How a father-daughter Masters trip revealed golf’s true magic

Ellen, Pat and Claire Rogers

Ellen (left), Pat (center) and Claire Rogers.

The Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — “I can’t believe he’s real,” my sister, Ellen, said as Tiger Woods passed us on his walk down the first fairway at Augusta National.

Tiger is a pretty striking figure at any time, but to see him here, on Saturday at the Masters? And to see him now, just a few seconds into the day we’ve all been looking forward to for months?

Ellen grew up as the golf-bored middle child in a golf-crazed family. But now she’s here in Augusta, fresh off a flight from Phoenix, to spend the day with my dad and me at the Masters. And she’s realizing, for the first time, that Tiger Woods really is larger than life.

And that makes me happy.

Every Tuesday in the summer from 2002 to 2008, I made my dad late for work.

I was seven years old when my parents signed me up from the Tuesday morning junior golf program at Wannamoisett — a par-69 course in our hometown of Rumford, R.I. — but I was a little older before I fell for golf.

In those days, golf was a chore. I’d refuse to get out of bed until the last minute, complain to anyone who’d listen, and try to sucker my parents into letting me off on good behavior. My attitude grew so bad that my older brother began riding his bike to the golf course so I wouldn’t make him late. But my dad wasn’t so lucky. He couldn’t start his work day until he got me to the course — and I was relatively determined not to let him bring me. Usually there were tears involved.

By eighth grade, my relationship with golf began to change. Suddenly Tuesday mornings were a social outing. There were 15 or so kids in my age group, and many of them are still my best friends. Golf really helped my confidence in those days, mostly because I found a community in the sport. I could join my friends and match their 73s with 98s. Soon I realized that I liked golf. I liked it so much that I ended up trying out for my (no-cut) high school golf team.

It can be hard for many fathers to connect with their teenage daughters, but I freely admit that I was a particularly difficult adolescent. My parents split during my freshman year of high school, and suddenly I was working through my teenage years while living under a different roof than my dad. I was young and hurt, and the pain made me angry. He was on the receiving end of too much of it.

Fortunately, Dad was (and is) relentless, and golf slowly became our way to connect. After tough school days, we’d grab dinner at the golf course and chat about the day from the fairway. Over afternoon nine-holers and evening putts, our conversations graduated from golf talk to life. On the weekends, we began watching golf together. Soon we rarely went a day without hanging out.

As I’ve grown into my golf media career, my dad has become my biggest fan. He listened closely when I called him last year to tell him that I met Rory McIlroy, and was my first call when I finally gathered up the courage to ask Tiger a question in a press conference. He listens patiently to the frustrations that come with working in golf (or any job). He pays so much attention partly because he loves golf, but mostly because he loves me.

Golf was so often a pain point in the beginning of our relationship, but I realize now that it was on the golf course that my dad became much more than my dad — he became my best friend.

Pat, Claire and Ellen Rogers on the way to the Masters. Ellen Rogers

To know me is to know my sister.

We were born five years apart but have been attached at the hip for years. I bring her up to anyone who will listen. When she met Bones Mackay at the WM Phoenix Open in February, all he could say was, “It’s so nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.” When we were in grade school, we made our parents purchase bunk beds so the two of us could sleep in the same room. (How many siblings ask to share a bedroom?) I never slept in my own room again.

I joke that Ellen is the “uninterested in golf” member of our golf-loving family, but that’s not totally true. She may not like to play much, but I’ve come to realize that we share some common real estate in the sport. Over the years, golf was her way of growing close with Dad, too.

When she comes back to Rhode Island, she gets up early to walk across the street with my dad and eat breakfast at our home club. She may not know equipment or be particularly interested in Strokes Gained, but she loves being around any environment that includes the sport. So when we all met up to walk around Augusta National today, it felt like a full-circle moment.

Every year, the Masters brings about at least one “father and son” story, but this year, our dad couldn’t pick just one daughter to bring to the Masters with him.

So he brought two.

My dad and Ellen drove in from Columbia, S.C. this morning.

They picked me up from GOLF’s rental home so I could ride in with them. For me, today felt like Christmas Day. Watching Ellen experience the magic of Augusta National for the first time was honestly an honor. She was freaking out over the little things that I’ve gotten used to experiencing over the years — players walking by, a putt that lips out or a person donning an unconventional outfit. Seeing her love for the game reminded me why I fell in love with the game in the first place. The golf magic is still very much new for her.

We may not have spent the day talking about stats or shot shapes, but walking with the two of them allowed me to view the game through the lens of my former self, which was about 30 times more fun. Ellen loved Vijay Singh’s HOKAS. Her eyes sparkled at the stunning vista of green chairs lined up perfectly around the green, and her bank account wept in the overwhelming goodness that is the merchandise store. We learned that some golf experiences are universal … like fashion debates. When Jason Day came up 18 in a funky Malbon fit, Ellen said that she loved his confidence — while Dad whispered that his outfit looked bad. She brought up random facts about golfers she’d learned from watching Full Swing. And when Tiger made his way down the first fairway, she was awed by the gravity of his presence.

Before long our day was coming to a close, and we idled together for a few long beats. It was hard for any of us to put to words exactly what our Masters memory meant, but we didn’t have to. We all knew. The mere fact we were there together was proof enough.

So dads, here’s an idea for you: Bring your daughter to the Masters. Bring your daughter to any golf tournament. Enroll them in a Tuesday morning golf league and take them every week. Let them like golf and let them hate golf and let them learn to love golf, no matter which form that takes. Be the Dad who breaks the norm, and don’t fear it.

And dads, do all those things because your daughters will notice. They’ll notice your effort, your care and your love. And though it may not come easily or quickly, they’ll notice the golf, too.

Maybe you’ll wake up one morning and find yourself at the Masters.

Or, even better, maybe you’ll wake up one morning and find you’ve made a friend.

Editor’s note: Ellen has kept a log of notes while watching episodes of “Full Swing” on Netflix, so I encouraged her to write some bullet points about her experience at the Masters once she left the course today. Below is what she had to say.

Ellen’s Masters Saturday

  • Woke up in Columbia and got ready in my new outfit
  • Sat in 30 minutes of traffic leaving because of a half marathon that was going on as we were leaving the hotel
  • Went to Dunkin & it was SO good (medium caramel iced coffee with almond milk, please!)
  • Had my VERY FIRST Krispy Kreme (first and second if we’re being honest here). It was warm and glazed and so delicious
  • Next up: a one-hour drive to gossip with dad
  • Walking into Augusta was just so crazy I didn’t know where to look! Striking white buildings are so beautiful I couldn’t get over it
  • Saw a woman immediately upon entering wearing a “golf widow” hat and knew I was about to love this
  • Pit stop at the bathroom before meeting sissy and there was ZERO line for women and a LONG line for men! Barbie dream house? Even had attendants helping direct the (minimal) traffic into stalls
  • The scoreboard was so surreal I felt overwhelmed by how historic and famous this place is
  • The grass was so green and air so crisp I wish u could bottle it up or make it into a candle scent
  • Lunch experience was wild. Most cheap concessions I’ve ever seen. Saved all my cups to bring home.
  • BBQ Sammy absolutely slapped & peach ice cream Sammy was very very yummy
  • I won’t lie. I couldn’t bring myself to take a bite of the pimento cheese sandwich
  • Saw Tiger putting on the practice green & I am in awe that he is real I feel as though we forget he is an actual person
  • Scottie’s dad was insanely kind and personable
  • Saw Max Homa and got so excited! He seems awesome
  • Amen Corner was the perfect spot to watch (minus the sun beating down on us) but my nice new Masters straw hat was a life saver
  • This whole day was a fashion show and I could have people watched all day without ever noticing the golf going on
  • Everyone is so kind and respectful there it felt utopian
  • Sat on 18 watching Jason Day & Sahith who I’m OBSESSED with from “Full Swing” (sad I didn’t meet his dad)
  • Merchandise store can only be described as beyond your wildest dreams, imagine Disney for golf lovers
  • Claire brought us azaleas, a vodka/lemonade/grenadine concoction, and it was very refreshing, fun to drink AND came with a putter shaped stirrer!
  • Dad and I went back to the merchandise building and had to get several more t-shirts because… when in Rome!
  • Overall, I could not have thought of a more perfect day to gossip and watch golf with two of my most favorite people!


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