Today we have a special guest writer at Aussie Golfer. Former AFL star Corey McKernan.
Corey has been a golf tragic his whole life. I always thought he must have some talent for the game, as he was able to play off a single-figure handicap during most of his professional football career. He has been leading groups to major sporting events around the world and this year he is off to the US Masters.
Below he writes about his previous experiences at the US Masters and a few famous faces they expect to encounter this year.
by Corey McKernan
On Saturday, I will leave for my tour to the US Masters at Augusta. I am an absolute golf tragic, and this tour represents my insight into how a golf fan should experience the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. The tour not only includes viewing at the final two rounds of the US Masters, but the group of 20 will also play rounds at Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach, both arguably in the top 10 golf courses in the world.
We are not actually staying in Georgia when we move up for the Masters. We are staying in a massive Southern-style mansion in Aiken, just 20-odd miles away from Augusta National, but in South Carolina. We will be joined by two of golf’s biggest names at different stages of the trip. Aussie Jarrod Lyle, who has a huge future in the game and saw his profile raised dramatically by his amazing hole-in-one earlier this year, will stay with the group for a couple of nights and play two rounds with us as well. US Superstar, larger-than-life character John Daly, will also join us for our official tour BBQ in Aiken. The men and women on the tour were thrilled to hear of this latest, surprise addition to the itinerary.
A lot of AFL players and ex-AFL players are golfing tragics. Of the current crop, St. Kilda’s Brendon Goddard is well known for his love of the links, as is Kangaroos coach Brad Scott. Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico and myself are no exception, so Dipper will be coming along on the tour as well. For those of you who are familiar with Dipper from his work in the media, I am sure you can understand just how excited the big fella is!
I travel all over the world with my events company and attend some amazing events that would be on any sports tragics’ bucket list, but the US Masters has some really unique qualities. It is so steeped within tradition and sacred. There is no advertising signage around the course, no corporate hospitality marquees; it has not been modernised. Whilst other events such as Wimbledon regain tradition, they have made some changes in this degree, but the sacred nature of the US Masters makes it so special to attend.
Another great thing about Augusta National is that the numerous mounds make it one of the best, if not the best, viewing courses in the world. The panoramic view on the 13th hole is probably my favourite hole on the course. It’s immense, with a dog leg to the left of a Par 5, and if you stand on the right of the tee you have a brilliant view with a backdrop of 100 foot pine trees and azaleas, as well as Ray’s Creek. The view is breathtaking.
Over the last 15-20 years, as television cameras have gone digital and coverage improved immensely, the gravity of the steep course has become slightly more evident when watching at home, but it still doesn’t do it justice. You get such a greater appreciation how hilly it is, the back 9 especially, by being there at the course. The drop from the 10th tee to the green is the same height as the Empire State Building!
The gallery at Augusta National know all of the rules in no uncertain terms! Etiquette standards are very high, and Augusta also has a unique rule which would surely never last anywhere else. If you arrive early in the morning and place your chair down in a premium spot, nobody can move or touch your chair for the rest of the day. It is very traditional in the gallery, and it is one of the most comfortable golf tournaments to be a part of the gallery. They don’t let too many people in either, even though they could surely pack the gallery full of avid golf fans on an annual pilgrimage.
The same players tend to do well every year at the US Masters, making it unique as a golf tournament. Unless you have played well previously at Augusta, it is tough to be in contention, and some great players have not done well there, for example Robert Allenby. The likes of Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have a phenomenal record and you would expect them to be right amongst it. All past winners are a chance; Bernhard Langer had 8 years between his two US Masters wins, and was not in great form heading into the tournament in 1993, but his experience of taming the course helped him secure a great result.
If you are looking at laying a bet, have a look at who has produced consistent, good scores over the past five years. Australian players find a lot of similarities between Augusta and Royal Melbourne, our guys love sandbelts, and it is amazing that we have never produced a winner. Geoff Ogilvy has played well here, but has not been able to sustain his form for a four round consistent performance. If he puts his whole game together, he could be right up there, as could Stuart Appleby.
It still is an absolute mystery how Greg Norman never won the US Masters. His game was perfectly suited for it. As a kid, I used to tape every final round; I probably did this right until the mid-90s. I idolised Greg, and I remember being so excited in 1996 when he looked set to break his US Masters drought. Heading until the final round, Greg led Nick Faldo by six strokes. After starting with a first round 63, he gradually let the field recover, but a six stroke lead is still substantial enough to have complete faith in your hero. His capitulation in a final round 78 is in the history books as one of the worst, if not the worst collapses, in major golf history. I had never been so heartbreaking watching a sporting event before that, and never have since.
I have played at Lake Augusta, and it was amazing, just like it was when I played at Pebble Hill and at St Andrews. I was talking to tennis legend Pat Rafter after he played at Augusta, and we agreed on one thing; while it was amazing to play there, we wish we could have taken more time to play the course at a leisurely pace. In fact, I would have loved for it to be the slowest round of my life! It would be great to recreate historical scenarios on the course and savour every moment of the experience, but it was still incredible. Experiences like this have helped me conceive my events company and understand what people want to experience, and the upcoming US Masters tour obviously ticks all the boxes for a lot of people – it sold out very quickly indeed! Make sure you get in early if you want to join me in 2012 – I suppose you could twist my ‘rubber’ arm and convince me to head over again.
Corey McKernan played at the highest level of AFL for over a decade and was part of the North Melbourne Premiership teams in 1996 and 1999.
Individually Corey won the AFLPA MVP Award in 1996 and also tied for the Brownlow that same year but was ineligible due to suspension. He is a former All Australian, Best and Fairest winner and leading goal kicker.
Corey finished his career on 237 matches.
Corey McKernan proves that there is a life after professional sport for Australian athletes. Since retiring in 2005, he developed his strong passion for sport into his dream job with the creation of Corey McKernan Ultimate Events.
Since its inception, Corey McKernan Ultimate Events has successfully hosted numerous Grand Final Eve lunches and Spring Carnival events that will once again take place in 2011.
Corey McKernan Ultimate Events hosted their inaugural Super Bowl Tour in 2011, and are about to embark on their 2011 US Masters Tour at the start of April.
For more information, check out http://www.mckernanevents.com.au.