn.
Nicklaus dropped his ball, addressed it, and then broke his rhythm to face the crowd: "Anyone got an old ball?" he asked. I responded, "I have two!" We all had a nice laugh and I got to play standup to Jack Nicklaus's straight man.
Golf: It's the hole thing
Later, we witnessed the par three tournament played on an adjacent nine hole course. What a blast! Those out of contention were letting their caddies play and small children in the crowd were encouraged to putt.
One of the last threesomes to compete was those same legends as above, joined by the patriarch of them all, Arnold Palmer.
On the last hole of the day, these kids, Jack (68), Gary (72) and Arnie (79) each thumped tee shots to within 12 feet of the hole. Jack just missed a hole in one on what was his and Gary's last of 27 holes played that day.
This extraordinary scene may never happen again.
But in my mind and the millions that witnessed it, it'll be replayed forever.
Wonder who Tiger will be playing with in 35 years, that is, if he isn't done traumatizing the golf world with his total dominance.
Whoever it is, it'll have to go a long way to out-drive the Big Three.
Meanwhile, I'll enjoy my "golf utopia" with every shot I take. I may even stop taking mulligans and gimmes.
Well, that's going a little far, but you catch my drift.