This is the one week of the year that Jim’s friends wish they were him. The other fifty one his laundry detail makes his life a little less appealing, but this week, his life is the bomb.
As the week kicks off, friends call. Friends e-mail. Friends stop him on the street. They want to go over every tiny detail of his itinerary. They want to be reminded how he became the luckiest man in northern New England. They want to drool a bit over what life has in store for him for four glorious days. You see, tomorrow morning, Jim will be eating grits in the clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Course. Then he will set off into the wild green yonder and watch a little golf.
Our story begins in 1990 when, after a good decade of serious effort, Jim managed to get two of the most coveted tickets in sports. Jim landed two big fish, tickets to the Masters golf tournament for the Saturday and Sunday rounds. He and his brother Stephen went down for the two rounds. It was a peak moment for both of them. The next year they returned without tickets, determined to find a way back in. Miraculously, they managed to procure two passes with what I thought was an insipid sign reading, “Two New Englanders Want Tickets”.
During those first two years, Jim and Stephen made friends with another Tom Watson fan. Together they followed Watson round after round. By year three, this Tom Watson fan revealed that his family were members of Augusta and that the Sheehan brothers were now on the list to receive tickets each year. This detail always seems to get golfers of any ilk to fall to their knees in wonder and awe. The ticket of tickets offered to Jim and Stephen on an annual basis? I have seen grown men weep when they hear this piece of data.
It’s usually sometime in January when the annual official invite comes. Their friend with his distinctive southern drawl calls to see if those Sheehan boys want to make the trip again to walk this course of courses. Jim and Stephen’s spirits perk up immediately. It may be thirty below zero in Meriden with a stiff wind out of the north, but now they know spring will come after all, if not to Meriden, New Hampshire then to Augusta, Georgia.
This is Jim’s seventeenth trip down Magnolia Lane. He has a lot of stories now and knows a lot of fun facts about the course and the people that populate its beautiful fairways. Jim knows how many urinals are in the upstairs men’s bathroom of the clubhouse. He seems to have run into half of Hollywood and all of the PGA tour in this bathroom. He knows the shortcuts from hole to hole and walked one side by side with Tiger Woods last year. He has seen the wine cellar as well as the press tent. He has brought me every cookbook ever sold at the tournament and a lot of used plastic glasses with the Masters registered trademark all over them too. He has eaten a lot of fabulous pimento cheese sandwiches and even some sandwiches they call catfood. He has learned so much about this golf tournament that I half expect him to return home wearing a green jacket.
Out in Augusta at large, he knows when the Krispy Kreme donuts get rolling down the conveyor belt each morning. He always brings Willy and Emily home a dozen each because we don’t have Krispy Kremes up here in the arctic north. He knows the restaurants where the lines are four hours long and he knows the places where the food is so bad you can be seated in four minutes. Masters week is a world unto itself for Jim and never was there a man who deserved this treat more.
This morning as he prepared to set off, we laughed about the year that the local paper and the local, now defunct, television station both did stories about Jim and brother Stephen going to the Masters. A film crew actually came to the local airport to film Jim and Stephen getting on the plane to go to Augusta. Okay, so we have very little nice weather up here in the north country, but we also have very little crime. Papers and television reporters are always looking for anything even resembling a news story. So one year everyone thought this was news! And around here it actually was.
Their generous friend with the tickets thought this media frenzy was quite a funny story. As they wandered the course that year, their friend told various captains of industry all about Jim and Stephen being feted for being the only folks in New Hampshire to make it to the Masters. One crusty industrial giant got a little confused about the details of the story and asked “Jim, do you own the paper?” Heady stuff for a sixth grade teacher.
So Jim if you are in the press tent checking out the blog and filing your report for CBS, know that everything fine on the home front. Just don’t forget the Krispy Kremes.
Jim sets off. Riley and May May still think they are going too.
Will thinking about his Krispy Kremes. Hey did I mention it snowed?