April 9, 2009

Spring classics

No not baseball, though that is in full swing. There are two major competitions in April that are rich in tradition. The first one, The Masters, begins today.

The Masters is the first of the four golf majors each year. Unlike the other three majors, The Masters is held at the same golf course each year - Augusta National. Created in 1934 by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, the tournament prides itself on tradition, decorum and the most knowledgeable and respectful spectators. As difficult as it is for the players to be invited to the tournament, getting a ticket to watch the tournament is about as special.

I used to play golf more regularly, and often watched tournaments on TV most weekends. Now I play once or twice a year and The Masters is one of the few tournaments I make sure to see. The course is one of the most challenging and beautiful courses on the tour with landmarks like Raes Creek, Hogan Bridge, the Eisenhower Tree and Amen Corner. After seeing The Masters for a number of years, watching the tournament is like revisiting an old friend.

On April 20th, The Boston Marathon will be run for the 113th time. Held on Patriot's Day each April, the marathon runs from Hopkinton to Boston, and is like the championship of marathons. Beginning in 1897 with 15 runners, the Boston Marathon has turned into 25,000 field of some of the best marathoners in the world. Half a million people turn out to cheer the runners on each year, highlighted by the enthusiastic support from the women of Wellesley College near mile 13. They have turned out for 111 years, and it is said the runners can hear their screams a half mile away.

To gain entry into the Boston Marathon, runners must beat a qualifying time for their age group. The qualifying standards were originally instituted in 1970 to control the number of participants. This only gave runners something to shoot for, and though the qualifying times have become more difficult, the field continues to grow. As an amateur, qualifying for Boston is the brass ring.

At my age, I would need to cut almost an hour of my best time. If I could somehow pull that off, I could run with some of the best. How many sports let regular Joes participate with the elite professionals?

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