Autograph area lets children get close to golf idols
At the entrance to the Masters Tournament practice facility, parents line up against a fence, just feet away from the golfers as they come and go. Their kids, however, get much closer.
Youngsters are allowed to get autographs from a section near the practice facility, which opened two years ago.
Dan Platte, of Dallas, stood on the other side of the section where his three nephews — William, 11, Charles, 10, and Thomas Platte, 8 — eagerly awaited their dad’s golf idol, Phil Mickelson.
Their father, Maj. Bill Platte, is stationed in Afghanistan but won tickets to the tournament and asked his brother to take his three boys.
“He was so upset he couldn’t be here,” Dan Platte said.
He watched the boys get hats and yellow flags signed by Charles Howell, Rory Sabbatini and Brendan Steele. But the goal was to get Mickelson for dad.
“We’ll be here all day,” Platte said. “That’s what they really want. A signature for dad.”
Platte remembers growing up in Augusta before ropes separated golfers from fans and seeing golfers with pen marks all over their shirts from autograph seekers.
“This is great because it allows the kids to just be kids,” he said of the autograph area. “Giving them access like this takes the competition out of it. They aren’t going to sell the stuff on eBay; they’re just excited to be here.”
William, who is in Augusta for his first Masters, agreed.
“It’s awesome,” he said, showing a baseball cap with nine signatures. “It’s really cool.”
Next to him, 13-year-old Andrew Walker was trying to balance his yellow flag and the drink and sandwich his dad, Filmore, had brought to revitalize him. The youngster was waiting for his favorite golfer, Tiger Woods.
The father and son from Battle Creek, Mich., are at their fourth Masters.
“We knew we were headed right here,” Walker said as he snapped a picture of Jim Furyk signing his son’s yellow flag.
To his left, a boy with curly brown hair had to reach up to get Sabbatini to sign his flag.
“How are you doing today?” Sabbatini asked 6-year-old Rufus Wright.
“Good,” Rufus replied shyly.
Sabbatini talked to every child he signed something for on his way to the clubhouse.
Manning the ropes at the autograph area, Danny Hollander, of Mandeville, La., was having fun watching the kids’ faces light up as each golfer came by. He’s worked the past 16 Masters, and this is one of his favorite jobs.
“This is what it’s all about,” he said.