It’s that time of year again.

The azaleas are in full bloom.

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The smell of pine, flowers and cigars fill the air.

It’s Day One of Masters Week in Augusta, GA.

We arrived the day before and unpacked. Set out our golf-ish attire for the following day and got ready for that “experience”.

Anyone who has ever been to Augusta, well, Augusta during Masters Week, and made inside the gates, knows what I am talking about.

The tournament is run by, and staffed by, the nicest people in the world of sport. From the moment you walk through gates on Berckmans Road and are greeted by gentlemen and gentlewomen asking you to remove your badge and have it in your hand so that security can scan it to the moment Tournament security does just that, you begin to ask yourself, “why can’t all security and admission processes be like this?”

Seriously? We had just gone through airport security and it was more like a root canal compared to this. The security guards greeted us with “Hi, how you doing today? Please open your bag for us. Thank you so much and you have a wonderful day on the course today!”

The Tournament guides and employees were equally helpful. “Are you finding everything ok today? Can I point you in the right direction? Let me help you find where your’e going on this beautiful day.”

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It is impossible to be in a bad mood in a place such as this. Even with the crowds closing in around you, and they do, quickly, with every turn. But everyone is smiling, everyone is nice, everyone is helpful.

2V0A2947Even in the Golf Shop. Probably the most crowded place I’ve ever squeezed myself into. Even there the staff was helpful and friendly and so were the other patrons.No one pushed, no one shoved, and if someone stepped on your foot or bumped into you they apologized profusely.

The Augusta National Golf Club is a beautiful, special place. But it’s more than the pines and azaleas, the pimento cheese sandwiches and the golf.

It’s a gathering place of genuinely nice people, from all countries in the world, black, white, hispanic, latino, from China, Japan, Korea, from countries in Africa and all over Europe.

And they’re served and helped by the nicest, most genuinely helpful staff in sports.

And there’s just something special here. Standing with other patrons around the big boards and waiting for the postings to be made slows you down and quite frankly, takes you back. Back to a time when we all moved a little slower and just enjoyed things a little more. This is done largely in part because cell phones are prohibited on the grounds at all times. And honestly, I’m glad this is the case. I can imagine the experience would be far less enjoyable carrying around my iPhone and tracking the leaderboard, tee times and the weather.

I’d much rather gather with my fellow patrons and get the information all together.

What a day. Let Masters Week begin!

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Check out our pictures from Day One here.