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    Masters History Begins at Magnolia Lane

    Magnolia Lane
    Masters Historical Imagery
    A view down Magnolia Lane to Founders Circle at Augusta National Golf Club.
    Start at Gate 3 at Augusta National Golf Club. That is where the introduction to Augusta National Golf Club begins, the place called Magnolia Lane.

    In truth, it is sort of a short story, only 330 yards long and paved with asphalt, but it is a story with the ability to captivate. It is the magnificent tree-lined path each player in the Masters follows to reach the iconic flagpole and flower bed in the Founders Circle and, finally, the front door of the Clubhouse.

    Approximately five dozen leafy magnolia trees hug either side of the road. They were grown from seeds planted before the Civil War by the former owners of the property, the Berckmans family, when what would become the home of the Masters was a thriving nursery.

    Only players,Tournament officials and Club members have the privilege of traveling Magnolia Lane. Jason Day of Australia, who is playing in his first Masters, said he saw many players leaning out the windows of their cars to snap photographs of the scenery as they slowly made their way down the arbor way.

    Day's first impression? "It was every bit as impressive as everything I had ever heard about it," he said.

    Clifford Roberts, Chairman in Memoriam of Augusta National Golf Club, wrote about Magnolia Lane is his 1976 book about the Club, The Story of the Augusta National Golf Club. Roberts said that when Augusta National was formed, Magnolia Lane was "said to be the finest thing of its kind." Roberts also said the road served as a "most impressive entrance" to the Club.

    Magnolia Lane remained unpaved for 15 years, until 1947. Since then, careful attention has been paid to the care and pruning of the trees, whose arching branches can form a canopy of leaves that completely cover the road in shade.

    The first time Tiger Woods traveled Magnolia Lane was in 1995, on his first trip to the Masters. To this day it remains a joy ride, Woods said.

    "It's still pretty special," he said. "If you're ever looking for the perfect entrance to a great golf club, well, here it is."

    David Chung, runner-up in the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship, first experienced Magnolia Lane a few weeks ago, when he arrived to play a practice round. He is still pinching himself.

    "It's not very long, but you drive as slowly as possible to soak it all up," Chung said. "I had a lot of expectations -- everybody does -- and it lives up to every single one of them."

    Of course, those expectations can lead to pressure. Two-time Masters participant Fulton Allem perhaps summed it up best.

    "When you cross those magnolias, your hair stands up. It happens to everyone," Allem said. "And the person who combs his hair best wins the Masters."

    The 2008 winner, Trevor Immelman of South Africa, said he felt different when he traveled Magnolia Lane as a champion.

    "Maybe I just noticed it more," he said. "But really, there's nothing like it."

    Immelman is correct. Maybe it's because there is a certain degree of comfort and satisfaction in the knowledge that something like Magnolia Lane even exists in this now-generation time-centric scene of professional golf.

    Magnolia Lane doesn't just cross some geography, it crosses generations. And at the Masters, those who really study it -- and the champions who travel it -- have long realized that Magnolia Lane is not just a paved way, it is also the road to success.

    General view of Magnolia Lane
    Harry How/Getty Images