Masters - (Wed) Gary foursome

Veteran Masters attendees, from L to R: David Kwarciany, Dennis Conley, Mike Schmitz and Mike Zuba.

AUGUSTA, Georgia – About 20 years ago, David Kwarciany of Pewaukee applied for patron badges for The Masters Tournament. His secretary, who drafted the letter, figured she might as well apply, too, so she made a copy, signed it and mailed both letters to the Augusta National Golf Club.

You guessed it.

She got the badges. He didn’t.

But because Kwarciany’s secretary was a non-golfer and wasn’t interested in attending the Masters, she let him use the badges almost every year from 2001 to 2014. Then she died – and with her, Kwarciany’s access to the first major championship of the year.

Fast forward to 2019, and Kwarciany was back at Augusta National. He won four Wednesday practice-round tickets in the Masters lottery.

“I haven’t been here in five years and it’s amazing how much has changed,” he said.

With him were buddies Mike Schmitz of Delafield, Mike Zuba of Sussex and Dennis Conley of Pewaukee. They weren’t Masters rookies, having occasionally accompanied Kwarciany when he had access to the badges, good for Thursday through Sunday.

This is Zuba’s seventh Masters, Schmitz’s fourth and Conley’s third.

“You can’t get enough of this place,” said Conley. “I’m a ranger at Naga-Waukee (War Memorial Golf Course in Pewaukee) and I appreciate the golf course. You come out here and you want to kiss the ground. I still get goosebumps.”

Conley and Schmitz were in the grandstand on the 15th hole in 2013, when Tiger Woods’ approach hit the flagstick and ricocheted backward into the pond fronting the green. The next day, he was assessed a two-stroke penalty for taking an illegal drop.

“We saw it happen,” Schmitz said. “We saw Tiger take his drop. But we didn’t know about the penalty until the next day.”

Zuba said he brought a friend to the Masters a few years ago – with his own practice-round tickets – and the friend stopped him in the walkway on the first hole and said, “You didn’t tell me they had AstroTurf here.”

“He was serious,” Zuba said. “That’s how perfect the grass is.”

Chip shots

Dustin Johnson was asked if he's ever thought about going on an 1,800-calorie-a-day diet, similar to the one his buddy Brooks Koepka, was on. In classic D.J.-ese, he answered, "No, I've never counted calories. I eat until I'm not hungry anymore and then I stop."

garyd@killarneygolfmedia.com

Gary has covered golf in Wisconsin since 1980 and is a multiple award winner in the GWAA writing contest. He was inducted into the WSGA Hall of Fame in 2017 and joined Wisconsin.Golf in 2018 after a distinguished career at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.