Long Way Back to The Masters - 1998 to 2024

Long Way Back to The Masters - 1998 to 2024

It has been seventeen years since my last Masters and twenty-six years since my first.   Thinking back on life and the ride we’ve all been on since April of 1998, here is my personal account:

Worked at Yellowstone for a month in ’98; Deferred completing college after finishing sophomore year in ’99;

September 11, 2001; 

Participated in two wars while Active Duty (OEF ’01, OIF ’03);   

(Ali Al Salem, Kuwait 2003)

Married a good gal in ’03;   

Lost my dad in '13; 

Lived in Europe two different times, before and with kids, three years each stint;

Attended four Opens (’08 Birkdale, ’09 Turnberry, ’10 St. Andrews, ’18 Carnoustie); one Ryder Cup in ’18 and a handful of Players Championships and other tournaments; 

Watched The Masters a few times in the UK and twice in Norway, both locations with great friends (read about Warrior Spirit);         

Ventured to Afghanistan six times between 2008-2010; Traveled all over Europe, to include a few trips to Ukraine after the ‘14 Euromaidan revolution and before the Russian Invasion in ’22;

Visited the Horn of Africa in ’18 (Djibouti) where there are several thousand American and Chinese Forces living a long par-5 from one another;  

(Rental Car in Djibouti)

My wife and I triumphantly built a family of “fore” over the last eleven years, our #1 Highlight, while trademarking the #1 Hat in Golf.

The world has been an unpredictable and crazy place since Mark O’ Meara won his first and only Masters.  

The Saudi’s are now a major influence in Golf while we help them fight a war against Iran and Houthi Rebels.  Top Golf is expanding all over Europe while a war rages on the continent. 

Women now have their own Amateur event at Augusta National.   Almost every player warms up with a launch monitor.  Almost every player works out, on purpose. 

Tigers Woods won fourteen majors during that time (’98 to ’19). 

The COVID thing happened.    

FutureBirdies hatched in April 2022.         

While my friends scouted their next cold beverage stand and bathroom mission (men aged 40-55 years), these thoughts consumed my soul during my return trip to The Masters this week. 

As much as the world has changed in twenty-six years, the more I realized The Masters patron experience has barely changed at all.  Any “major” changes are almost completely subtle and unnoticeable, 100% focused on making the patron experience authentic. 

Course lengthening, proliferation of subsurface drying systems, Eisenhower tree removal (ice storm), new press facility, and other minor tweaks making the place even more perfect than it already is.

Some of the more famous traditions remain undisturbed.   The patron reserved chair-seating policy, inflation-proof pimento and egg-salad sandwiches, and NO CELL PHONES. 

Humans are forced to interact, have real conversations, and ask questions with no immediate search tool for answers if unknown.     

The experience seemed more vivid this time, not being overwhelmed by the property or hysteria after getting the “golden ticket” (thanks boss).  I did not have to think about the life I was going to build in my 20's, 30's and mid-way through my 40's.   The restlessness and uncertainty of being a teenager was a distant memory. 

Not sure when I will be back, hoping it will not be another seventeen years. I am excited about the possibility of going back with two teenagers, still loving golf (fingers crossed), excited about their future.  They might feel a bit overwhelmed like we all did at nineteen, but they'll also be dreaming about the adventures ahead of them.

Think about your journey in between your Masters experiences.  Thanks for letting me share mine.  

Ben

 

Anecdote - We met a 90-year old man, named “Gerald”, who owned a sunglass concession at the tournament for 50-years.  He has attended The Masters every year for the last seventy (70) and seemed just as happy to be there as he did in 1954.  He said the tournament, “is just as good as it ever was.”