Leon Hove couldn’t believe his eyes. The view was that impressive.
As Hove walked into the historic Augusta National golf course, the 72-year-old Washington resident was impressed by its scenic beauty and its perfectly manicured playing areas.
Hove was able to take in the 2014 Masters in early April at Augusta National in Augusta, Ga., watching a practice round while taking in the scenery.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I’ve been to some of the finest courses in the Chicago area and none of them compare to what I saw at Augusta.”
The Masters is one of the four major championships in professional golf. It’s held every year at Augusta National Golf Club, one of the most famous courses in the nation.
Tickets to the event are available by random selection. And after years of trying, Hove’s name was finally chosen.
“I won their lottery,” Hove explained. “You sign up on the Internet and they draw names. There’s only a certain number of tickets available. I tried for several years and they drew my name this year.”
Hove was able to purchase four tickets at $50 apiece for the Monday practice round. For such a prestigious event, Hove said the ticket prices were very reasonable. He then offered his other three tickets to friends, who jumped at the chance to join him. Hove was surprised he was able to find an affordable hotel near Augusta, too.
“We found a room for two people for $150 a night and I thought that was pretty cheap,” he said. “I saw some that were $1,000 a night.”
Two local men, Gerry Bayless and Ron Obermark, along with Hove’s friend from Indiana (Michael Mulcahy), also attended. The friends played golf for a few days near Kentucky Lake before heading to Georgia.
Hove and his friends arrived at Augusta National on that Monday at 6 a.m. They knew rain was in the forecast.
“We had our umbrellas and rain suits ready,” he said.
Hove and his friends found a place to get coffee first, as they couldn’t get through the gate until 7 a.m. And despite some extra security measures, the morning went smoothly.
Hove noted that all the staff and workers at Augusta were as friendly as could be.
“Everybody was all smiles,” Hove said. “Everyone was so friendly and so nice. They even apologized for the extra security. All the staff wanted to help you with whatever you needed.”
Hove added that merchandise and concessions were reasonably priced, as well.
“They weren’t trying to make money on selling you things,” he said. “You could buy a Bud Light for three bucks. That’s almost as good as Wolf Hollow.”
Hove and his group finally stepped on the course at 8 a.m. or so. One of his friends had not been on many golf courses before.
Said Hove: “I said to him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘This is awesome!’”
Hove definitely agreed with his friend’s assessment.
While he has seen a lot of nice golf courses through the years, Hove noted Augusta may have been the nicest.
“It was just first class,” Hove said. “I expected the rough to be tall, it wasn’t tall at all. The rough was like two inches. It was like bent grass to me. And the fairways were so smooth. That’s what amazed me the most. The condition of the course was something. Their fairways are better than the greens of the courses around here. You could putt on their fairways.”
While watching some of the professionals practicing, Hove said he realized the course appears a bit different when you watch the tourney on television.
“Where they have the cameras set up makes a difference,” Hove said. “On one hole, the tee was off to the left of the camera, so it gives you a whole different perspective. On 12, the sand trap is right in line with the pin. All of the views on TV are different from what you see in person.”
After watching the action for awhile, bad weather came into the area, ending the day early.
“A siren blew and they said all patrons must leave the course,” Hove recalled. “They were projecting heavy rain, lightning and strong winds.”
After attempting to wait out the weather in their vehicle, they were told the day’s events were called off.
“But they said anyone who had tickets would get a refund and were also guaranteed a ticket for next year,” Hove said. “That was real nice.”
With that, Hove plans on heading back to Augusta National next year.
“I’d love to be able to go for a whole weekend,” he said. “All four of us are going back again. We just have to find out what day we’re going. And hopefully it doesn’t rain.”
Hove, who moved back to the Washington area in 1995 with wife Kathy, said golf has become a bigger part of his life since he retired.
“I played quite a bit when I was working, but I’ve played a lot more in the last four or five years since I retired,” Hove said. “I try to play Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”
Hove, who is also involved with the Lions Club and the Washington Library Board, has worked at other golf tournaments throughout the region, but enjoyed just taking in the action and the sights at Augusta.
The experience is now checked off his bucket list of courses to see in person.
And it was a trip he won’t soon forget.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “It was very much worth it.”