Ed. note: Just as Augusta National is the ultimate insiders’ club, the Masters is the ultimate insiders’ tournament. Nearly nine decades after the storied venue was founded, the Augusta Experience has remained shrouded in mystery. To unlock some of its secrets, we asked those who have been part of the experience to describe one element of what makes Augusta Augusta and the Masters the Masters. The second installment of our “What It’s Like…” series (below) was contributed by Ricky Barnes and Doug Ghim.
Previous installments: Gary Player on the opening tee shot
Barnes: There is no point in burying the lede: In 2003, when I stayed at the Crow’s Nest after having won the U.S. Amateur the year before, I snuck into the Champions Locker Room. And with a vodka in my hand.
Let me be clear: I wasn’t up to any real mischief. Along with the British Amateur champ Alejandro Larrazabal, I was just doing some innocent exploring on the Sunday night after the tournament ended. No one else was around. We were curious. We were young.
At one point, Alejandro tried on the green jacket that had been worn by the two-time champ José María Olazábal. “You got to put one on,” he told me. “No way,” I told him. “Not until I get back here one day and hoist one.”
The two of us laughed so hard that night, soaking it all in. We finally shut it down around 3 a.m.
Ghim: I stayed only one of the nights because I was staying with my family for the week in a rental home. But I thought it was important to do it at least once, to get a good feel for it.
The year was 2018, and all the amateurs decided to stay there the same night, on Monday, because that was when they have the dinner for the amateurs. We all got dressed up, went out and then came back and watched the national championship game for college basketball.
Barnes: As for the accommodations themselves, it wasn’t exactly the Four Seasons. There was one little TV, one small bathroom and a couch that had upholstery from 1965. I thought to myself, If you have four grown men in here at once, there is practically no place to sit. And, being 6-foot-3, my feet were definitely hanging off the bed when I slept.
Ghim: Yeah, it’s not very big, and it’s pretty cold up there. But it’s so cool because you definitely feel like it hasn’t changed over the years. It’s like one big room with five beds separated by dividing walls, which don’t go all the way up to the ceiling.
On the walls, they have all the pictures of, like, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and all of that. And then the bathroom is a very vintage-tiled bathroom. The shower’s tight. One of the ams, who was pretty tall, had to kind of crouch.
You can definitely tell that they tried hard to keep it the same way for a very long time.
Barnes: I wouldn’t have changed one thing about staying there that week. That was an incredibly special time in my life, with wonderful memories and stories that will last forever. Besides, I was in college at the time. It wasn’t like I’d been living a lavish lifestyle.
When I went back to Augusta National to play in the 2010 Masters, I poked my head into the Crow’s Nest. “You like the small quarters up here?” I joked with a couple of the amateurs.
Ghim: It’s almost like you’re in a time capsule. We heard a story that someone tried to donate a big TV, and they said, “If we wanted a bigger TV, we would have one.”
With reporting by Michael Arkush and Jessica Marksbury.