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Original Issue

A Rite of Spring

The Masters means something different to everybody. For me, it
brings back memories of snow and freezing cold. I grew up in
Minnesota, where seeing the Masters on TV meant that winter was
almost over.

I come from a golfing family. My grandfather played in the 1934
U.S. Open, and my dad played in the '63 Open. Every spring the
three of us would sit in the living room watching the Masters.
After a long winter of shoveling snow, just hearing the magic
words Rae's Creek and Amen Corner got me psyched to play. Our
home course was usually closed in early April, but sometimes
we'd find a public course that was open. If not, at least
hitting to frozen greens that had no flags was free.

In 1996, fresh off the Nike tour, I won the Honda Classic.
Suddenly I was qualified for the Masters, and a month later,
boom!--there I was at Augusta National. I'll never forget my
first practice round. I hit a ball onto the bank short of the
green at 12, and instead of rolling back into Rae's Creek, it
stopped. I thought, Hey, this course isn't all that tough. I was
forgetting that it would be set up a bit differently when I teed
it up with Mark McCumber on Thursday. Sure enough, Augusta's
greens were shaved and its fangs were sharp that day. I shot the
first of two 76s. Missed the cut, of course. So much for
beginner's luck.

I'm no Jack Nicklaus--I have no idea how to "elevate my game for
the majors"--but I'm better prepared for this year's Masters. No
matter how I play, though, I'll enjoy drinking up the scenery
every minute. Here I am doing something I used to dream about,
playing golf at Augusta in the spring.

To all you kids up in the frozen North watching on TV, my
message is simple: Hey, winter's almost over. Get out and hit
some balls.

Tim Herron ranks 48th on the PGA Tour money list.

COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN TIM BRRR Seeing Augusta from up north was Herron's April fuel. [Tim Herron]