Augusta Confidential: Escape from North Carolina

Passing through college basketball's epicenter to reach golf's epicenter

Augusta National Golf Club’s new and eye-popping Press Center (Augusta National Golf Club photo)
Augusta National Golf Club’s new and eye-popping Press Center (Augusta National Golf Club photo)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — I was in North Carolina Tuesday morning, 12 hours or so after the University of North Carolina’s men’s basketball team beat Gonzaga in the national-championship game.

I didn’t stick around to get any local color. To the contrary. I collected my luggage and rental car in Charlotte’s airport (the non-stop from The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids is a great thing), and quickly got the Heel out of Tar Heel country and motored into South Carolina.

The University of South Carolina merely won the NCAA women’s basketball title Sunday and saw its men’s team reach the national semifinals. Had it been a North Carolina-South Carolina final on Monday night, well, just be glad it wasn’t.

Anyway, I assume Charlotte people like UNC, but I didn’t ask anyone. It’s a 140-mile drive from Charlotte to Chapel Hill. I went the other direction, going to Augusta, Ga., to get there for the Masters, which begins Thursday.

The rental car had working satellite radio, which now makes me 1-for-100 in getting a rental that had SiriusXM. That spared me the possibility of bumping into a local radio station with Cooter and Mud Flap (that’s a Colin Cowherd insult to local radio, not mine, but c’mon. Cooter and Mud Flap. That’s precious.) talking about the glory that was a sixth NCAA men’s basketball title for the Tar Heels.

No, thanks. The state of North Carolina has 13 men’s national-championships. North Carolina has six, Duke five, North Carolina State two. The state has claimed 11 men’s champions since the last time the state of Iowa had a men’s Final Four team, 1980.

Tiresome is what that is.

The state of Iowa has just one team that has ever played in a men’s national-title game, and that was the University of Iowa’s 83-71 loss to San Francisco in 1956. That was in Evanston, Ill. How many of you went?


San Francisco (1955 and 1956) was the first team from the West Coast Conference (then the West Coast Athletic Conference) to reach a national-final. On Monday, Gonzaga became the second. The Zags needed a young Bill Russell, who had 26 points and 27 rebounds in that win over Iowa.

But the way that game was officiated, Russell probably would have been in foul trouble just like almost everyone else. Although, his size and scowl may have deterred even the most-hardened referee.

Well, maybe Duke and North Carolina will watch the 2018 Final Four at home and an Iowa team will be in San Antonio for the big show. How can we rule anything out after the Cubs last year?

I buzzed through South Carolina without stopping at a Zaxby’s or Bojangles. Both are well-represented on Interstate exits, and both are known for chicken. Zaxby’s also has Zalads, and I’m not making that up.

Finally, I crossed into Georgia to get to Augusta National Golf Club in midafternoon. Sunny, warm, the whole 7,435 yards.

It would be here or at the start of this essay when many a media mope would tell you about the palace they opened here this week. They’re calling it a Press Building. That’s like calling a Lamborghini an automobile.

The room in which the print/internet writers do their thing is called the “Working Arena.” That may be an understatement.

I could go on and on about it, but you can’t possibly want to hear about such things, nor should you. But that such an attractive and massive was constructed so quickly illustrates the will and the ways and the means of Augusta National. They started building it after last April’s Masters ended, and it is good to go.


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(For a look at some photos and details about it, click here).

I’ve long said if Augusta National were running our government, potholes and poverty would probably be eliminated in a few short years.

Lucky for you, I don’t write about politics.

I will, however, start writing about this golf extravaganza Wednesday. Rain is expected to plague the Par 3 Contest. The wind is projected to be 15-20 mph for Thursday and Friday’s first two rounds, with possible gusts of 25 to 35 Thursday.

Things will be unseasonably cool Thursday through Saturday if the meteorogists are right, but it will warm up here Sunday. It always is nice here on Sunday. They insist here that it must be so, and so it is.



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