A Masters trip to remember


There are certain bucket-list sporting events that transcend mere athletics. They are spectacles, cultural sensations, feasts for the senses: events like the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby and the Masters.

Carl Michael Jr., golf course superintendent at Down River Golf Club in Everett, made his first trip to Augusta National Golf Club this month for the 2018 Masters, along with local golf enthusiasts Denny and Kyler Pennabaker.

“It was by far the most phenomenal golf course I’ve ever been on,” Michael said. “Not a blade of grass out of place, not a weed on the property, the best customer service. … The course is immaculate. TV doesn’t do it justice.”

Notable praise, especially since the CBS coverage included endless beauty shots of the vibrant azaleas and sterling greens.

The pristine condition of the iconic course was just part of the Masters’ culture that Michael witnessed. He also experienced the strict rules designed to create an even playing field, devoid of all distractions, including cell phones.

Michael earned passes to the Masters’ practice rounds and the par 3 contest as a Class A member of the Golf Course Super-intendents Association of America, a designation that requires continuing education and community service, among other qualifications.

That put him on one of the most famous courses in the world, and at times just a few feet away from the world’s greatest golfers. Of course many eyes were on Tiger Woods.

“I think golf is growing back up a bit,” Michael said. “It was going downhill for a while, but it seems like any time Tiger’s on TV it’s busier. He’s very good for the game.”

Carl hopes that Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are among the “new Tigers” helping to create interest in golf among the next generation of fans.

“We’re seeing young players wearing the flat-billed hats (like Fowler),” he said, “and if these guys are winning, it gives up-and-coming golfers something to look up to.”

Locally, Michael is hopeful for a growth in golf as well, reporting 50 new members at Down River this season, with better weather on the horizon. The club also boasts a new restaurant as well as monthly youth and beginner golf clinics, among other features.

“I think in the future golf needs to be more of a social sport, more inclusive,” said Carl. “And a few organizations are working to speed it up. It’s a fast-paced world, people don’t have as much time these days, we need to simplify it or speed up the sport to allow the general public to come out and try it.”

Unique experiences, beautiful scenery and great golf: Carl Michael Jr. and company came home from the Masters with good memories, as well as an encouraging outlook for the future of the game they love.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.