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Postcard from Augusta: Media get a new home

Talk about nice digs. The luxurious new media center for the reporters covering this year’s Masters is unlike any other. For one, it looks like Tara, the plantation mansion in “Gone With the Wind,” and it will blow you away with the hardwood floors on a huge staircase and the comfortable leather seats for the 350 credentialed reporters lucky enough to be here.

Gary Player took one peek inside and said, “This must make you want to write your best.”

Now there’s a thought. Mostly, it makes me want to ask where’s the sauna?

Each reporter has his own work cubicle, two screens that allow you listen in on news conferences downstairs as well as to track live scoring, a private locker with a key and a trash can.

The two-story building opens up to a great vista of the golfers’ driving range. It has a sit-down restaurant called Bartlett Lounge and a curved roof that’s a tribute to the old drafty Quonset hut where the media worked for 37 years until 1989. There’s also a men’s and women’s locker room area, a lounge and, yes, even an elevator, which if my wife is reading, I have yet to take.

If I had to guess, this place is so plush, a few writers won’t even leave it all week.

Opening drive: We’re farther away from the course, but golf carts shuttle us from the media center to the golf course.

I timed my first ride, and the Spanish teacher volunteer who drove us needed 3 minutes, 14 seconds to get to the course. Heavy traffic made it longer than it otherwise would have been. On the way back, three hours later, it took just 2 minutes, 27 seconds.

The old media building was wonderfully located just off the first fairway and just behind the huge scoreboard near the course entrance. That three-story structure now houses human resources and is set to be destroyed to provide wider entrance lanes for patrons of the Masters and Augusta National.

Chip-ins: Even though it was a sunny gorgeous day, it was muggy and without a rumor of a breeze. I walked about four holes Wednesday with Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson as they played the back nine. … I’m still amazed that parking is free on the Augusta grounds. There are some 8,500-odd parking spots on the land surrounding the course that come, free of charge. A block away, some folks charge up to $50.

Get the shot: Another thing that’s free at Augusta is the opportunity to get your photo taken in front of the majestic clubhouse at the end of Magnolia Lane. Fans can pose in front of a backdrop of yellow gladiolas planted in an outline of the U.S. along with the flagpole bearing the American flag and a Masters flag.

Some 3,500 pose for three photographers, who take memorable snapshots at the spot every day and have for about the past five or six years, Masters security guard Loren Simpson told me. Even some golfers come by for the memento.

“This year, I saw MacKenzie Hughes of Canada and his wife,” Simpson said. “And last year, Tom Watson dropped by with his wife and family for a picture.”

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