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|| News Item: Posted 2008-04-29

Outside The Ropes: An Insider's Look At The Masters
By Gerry Melendez, The State

Photo by Gerry Melendez, The State

Photo by Gerry Melendez, The State
Everything you've heard about the Masters is true. No Shooting inside the ropes. Yep. Rain at some point during the week. Yep. Patrons suddenly blocking your once-in-a-lifetime Tiger holing it out on Sunday shot. Yep. Saying you're never going to put yourself through this torture ever again. Yep. Coming back the next year. Yep.

Ok, seriously, the Masters is truly one of the most memorable events a photographer will ever cover. From the time you set foot inside Augusta National and walk past the main scoreboard on No. 1, to the last putt on 18, there's nothing like it. Very few sporting events make old men laugh like children and young men smoke cigars as if celebrating the birth of their child.

I'm definitely not a Masters veteran. There are guys with 20 or more under their belt. But one thing is for sure, whether a long timer or a rookie, you will have opportunities to make some truly memorable images. Why? Well, it's the Masters. Every hole looks like a painting and drama is just around the corner (Amen that is).

At The State we're fortunate to get two shooting badges. Fortunate might not be the right word. Covering such a grand event with two shooters and no runners can be daunting. Communication is the key. Radios are your best friend and preparation, mainly physical is a must. A strong grasp of the course and knowledge of all the photo positions is essential. Yeah and a little luck doesn't hurt either.

This year I was paired up with fellow staffer Chris Aluka Berry. After a long, long, long round on Thursday, Chris was a bit frustrated with the images he was getting. Nothing stood out to him and he was discouraged.

By the time Sunday had rolled around, he had made some outstanding images, was excited with the work he had done and felt re-energized for the final day. That's the Masters. Just when you think you'll never get anything worthy, Tiger hits his second shot through the trees on 18 to the No.10 fairway, flops his shot over the gallery to about 4 feet and makes par. Suddenly you feel like you're onto something.

Hey it's like golf. Triple, double, bogey and then...birdie!

Photo by Gerry Melendez, The State

Photo by Gerry Melendez, The State

Trevor Immelman hoists son Jacob Trevor Immelman in the air after winning the final round of the Masters tournament at Augusta National. Immelman won with an eight under par.
If you follow golf, the Masters is a who's who of personalities, both on the course and off. In my years covering it, I've seen everyone from Dr. J, (wearing his converse while smoking a cigar in the stands on No. 15) to Neil Leifer (a couple of lockers down from me loading one of his film cameras.) Some of the very best sports shooters are there every year hoping to capture magic on Sunday.

You hear stories of shots made, shots missed and when you were allowed to shoot with remotes and from certain towers ( a few shutters going off early made the Augusta gods unhappy). I was chatting with a longtime shooter on the 2nd green on Sunday. He reminisced of the days when TV coverage didn't start until the weekend and how certain tower spots would be empty most of the time. Still shooters could be seen in spots that are off limits now. "I have this great shot of No. 2 from above," he said. "It's wide. That's the only way to get anything different on this hole. It was beautiful."

Speaking of Sunday. There's nothing like the pressure you feel as the holes start winding down and the winner starts emerging. It becomes a game of chess as you weave around the course thinking two or three holes ahead to position yourself. There's always that voice inside your head telling you to stay on Tiger or the leaders one more hole - just in case. Yet your body is saying you better bolt to the 18th green to make sure you have time to grab your spot. We've all seen the amazing shot Golf Digest's Stephen Szurlej made of Tiger in 2005. I was there too. Except I was racing to the 18th green as the roar of the crowd echoed from 16. It was a painful jog up the hill. But that's the Masters. You move on and hope your next shot will be a hole in one.

(Gerry Melendez is a staff photographer at The State in Columbia, SC. He was named Photographer of the Year in 2005 and 2006 by the South Carolina News Photographer Association. You can see his work on his member page: and at his personal website:

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Gerry's member page

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