AUGUSTA, Ga. – Call me Charlie Bucket.
Or I guess you could call me Augustus Gloop, given the rate at which I consumed Masters Club sandwiches over the last week at Augusta National.
Either one suits me just fine, because I've got a golden ticket.
Ticket No. 057 to be exact, which will hereafter be known as Lucky No. 57, the ticket that allowed me and my 12 handicap – selectively estimated, of course – to play Augusta National Golf Club on Monday.
I was one of 28 media members covering the Masters last week to win the lottery to play the course the day after the tournament concluded. I don't remember much about how I reacted after reading my name on the list, other than covering my mouth out of fear – and uncertainty – of what would come out, and that I texted my dad as soon as I got back to my car.
We were gathered up for a meeting on Sunday to go over the ground rules – all of which were common sense to golfers, like, you know, bring golf clubs and don't dress like a hobo – and were told that we'd be playing the exact same setup as the final round of the tournament.
Later that night, shortly after filing my final story of the week, I had one goal: Beat 7 on No. 12.
We'll get back to that.
We were treated as if we were members for the day, and that included a drive down Magnolia Lane.
One does not simply drive down Magnolia Lane. The Google Maps car got chased away from Magnolia Lane. The closest I had come to driving down Magnolia Lane was by watching players' recordings of themselves driving down Magnolia Lane.
Given that golden opportunity, I milked it for as long as I could. I drove roughly 4 miles per hour, with Andre 3000 narrating from the CD player, because it was an experience I didn't want to end. And that was before I even got onto the course.
I walked around before my tee time, more Ricky Bobby than Rickie Fowler: I wasn't sure what to do with my hands.
I met my playing partners, guys from media outlets in Australia, New York and Texas.
"How long is your trip home?"
"About 18 hours of flights. Yours?"
"About an 18-mile drive."
I called upon the wisdom of Arnold Palmer – if it works for The King, it will work for me – for my tee shot on No. 1. Arnie, back from a long layoff in time for last year's ceremonial opening tee shot, just didn't want to miss the ball.
Of course, Palmer was 85 years old at the time and hadn't hit a golf ball in five months after injuring his shoulder in a fall at home. I just hadn't hit range balls, thanks to my beloved 2003 Ford Taurus not wanting to start on the worst possible day for a car to not want to start.
I didn't miss, thankfully, though I did briefly black out on the downswing, and I did a little pre-planning by hitting it closer to the eighth green than the short grass on No. 1.
I didn't hit a shot solidly until my third on the second hole, where the green funnels the ball from near the center back to a back-right pin location. Naturally, I disregarded that, starting my 7-iron approach from 171 yards right of the green, allowing it to fade back – yes, I'm a lefty – toward the pin. Call it a reverse Oosthuizen. I left myself about 8 feet for birdie, which I converted. I immediately contemplated giving up the game for good, as nothing would top a birdie at Augusta National, but we pressed on.
That earlier planning trip to No. 8 paid off in the form of a par on the lengthy par 5, and I made up for missing the first fairway by hitting into it from the ninth tee.
Pro tip: Hitting into adjacent fairways can very infrequently result in a clearer shot at the green. It's worth the trip.
Of course, it's not like hitting into the wrong fairway was as catastrophic as it would have been during the week; tens of thousands of people weren't lining each fairway. Instead, we had the place pretty much all to ourselves, save for the occasional potential Slugworths driving by on golf carts.
I birdied 9 from the first fairway after hitting a wedge from 130 yards – my magic distance for the day – to about 15 feet. Jar. Out of nowhere, I had turned in 41, which was approximately 36 fewer shots than I had expected.
I had 40 putts during my round, which would've been by far the worst in this year's Masters field, and it was by far the best I've felt about my own putting. I've heard people say that putting at Augusta National is like putting on glass, but that only focuses on the speed while neglecting the undulation. Putting at Augusta National is like putting on blown glass – beautiful, slick and requiring a very careful touch.
I showed no such touch on 11, blasting a 319-yard drive so far right of my target line that it actually went over the trees and ended up safe. Or, and this is more plausible, the ball was thrown back by the people in the Coca-Cola trucks near the concessions stand. If only Bryson DeChambeau had experienced the same luck Friday on 18.
I truly felt like I was in midseason form when I made par on 11 from 81 yards out. Much of my game is molded after Phil Mickelson's, the default lefty comparison during most of my golfing life, but I somehow missed the wedges. You know, the best part.
You don't get cut loose in the chocolate factory without sampling the Fizzy Lifting Drink, and you don't go to Augusta National to lay up. With that in mind, I found the trees with my tee shot on the par-5 13th and put my second shot on the par-5 15th in the water. Fortune favors the bold, obviously.
I found the water again on 16, the cruel wind knocking down my 9-iron aimed perfectly at Verne Lundquist's perch in the TV tower.
But none of those compare to 12, Golden Bell, the spot where Jordan Spieth gave away the green jacket by hitting the ball in the water twice, the second a chunk that had no chance of clearing Rae's Creek, on his way to a 7.
My goal, as alluded to earlier, was to beat Spieth's quadruple bogey.
My 9-iron tee shot was short, finding the water. My third shot, from the drop zone, was a chunk that Truffle Shuffled its way right into the water. My fifth, also from the drop zone, went long of the green.
I made 7. There are worse things in life than being equal to the best golfer in this and all other galaxies.
The only sad part of the day was the unwelcome sign of No. 18, as it represented the beginning of the end of a day it would be foolish to even dream of. I made sure to slow my stride a little, because it was an experience I didn't want to end.
I gave myself a great look at birdie, basically Phil Mickelson's putt to win the 2004 Masters, and I began wondering how it would be received were I to jump in the air upon making the putt.
It didn't matter. The ball never broke back left at the end – which stunned my caddie, much like other parts of my game, hopefully both good and bad – and I signed for an 85. Not bad for a 12.
As I gathered my things and waited for the valet to bring my car around – again not knowing what to do with my hands – I thought back to what one of the women in the media center sweetly told me days earlier when I found out I had won the lottery.
"You can stop smiling now."
Nope. Not a chance.
This article was written by Kyle Dawson from Aiken Standard, S.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.