Augusta National

I Won The Lottery

So let me tell you about every shot I hit at Augusta National

You may have heard that there is no running or cell phones allowed at Augusta National Golf Club. So on Friday of the 2024 Masters, after Chris Solomon of No Laying Up informed me behind the 10th tee that I had won the media lottery and would be playing the course on Monday, I speed-walked in record time to the pay phone bank behind 13 green. When my dad saw “The Masters” pop up on his phone, he knew something was up. Before I could say anything, he shouted: “If you are calling to tell me that you won the lottery I’m hanging up the fucking phone.” 

Of course he didn’t. I got my obsession with the game through him. He introduced me to it as a boy, and still gives me lessons at 29. We laughed, groaned in disbelief, talked about what to hit off No. 10 and, at one point, just let the giddy silence linger. It was my first time as a credentialed media member at the Masters and I had just won the ultimate prize: 18 holes at the golf course I’ve dreamed of playing since first picking up a club. Dad and I have had worse calls from pay phones. 

Any three-day wait to play Augusta would have been painful. Mine could have been disastrous. A close member of our family was getting married on Saturday in New York. I had always planned to fly up for the wedding, then back to catch the final round. Suddenly I was faced with a stomach-churning dilemma: Miss the family wedding or leave a tee time at Augusta National in the hands of (gulp) Boeing. On Saturday morning, I boarded a 7 a.m. flight from Augusta Regional Airport, made the wedding, danced my ass off, and, by the grace of the Charlotte connection gods, walked back onto the grounds of ANGC some 30 hours later. A second lottery in three days.

On Monday, I arrived exactly one minute after my designated arrival time (I didn’t want to seem too eager). The barricade lowered and I drove 6 mph down Magnolia Lane. At bag drop, I was informed that there was a breakfast buffet available in the clubhouse. “That’s awesome,” I replied. “What’s the fastest way to the range?” I hit it surprisingly well in warmups considering my feet never really touched the ground. Then I embarrassed myself for awhile on the putting green, racing putts 10, 12, 20 feet past the hole. After one of the longest hours of my life, we were shuttled back up to the clubhouse, through a narrow breezeway and onto the first tee. It was officially go time.  

Of all the golf archetypes, perhaps my least favorite is the “let me tell you about every shot I hit today” person. We all know who they are, and bless their oversharing hearts. But, as we all know by now, the green jackets play by their own rules. A tidal wave of people have reached out about my experience, wondering if No. 5 is that tough, where to hit it on 13, and if 18 is really that narrow. So, fore please, let me tell you about every shot I hit at Augusta National.

Andy Tupman Masters Augusta 2023
Photo by Andy Tupman

No. 1: 365 yards

We’re playing the members tees (6,365 yards) and Sunday pins. My caddie, Chandler, confidently tells me to rip driver off the first. He’s Augusta born-and-raised, so I don’t question it. I’m so juiced up that I roast it up the left center and the ball rips through the trees and out the other side, just short of No. 9 tee. 

From 98 yards, I have a surprisingly good look at the green. I take it over the trees and stick it eight feet behind the hole. With my adrenaline now fully surging—a birdie on the first??—my birdie putt lips out hard. My heart rate is still through the roof, and I have no shot on the three-footer coming back. A heel-pull never touches the hole. Sweet three-putt 5 to start. 

No. 2: 515 yards

We clear the bunker on the right and have 191 in. The downhill lie plays more defense than I anticipated against the approach. Afraid to hit it fat, I push it back in my stance right before I take it back. Just enough to tug it into the front-left bunker. 

I’ve never been more excited to play from a bunker before, and come up about 12 feet short. Even though I’m pumped for another birdie try, it’s pure lightning and Chandler says it breaks about four feet left-to-right. A lag all the way. Stress-free par and the nerves are settled. 

No. 3: 340 yards 

During the tournament, I wrote about the brutally difficult pitch shot from short left of No. 3 green, especially to the Sunday pin. So, despite Chandler urging me to hit driver, I elect to hit 3-wood to give myself a full wedge in. The smart play! Of course, I block it in the right trees and have to pitch out to the exact place I was avoiding. 

Scottie Scheffler holed this shot when he won in 2022, and I saw him play the same exact bump-and-trickle into the hill on Thursday of this year. I take my 54-degree, land it three-quarters of the way up the slope and it releases to three feet past the hole. Maybe the best shot I’ve ever hit. Par. 

No. 4: 170 yards

Double-cross 6-iron left. Pitch up to 7 feet. Lip out the par putt. Bogey. Just hit it to the center, Bannon. 

No. 5: 400 yards

Breaking news: Gap wedge from 120 in on this hole is much easier than 4-iron. Center of the green and two-putt. I’m told a 4 is always good on No. 5, no matter what tees you play. 

No. 6: 165 yards

Baffled on what to do with the back-right pin, I come up just short with 8-iron and the blood runs out of my face as Chandler looks at my putt and says dryly, “That will be fun.” I leave it six feet short, and tell Chandler I think the next one is just left edge. He replies that it’s actually two cups out. I hit it one revolution too strong and lip out for the third time in six holes. Bogey. [Insert “This is fine” meme here.]

No. 7: 330 yards

Good news: Roast a drive. 

Bad news: Leave myself 30 yards, downwind, over the bunker to a front pin. I try taking it to the back edge and let the slope funnel it down and hit it in the back bunker. Amazing!

I hit my bunker shot a grand total of three yards. It lands in the fringe, and trickles down to six inches. Par. Even more amazing! 

No. 8: 480 yards

I have 171 front, 202 to the pin from the center of the fairway. I try to draw a 5-iron but can’t get my weight through the uphill lie. I leave it between the first and second mogul on the right and think I hit the perfect pitch. But it checks up a little too much and never catches the downhill funnel. So now I’m playing defense again, this time on a 15-foot putt that breaks about five feet right-to-left. Tap-in par. I’m happy about it, I think. 

No. 9: 395 yards

Another good drive ends up in the crosswalk, which makes for a crusty, terrifying lie. From 85 yards, the plan is to get it just past the pin. Feels like I hit the perfect number to catch the backstop, but it bounces a yard too far and stays on the second tier 30 feet above the hole. When we get up there, Chandler points to a spot two feet in front of my ball and says, “There’s the hole.” I hit the spot, and about eight seconds later it dies perfectly in the center. Chandler and I embrace, and we walk to the 10th at 2 over. Had you told me I would shoot 38 on the front while I was pacing in my hotel room that morning, I most likely would have signed on the dotted line. We’re heading into the back nine at ANGC with good vibes. What else could you ask for? 

No. 10: 450 yards

First, I just need to say that No. 10 at Augusta National is a perfect golf hole. Second, I am not nervous anymore—I have a Rory bounce in my step and I’m ready to play some offense. I hit a 3-wood stinger to catch the left speed slot, leaving the same yardage, and downhill lie, as I had on No. 2. I aim a bit farther right this time and draw a 6-iron into the center of the green. Damn it feels good hitting this green, maybe even better than tapping in for par after breathing on my 30-footer down the hill.

No. 11: 400 yards

Chandler hands me 3-wood and driver on the way to the tee box and leaves me to my own devices. I know I shouldn’t hit driver, but I can’t help myself. I’ve got visions of a high fade over the trees, but chicken out and hit a low draw down the center. It barely stays in play down the left side, and I’m rewarded with a comfy sand wedge from 105, looking right down the barrel of the green.

There’s a legendary Ben Hogan bit about his ironclad strategy to purposefully miss this green to the right: “If you ever see me on the 11th green in two, you’ll know I missed my second shot,” he said. And I’ve always been with the Hawk! All these years, I’ve never understood how the best in the game could make the grave mistake of hitting it left during crunchtime (looking at you Ludvig). But as I stand over my approach, I take one last look at the hole and when my eyes return to the ball, the only thing in my mind is: “Holy shit, you’re about to hit into 11 at Augusta—don’t be the guy who misses left.”

Despite aiming 20 feet right, I get a little nervy on the downswing and the ball takes off left (Ludvig, I apologize). Somehow, I get away with it as the ball settles 10 feet left of the pin, and one harrowing yard short of the water. I Wyndham-step the putt thinking I made it, but it somehow lips out on the back edge of the hole. 

No. 12: 145 yards

Can we talk about the lip on the back of this green? Did you know there is a legit mini ski slope there? Of course I want to go at this flag. Who doesn’t? But I know I should do what Tiger, Jack, Scottie and all the greats tell you: hit in the center of the green, take your par and move on. The wind is swirling in every direction. I look at Chandler and he shrugs. Thanks, partner. I wait until it’s in my face a touch and then flush a chippy 8-iron right at the heart. Somehow, it lands on that back lip and bounds forward onto the downslope of the back bunker. I would now like a word with Tiger, Jack and Tom Fazio (or whoever the hell put the lip there). 

From the back bunker, you have one option to keep it on the green and out of Rae’s Creek: land your shot on the upslope of the fringe and hope that kills it. I do just that, and even catch a piece of the hole on the way by, but off that severe downhill lie it never has a chance. Another caddie stops my ball just before it rolls all the way down the bank. 

Full transparency: After all the pictures we took on 11 and the bridge, I’m informed on the green that our group has been put on the clock and needs to hurry up. Technically, I never finish 12. If you wish to put a giant asterisk next to my score, I do not blame you. At minimum, it is grounds for me to return as soon as possible for a complete round at some point in my life.

No. 13: 455 yards

I hit 3-wood dead straight, but deep into the trees. From there, I hit a low-hook 5-iron punch to leave myself 129—a wedge shot I’ve always wanted to hit. The ball is well above my feet. I’m so excited that I know I need to take a little bit off this one. I start a choke-down pitching wedge out over the creek and it begins to draw. It sticks six feet left of the hole, pin high. 

Clocks be damned, all four caddies get in on this read—even Darryl, who has been at Augusta for 40 years, needs to give it a look from both sides. Finally Ryan, a veteran looper who caddied for me at Tree Farm a year prior, points to a spot two cups out left and says, “No doubt that’s your spot. Keep your head down and release it down the line.” 

Dead center. Birdie on 13. Best feeling ever. 

No. 14: 380 yards

This is getting fun. With the accessible hole locations on 14 and 15 coming up, I get way ahead of myself and start thinking about making three in a row. I rip a drive, leaving just 80 yards into the hole. When I crest the fairway and see the green, I’m stunned. Maybe it had been lost overnight; it was a shade of whitish-yellow that I’d never seen on a green before. It was absolutely cooked! 

If you love Sunday at The Masters, then you know exactly where to hit this next shot: to the back left ridge, where the slope will feed it to the hole. Chandler doesn’t need to tell me anything. I hit it right where I’m looking, but forget to factor in the baked green. It takes a massive hop and, somehow, stays on the very top of the fringe. Chandler and I both keel over in pain. He says I was a foot from a tap in, but now the best I can do is 10 feet past the hole. I walk away with a bogey. When they tell you the line between success and failure at ANGC is razor-thin, please believe them. 

No. 15: 475 yards

Here we go: 185 from the left center of the fairway, the shot everyone dreams about. My 6-iron is on its way, and it’s drawing right at it. I club twirl. I Tiger walk after it. I even yell “BE GOOD!” 

Friends, it’s not good.

My world shatters as it hits the back edge and rockets over the green. A small silver lining comes in the form of the ball somehow staying a yard short of the water on 16. If you ever see a pro get up and down from behind No. 15 again, please get up from your couch and clap vigorously. It is impossible. Chandler tells me that if this ball gets on the green with any kind of momentum, it’s going in the water on the other side. With that in mind, I lay up my pitch shot and then barely crest the surface with putter on my fourth shot. It almost dies on the fringe, but keeps rolling and rolling until it stops a foot from the cup. It’s no birdie or eagle, but in the end this par feels like one. 

No. 16: 145 yards

In your life have you ever hit a thinner 9-iron? Probably not, but my shot still finds the slope and ends up 25 feet below the hole. First slow putt I have all day and it was never going to reach. Par. 

No. 17: 370 yards

We’re 77 yards out, downwind to a terrifying green. I give a 60-degree some extra hands at the bottom and it comes out low and ripping. One hop and it stops 10 feet away. One of the more satisfying wedges I’ve hit in my life. I didn’t have birdies on 9 and 17 on my pre-round bingo card, but they are now officially my two favorite holes. 

No. 18: 385 yards

Sheesh, this drive is narrow. Somehow mine skips over the second bunker, which leaves an ideal angle from 110 yards to the famed closer. Once again, I think I’ve played the backstop perfectly, and once again I find myself hanging on top of the ridge. From there I set up a jangly four-footer to finish and I finally find a friendly lip as the ball drops in. The fastest five hours of my life are suddenly over. I sign for a 75 alongside an Amen Corner-sized asterisk.

And then, it was over. I walked off the course, packed my clubs in the car, exited the property onto Washington Road, then headed south. As the Publixes and Bojangles and Chick-Fil-As passed, I realized how drained I was. Every shot out there requires you to be fully present, fully engaged. And that is why time ceases to exist among the magnolias. It’s also why the champions who conquer this place every April are better than any of us can even fathom. To understand how good someone must be to shoot 65 from 7,600 yards here is to comprehend the scale of the universe. After the briefest of chances to feel and play the shots I’ve seen them execute here, it’s clear that they know something about playing golf that the rest of us mortals don’t. I will never fully grasp what that is, but I feel a little bit closer now.  

I also got emotional, just like everyone else who gets to have this experience. Augusta forces you to think deeply about every shot, and to consider yourself. Where you are in your life when this opportunity arrives. Where you’ve been. Where you want to go next. Of all the storytelling archetypes, one my least favorites is the “overly sentimental” trope. But damn if Augusta doesn’t give you license to be just that.

My mind wandered, as it sometimes does when this job provides me with yet another incredible moment, to an email Steve Jobs wrote to himself a year before he died: 

I grow little of the food I eat, and of the little I do grow I did not breed or perfect the seeds.

I do not make any of my own clothing.

I speak a language I did not invent or refine.

I did not discover the mathematics I use.

I am protected by freedoms and laws I did not conceive of or legislate, and do not enforce or adjudicate.

I am moved by music I did not create myself.

When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive.

I did not invent the transistor, the microprocessor, object oriented programming, or most of the technology I work with.

I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well being.

I recognized that I am not responsible for any of the systems or industries that made my appearance in the lottery possible, nor was I under the impression that my good fortune was somehow meritocratic. There are more-deserving golf media members and countless sickos who have yet to get their turn. As I took the last exit back toward real life, it occurred to me that if I had three wishes, I would ask that everyone get two rounds at Augusta—and that I get one more.