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Patrons enter Augusta National (Charlie Riedel)
Patrons enter Augusta National (Charlie Riedel)

First Up: Masters edition

At The Masters, sandbox rules rule Add to ...

Some of the wonderful cultural norms at Augusta National come straight from the sandbox; rules to live by like first come, first served; no budding and no stealing.

Which is why Heidi McFarline, 55, of Scottsdale, Ariz., came to have one of the best and most valuable seats in sports on Friday.

Her green canvas folding chair with the gold Masters logo was set up on the first row behind the rope at No.12 tee; the beating heart of Amen Corner.

You'll be able to see her on the highlights later; she's just to the right (of your screen) of the tee with a big, white, wide-brimmed visor on.

How to get such coveted geography?

Not too much trouble at all, actually. First step was getting into the place, for which she cops to some good fortune: her friend was a past president of the USGA's women's committee and was able to get a couple of badges for the week.

But this seat, close enough to the players and their caddies that she can hear them whisper yardage and club ("it was 152 to the front bunker Thursday and 157 to the flag; it's a very narrow green," she said) -- how does one get that?

The beauty is you can't pay for it and you can't race to it. For Masters patrons it's equal opportunity. She arrived at Gate 9 at 6:50 a.m., just 10 minutes before the course opens but when the gates did part perhaps the best aspect was that it didn't turn into a mad rush to the stage, as it were.

"There is no running allowed," she says. "So marshals walk you down to where you want to go."

She got to No.12 tee by about 7:30 a.m., placed her chair with her husband's initials on it and then, with about three hours to pass before the first groups would be coming through, took a long, leisurely walk around the serene, rugged bit of parkland that is Augusta National.

She did this secure in another bit of Augusta lore: seats, once in place, are not to be touched, or occupied.

It's a remarkable, unspoken understanding, but seemingly never violated, which is why you can see empty chairs set up behind some of the best viewing spots on the course, patiently waiting the return of their owner.

So when she came back from her walk there was her chair, untouched. She was relaxing, getting ready for the action, looking forward to the day coming her way. "People are so friendly," she said. "You get to talking and I'll know their names and where they're from. It's so nice."

Coming from Arizona, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the most raucous of all Tour stops, where a frat house ethos prevails, she does not take for granted leaving her chair in such a prime spot and expecting to have a seat upon her return.

"At the Phoenix Open some drunk would have taken it," she said.

No doubt which tournament she likes better.

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