When a guy named Tiger and a guy named Me played Royal Porthcawl in Wales, the picture of my wretched golf game came into clear perspective.

We were on the par 5 17th hole at Royal Porthcawl, a championship links
course overlooking the Bristol Channel and Swansea Bay in southern

Tiger Woods stepped up and launched a rifle shot so very, very far down the fairway. He hit it so long his ball could have landed in England. Well, maybe not that long. But I’d have to rent a car to ever drive
that far.

I knew this Tiger dude was good, but, geez, he followed his tee boom by holing out his second shot for an albatross. Say what? Albatross. That’s golf speak for a 2 on a par 5.

My drive resembled a marshmallow musket shot, sort of soft and puffy. And my fairway wood second still landed shy of Tiger’s drive. So thanks
Tiger, for splashing insult on my long-held feelings of golf impotence. I ended up taking a 7 on the 17th and finished with my usual high 80s

Oh, did I mention that Tiger and I weren’t playing together or even in the same year at Royal Porthcawl? Tiger’s fete came during a practice round at the 1995 Walker Cup matches, pitting top U.S. amateurs against the best ams from Great Britain and Ireland.

I took my shot two years later, playing Royal Porthcawl on a buddies’ golf trip through Scotland, England and Wales. The reason I know where Tiger’s drive landed is because Porthcawl course officials marked the spot with a plaque.

Incidentally, Porthcawl officials tell me Tiger’s plaque no longer exists. They removed it years ago because it slowed up play. Golfers
would hit extra shots from the plaque site to see if they could match Tiger’s albatross.

The only plaque I’ve ever owned also is being removed--at my next dental appointment in two weeks.

“Is this heaven?”
“It’s Augusta National...it’s the place where dreams come true.”
“Maybe this is heaven.”

April 9, 2013, a date they can chisel on my tombstone, marks the day I visited golf’s version of heaven on earth.

I’ve prayed for decades to visit this Field of Dreams, the Masters at Augusta National, but never thought I’d get the chance.

Over 60-plus years, I’ve attended U.S. Opens, PGA Championships, a Ryder Cup, even the 1997 Open Championship at Troon in Scotland, but never the Masters.

My Masters dream came true last year when we secured Tuesday practice round tickets. My daughter (Chicago teacher/artist Kristie Keenon--visit kristiekeenon.com) and I spent a morning and afternoon exploring the course where the golfing gods have competed since 1934.

We’ve all seen the majesty of the Masters cathedral on TV--the towering pines, live oaks planted 150 years ago, dogwoods, azaleas and ornamental shrubs that adorn the Augusta National golfscape.

These heavenly images are marvelous, but you don‘t get a true sense of Augusta’s rolling terrain, course layout and how each hole fits until you walk it, until you “feel it with your feet.”

We spent five hours on the course before we recorded our first bogey. And it was a MAJOR MASTERS BOGEY. We lost our car, couldn’t remember where we parked. Tournament workers rescued the clueless couple, assuring us we weren’t the first patrons (err, idiots) to forget where they parked. They squired us around on a golf cart for TWO AND A HALF HOURS over acres and acres of parking areas before we found our ride home--right where we left it.

Our final Masters scorecard reads: 5 hours on course, 2 ½ hours looking for car. We’d really like a mulligan on that one, a second shot at visiting the Masters.

Is this heaven? Yes it is, and we’ll keep knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door, praying to God they’ll let us back in.

Best “cheap eats” at a major sporting event? The Masters Tournament is the runaway leader in the clubhouse.

While food prices at most big-time sports events cost a pretty penny, you pay a pittance at the Masters.

Sandwiches range from $1.50 to $3, beverages from $1.50 (soft drink) to $4 (imported beer), and snacks from $1 to $2. Good golly, Masters Molly, you can’t get a decent sandwich and drink anywhere on the planet for under $10.

The Masters dishes up tasty fare, too, good enough to satisfy this pedestrian palate. We wolfed down the Masters classic, a pimento cheese sandwich, along with an egg salad sandwich, washed down with Diet Coke chasers. Total bill for our twosome: $6. I passed on dessert, the Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich, for an extra two bucks. A blogger has to maintain his figure, after all.

Cheap eats, yes. Our fat wallets lost their load, however, after a visit to the Masters merchandise area. The continuous cha-chings of the cash register still ring in my head a year later. But you can’t leave the Masters without souvenirs, right? Bottom line: Lunch, $6; Masters merchandise, several hundred dollars.

Just saying…

the despair
a hack like me
Pines for the blessed Ike

Yes, the most famous tree in golf, the Eisenhower Tree, is a mere memory.

In February, Mother Nature accomplished what the 34th president of the
United States couldn’t--deliver a knockout punch to the 80-foot-tall loblolly pine that stood 210 yards off the 17th tee at Augusta National.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s tee shots tangled with
the tree so often in the 1950s that he asked club officials to remove it.
Request denied, Mr. President. But we will name the tree after you, sir.

There’s no denying Mother Nature. Her ice storm damaged
the tree so extensively that it had to be taken down, forever changing the landscape of the Masters Tournament.

Your Bogeyville Blogger snapped this shot of the Eisenhower Tree last year at Tuesday’s practice round for the Masters. (Who let this hack on the grounds, anyway?). 

fond farewell
thee old friend
indeed is a sad end