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Posted April 9, 2016, 5:45 pm
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Sportswriters bid farewell to Masters media building

  • Article Photos
    Sportswriters bid farewell to Masters media building
    Photos description
    Dan Jenkins, who is covering his 66th Masters in a row, said sports reporters were "in awe" when the media building opened in 1990.
  • Article Photos
    Sportswriters bid farewell to Masters media building
    Photos description
    Scorers work the scoreboard in the media center during the third round of the Masters Tournament.
  • Article Photos
    Sportswriters bid farewell to Masters media building
    Photos description
    A journalist walks past photos of the old press building during the third round of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.

Dan Jenkins covered his first Masters Tournament in 1951 from a press tent that looked much like “The Swamp” on M.A.S.H., with typewriters on folding tables under hanging light bulbs strung up between wooden posts and a chalkboard keeping tally of the leaders.

“It was fun as a youngster to look around and see all of these writers I’d only read,” Jenkins said. “I saw Grant­land Rice and was too shy to go up and introduce myself.”

By 1953, the print media that were so instrumental in making the Masters a major event worked in a metal Quonset hut. For 37 years, the structure was tucked behind shrubs on the first fairway with long wooden tables where Herbert Warren Wind and company typed away and occasionally had to get everything off the floor when heavy rains flooded through the front door. It eventually included a second-floor loft when the press contingent grew.

“Biggest press room I’d ever seen,” said Dave Kin­dred, who has covered 50 Mas­ters with publications from Louisville, Atlanta, Wash­ing­ton and now Golf Digest. “The Quonset hut was always fun when it rained because it was rattle-rattle-rattle and I sat next to Art Span­d­er and his clackety-clack typewriter. So it was the great test of concentration.”

It was 1990 when the media arrived to discover the first state-of-the-art media building on the same site, with amphitheater seating that rose three stories.

“We were in awe,” said Jen­kins, who is covering his 66th consecutive Masters this week.

“I was stunned when I walked into the media center for the first time,” said Len Shapiro, who covered his first Masters in 1992 for The Washington Post. “I was stunned even back then by all the electronic gadgetry and the scoreboard.”

“First impression? Wow,” said Var­ten Kupelian, who came to Au­gus­­ta for the first time in 1994 for the Detroit News. “Just the sheer magnitude of the place.”

The building, nearly five times the size of the former Quonset hut, is playing host to the worldwide media for the last time this year.

Joe Posnanski, the former Augusta Chronicle sports columnist now writing for NBC/Golf Channel, worked in it for the first time in 1992 and wondered why any writers would ever leave the building.

“The thing I always liked were the clocks,” he said. “Now they’re more of a nostalgic thing, but they used to matter. It was Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Augusta. When I lived here, I loved that. It added to this whole notion that you were at the center of the world.”

Shapiro’s favorite moment took place in 2008, when Virginia Tech amateur Drew Weaver qualified.

“My son, who went to Vir­gin­ia Tech, got a credential and (former Augusta Na­tio­nal Director of Communications) Glenn Greenspan put him in a seat right beside me,” Sha­piro said. “It was one of the more memorable weeks of my career. Still have a photo of us sitting there with
the scoreboard in the background.”

The sense of awe rarely dissipated as Augusta Na­tio­nal kept up with evolving technology and comfort enhancements over the years.

“Every single year I came here, there was some improvement,” Pos­nan­ski said. “That’s the thing that blew my mind. Covering golf, every other event they just throw you in a tent and give you folding chairs. There’s nothing else in sports like it. This room is like it was built by a sportswriter. It’s the one place where sportswriters go and there’s literally nothing that they can ask for that’s not already here.”

The enhancement that most writers remember took place a few years back when the Wi-Fi malfunctioned early in the week.

“I was in here fairly late that night and kept seeing a bunch of people scurrying around and workmen doing things at empty desks,” Sha­piro said. “I later found out because of the problems they decided this was not satisfactory and literally installed high-speed Internet cabling at every seat which was available the next day as we walked in the door in the morning. That told me a lot about the way they treat the media here, which is spectacular.”

Said Kindred: “This is heaven. This was beautiful. The Masters has always taken better care of the printed press than anybody else, and this was an example of that. How can they do better than this?”

When the media return next April, they will work in the fifth iteration of media facilities that first began on the back veranda of the clubhouse in 1934. A palatial building will be built on the back of the driving range.

“Even today we talk about how it’s the best one anywhere,” said Global Golf Post’s Ron Green Jr., who has covered the Masters since 1979, including 33 years alongside his father. “And now we’re about to get our own Berckmans Place.”

Said Kindred: “When we come back next year, it will look like it has always been there. That’s the amazing thing to me.”

Jenkins, 86, plans to return for at least one year in the new building: “I want to come back next year to see the new place. At least make it 67. That might be the last. Who knows? It’s up to my health.”

Renderings of the new building are a far cry from the old press tent.

“I’m impressed,” Jenkins said. “Then again, I was impressed by the old Quonset hut.”