Masters Golf: 2009
Father-Son Third Trip to Augusta for Great Tournament
1. Travel from Memphis to Augusta, Ga. Via Atlanta
4. Link to Account of 2002 Masters Trip (scroll down)
2, At Augusta National Golf Club for Practice Round
5. Link to Account of 1994 Masters Trip (scroll down)
3. To Atlanta for Dinner with In-Laws, Flights Home
Index To Photos / Page Updated April 13, 2009 – Twenty-four photos taken by Casey Nolan and his father, Lewis Nolan, at Augusta National Golf Club during the Second Practice Round of the 2009 Masters Tournament are posted in Casey’s albums at the below link:
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By LEWIS NOLAN
After a fair amount of time spent over the last several days preparing for our third outing to the fabled Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga., by me and our terrific son, Casey Lewis Earle Nolan, my wife Betty drove me from our home in the middle of Memphis to the Memphis International Airport. It was middle of the afternoon on a Monday, April 6, 2009.
The weather forecast for Augusta calls for a bit of a wintry day tomorrow, with cloudy skies, brisk winds and a temperature ranging from 31 degrees at night to 54 degrees in the afternoon. However, since many of the about 300 azaleas planted by Betty in our Mid-Memphis front and back yards are in their full glory, I expect the Augusta golf course to be its usual magnificent self at this time of year – something I think would be akin to the front porch of heaven. The tall pine trees, lush green grasses on rolling hills and blooming dogwood and redbud trees on both sides of the fairways form a perfect backdrop to the occasional stands of multicolored azaleas that make for such splendid television pictures.
My 1 hour and 20 minutes flight from Memphis to Atlanta was on Delta Airlines, the surviving airline of a major merger with the airline that has had a major hub in Memphis for many years, Northwest Airlines. The scheduled departure time was 3:45 p.m., a time coordinated with Casey to give him some face time at his real estate development office with Clark Realty Capital at his home in Arlington, VA.
Ever since being awarded an all-expense trip to the full Masters Tournament in 1994 (see link in above chart for details about that fabulous experience), I had been entering the big Masters lottery for tickets to the warm-up Practice Rounds. I had won a pair of tickets back in 2002 and we had a great time. Casey, an avid and skilled golfer, has joined me for every outing to the Masters. A link to my account of the wonderful time at the Practice Round is also in the above chart. If interested, the only cost to enter the annual lottery for tickets to the Practice Rounds is that of a postage stamp; go to www.masters.com for an entry form. One only pays for the tickets ($35 for all-day admission to Augusta National Golf Club per person) in 2009 if notified in late August or September that the entry was successful.
After flying principally on Northwest for many years, I was pleased to see that the changeover to the surviving Delta partner was well along at the Memphis Airport. Two polite women wearing Delta uniforms in the terminal offered to help me to the proper counter, where the old Northwest signs had already been replaced. Since it was before the big rush in the afternoon and the terminal was mostly deserted, I had only a minimal wait in line. I quickly checked one bag but carried a small bag onto the smaller-than-usual, commuter plane for the flight to Atlanta.
Just in case, I had my U.S. Passport with me if needed for photo ID. But the Delta desk agent and a reasonably polite TSA security officer were satisfied to see my photo on an expired Tennessee Drivers License I carry with me in addition to the current license without a picture. Tennessee extends the privilege to senior citizens like me (age 65) of not having to undergo the hassle of picture-taking at renewal time. Nonetheless, I was still annoyed at having to remove my jacket and walking shoes to pass through an Airport metal detector, which to me seems to be a time-consuming and very expensive hangover from the terrorism attacks of the last decade.
I was carrying a paperback book by a favorite author, the late Patrick O’Brian. He is the writer of a fiction series involving the British Navy in the 1700s. O’Brien was described in a New York Times book review as the top historic fiction writer of the 20th Century, an assessment I agree with.
By chance I happened to sit in an aisle seat on the airplane next to an interesting, athletic-looking young man who was returning to San Diego after visiting with his family in Memphis. His first name is Jordan and he is a serving Captain commanding an infantry platoon in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has already served a tour of duty in dangerous Iraq but shows no signs of any wounds. My impression was that he is a fantastically dedicated and able Marine officer that the U.S. is privileged to have on duty. Jordon grew up in Virginia and went to George Mason University. He’s rather tall, rangy and muscular and of course with the obligatory crew cut and close-shaven face. I think he’s probably a bad cat in the boonies and any reasonable man would be glad to have him on their side. But he was quite friendly and seemed to enjoy our conversation.
I told him about some of my long-ago days in “the Old Corps” when I was a lowly corporal in the Marines who served for a time as the editor of the Quantico Sentry, the base newspaper where he underwent some of his training. He seemed mystified but interested when I told him how a few of the guys in the communal barracks of the mid-1960s at Quantico, VA, actually bought wigs to wear when they went bar-hopping in nearby Washington, DC in search of young chicks. Back in those days, there was a lot of anti-draft and anti-war activity going on among people in their teens and twenties and the military was decidedly unpopular in some circles.
Jordan also seemed interested in my recollections of when I was a part of the Provisional Marine Brigade called into Washington, DC to help put down riots that followed the assignation of Martin Luther King in 1968.
Like me, Jordan hugely enjoys golf and we talked about some courses we’ve played. For me, it was a joy to have a chance for a manly talk with such a dedicated young Marine who is serving our country so well. I honor him and wish him well in everything he does.
There was a uniformed, sturdy-looking young woman who boarded the plane. She was wearing the camouflage fatigues so familiar in airports these days, complete with desert combat boots and a jaunty beret. She flashed me a big grin when I said to her, “Bless you” as she passed by me in the airplane aisle. I must add that it deeply bothers me to see so many in our country’s young generation giving so much of themselves to serve in the military in a stupid war that I think we were duped into entering.
The Delta flight arrived in Atlanta on time. It took a ride in the underground train and a walk of 10-to-15 minutes to get from my gate to the meeting spot suggested by Casey, by a huge skeleton sculpture of a dinosaur in the Food Court near the airport’s main security office. He arrived a few minutes later and we made our way to the Budget Rental Car office. They upgraded my reservation to a Toyota SUV, which had plenty of room for our bags plus comfortable seats. We had to wait for a few minutes for the red vehicle to be washed, a much quicker service than we experienced seven years ago when Budget was completely out of cars for nearly an hour due to the heavy Masters traffic.
All in all, the costs of airfare, rental car and super-premium rate for a motel room were significant, but a fair price to pay to see what I believe is the finest golf course in the world at its very prettiest with play by some of the best golfers in the world. Plus it just can’t get any better for a proud father to have his son at his side for three days at one of the most magnificent sporting events in the world.
Due to the caution to generally avoid driving I had received several months earlier from one of the neurosurgeons following my multiple surgeries and extended hospitalization during recovery from a brain aneurysm in March, 2006, Casey handled all the driving for us in the SUV. We made it from the Atlanta airport to Interstate 20 East and on to Augusta in about 2 ½ hours, stopping only for quick food and gas one time.
Neither one of us were pleased with the motel, the Masters Inn Augusta Economy Motel on busy Washington Road. The location was fine, just off I-20 and only three or four miles from the golf club. It was the lowest priced lodging affiliated with the tournament and the only one with availability on the day I received notice by mail of winning lottery tickets (on Aug. 8, 2008). So I had booked the room with a credit card even though I knew that my tickets wouldn’t arrive until several months later when the event neared.
Trying to look at it in the best possible way, the motel was far better than some of the dismal “reviews” of the aged facility had suggested on an Internet ratings site. But while it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, we were paying a premium price for a dumpy facility - $200 a day with a two-day minimum for tired furnishings and threadbare towels. The included breakfast consisted of tiny sweet rolls and muffins, coffee and small cans of juice. I’d guess the motel’s normal rates were jacked up by a factor of at least four or five because of the demand for accommodations during tournament week. But the room did have two queen-size beds of recent vintage and a decent television with cable service. However, the toilet in Room 203 was constantly running and ould not flush properly.
Casey complained after the promised fix-it man failed to appear and obtained our quick transfer to Room 207 in the same, satellite building of the motel about 10 p.m. The beds were reasonably comfortable, but neither one of us slept very well.
Casey – who works for a first-class real estate development company (Clark Realty Capital) and routinely stays in first-class hotels when traveling around the country on business – was especially critical of the Augusta economy motel. Our room seemed to have only two temperatures – hot and cold, delivered by a window AC-heater unit installed in the exterior wall. The next day, Casey made arrangements through his beautiful and admirably efficient wife, Caroline, to book a room at the upscale Downtown Atlanta Sheraton for our second night; he paid for it with frequent traveler “points” earned with his Starwood Hotels credit card.