The most beautiful place on Earth

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By Ryan Naus

I am not good at golf.

Wait, not good doesn’t do my skills justice. I’m terrible.

I’ve only gotten out and played a couple times, but despite my skills, I love the game.

I can go out and stink it up for 18 holes, but there is always that one shot or one putt that is perfect and makes me fall in love with the game and makes me want to come back.

It’s the game that is so frustrating, but so relaxing.

But it took me a while to get to this place.

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., but even though I was living in the heart of golf’s greatest treasure, all the Masters meant to me was spring break and traffic.

It also meant that some of my friends rented out their homes to corporations or incoming patrons.

Growing up, I took tennis lessons over by the Augusta National and it meant that my parents would have to leave the house early to make a trip that normally took about 15 minutes. Instead, it took about 45 because even during the middle of the tournament, there was traffic.

It seemed like there was non-stop traffic from the Sunday before the tournament through the Monday after the tournament ended.

Although I didn’t care about golf, I knew that the Masters was special. Even if we didn’t watch the first three rounds, we’d always watch on Sunday to see who was going to earn the right to wear a green jacket.

My senior year, one of my friends, whose family lived near the National and had tickets every year, invited me to go to a practice round with her.

I learned all the rules about leaving your cell phone at home and making sure you eat a pimento cheese or chicken sandwich. I jumped on the opportunity more to be able to say I had been to the Masters than my desire to see the world’s best golfers.

But as I entered the gate, I realized that I was becoming a part of something special.

To say that the National is a slice of heaven on Earth isn’t fair. It is an oasis of beautiful azaleas and well manicured grass surrounded by strip malls on one side and beautiful old Augusta homes on “The Hill” on the other side.

As I was walking the course, I was talking to my friend, but I started to understand why so many people revere this course.

It is gorgeous. It’s breathtaking. It’s all the words that mean beautiful.

My greatest time was being able to go my freshman year of college during an actual day of the tournament.

After moving from Augusta to Presbyterian College (a short hour and 15 minute trip down some beautiful back roads), the National still had a grip on me.

We went the Saturday that Phil Mickelson, who just won his third Masters this past week, won his first Masters.

I haven’t felt homesick for Augusta in a while. But watching the tournament last week, I thought back to what Augusta means to me.

To so many, it’s the home of the Masters. But as I hear people talk about how beautiful the National is, I take pride in knowing that it is in my hometown.

I thought back to the times that I’ve been to the National, but I thought more about the time that I spent in my hometown goofing off. For most of the year, the National was this fenced off part of Augusta, but during Masters week, it became something magical.

It’s never easy to leave the place you grew up, but I know that I have a piece of Augusta in my heart for the rest of my life.

And I’m reminded of just how much that piece of my heart means to me every April.

(Ryan Naus is the sports writer for the Grant County News. He can be reached at 824-3343 or by e-mail at rnaus@grantky.com.)