Mayor enjoying Masters trip

Published 12:58 am Thursday, April 9, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton is getting to live out a dream this weekend.

Middleton, a self-proclaimed huge golf fan, is spending this weekend at one of the most famous golf tournaments in the world — The Masters.

“This is the greatest tournament in the world,” Middleton said Wednesday night after spending the day watching practice rounds and the annual Par 3 contest at Augusta National. “You can feel the mystique. To watch these (golfers) and be close to them, and then think about all the players who have played this course through the years, it’s amazing.”

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Middleton’s wife Mitzi got him tickets for all four rounds of the tournament as a Christmas present, and the couple arrived in Augusta Wednesday morning.

Middleton said they arrived at the course at approximately 10:30 a.m. and watched the golfers take their final practice rounds.

They then watched a good amount of the Par 3 contest, which included some hall of fame golfers participating.

“It was neat to see Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer playing together,” Middleton said. “Being close to those players is a great experience.”

Middleton said he and his wife plan to be at the first tee at 8 this morning when Palmer hits the ceremonial first tee shot to begin the tournament.

“We’ll try to make it there for that,” he said. “We’re staying close to the course, so hopefully we’ll make it there to see that.”

And once the tournament begins, Middleton has a couple of different strategies on how to follow the action.

“What we’ll do (today) is go to some of the spots we checked out (Wednesday) and watch everybody come through,” Middleton said. “We’ll probably move around a few places. But then Saturday and Sunday when the field is cut down, we’ll pick some favorites and follow them.”

But while Middleton is there to watch the tournament, he couldn’t resist purchasing some Masters memorabilia.

“I was like a kid in a candy store (in the gift shop),” Middleton said. “Anything with Masters on it, I wanted to get. When I walked up to the counter with my bag of stuff, I said this is going to hurt.”

But Middleton doesn’t mind. After all, getting the opportunity to rub shoulders with the greatest golfers in the world at one of the greatest tournaments in the world doesn’t come around very often.

“This is a once in a lifetime thing,” Middleton said. “I may not ever get a chance to come back so I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”