The Masters


View from thirteenth fairway looking down past dogleg toward #12 green

 I am thankful for the Masters. It is my, as well as most golfers’, favorite golf tournament for several reasons: 1) the beauty of the golf course; 2) the tradition; and 3) the difficulty of the golf course which seems to separate the winner from the also-rans. It is simply an amazing golf course. Designed by the famed Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, two great names in golf, this is the only Major which is played at the same golf course each year. During Masters’ week, I stay glued to the TV, or if on those years when I’ve been lucky enough…(read on)

Getting a ticket to the practice rounds on Monday-Wednesday is not that difficult. Anybody can register for a chance at their random drawing. I think I have won the ticket lottery three times and attended twice. The practice rounds are fun for a photographer because they allow unlimited photography on those days. But on the days of the actual tournament, only credentialed photographers are allowed on the course with their cameras. And don’t even think about bringing a cell phone! The first time I attended a practice round I was in heaven. Imagine how I really thought I had died and gone to the inner chambers of heaven when Jeannette, a relative from Augusta who was working as a chaufeur for patrons, got hold of a ticket to the actual tournament for me. I, of course, postponed my return home to walk those hallowed grounds during the actual tournament. It was simply incredible and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of mine. Another dream is to be able to play the course one day – although I’m sure I would have difficulty shooting a good score. But to walk those fairways, hitting golf balls in the footprints of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Sam Snead, and Arnold Palmer…just an incredible thought!

Everyone can see the perfect fairways and greens at Augusta National on TV but it is hard to visualize the steep hilly terrain the course sits upon unless you walk those holes. Just walking them must take a lot out of the golfers and probably adds another dimension to the difficulty of the course. And you have never seen greens like these. First of all, the greens have different tiers with severe slopes and optimal play requires hitting to the proper location on the green, and that spot changes daily with pin location. The greens putt so fast and break so much. I’ve seen professional golfers putting from below the hole on number 6 (par three) who end up putting up to the hole, not quite getting there, and then their balls roll down the green past the golfer and off the green. And the balls don’t stop there. They just keep going and going! So instead of a putt of a few feet, the golfer stares at a chip of about 50 yards. Hitting into those greens and then putting them has to take nerves of steel and a surgeon’s touch.

My favorite golfer, David Toms, is still tied for the record with Mark Carlcavecchia for the lowest 9 hole score of 29, which he shot on the second nine of the fourth round in 1998. He finished sixth that year and has recorded a total of three top ten finishes in the Masters during his career. The course was lengthened in 2002 and again in 2006, bringing the length from 6985 to 7435 yards. This makes it more difficult for golfers such as David, who is not long by comparison, but he always has a chance because of his accuracy off the tee, his deft iron play, and his smooth putting stroke. The course length argues against Toms winning a green jacket, but you never know. As a matter of fact, two of his top ten finishes occurred after the lengthening of the course in 2003 and 2007. Other short hitting golfers, such as Zach Johnson, have won the tournament since 2006.

The practice rounds are fun. They have things like golfers trying to skip balls off the water and onto the sixteenth green, not an easy accomplishment. And then there’s the par 3 tournament, which is played on an entirely different course on the same property. And it is just as manicured as the lush fairways and greens of the regular course are. And some of the holes are even prettier, if you can imagine that. It’s fun because the golfers have their kids, wives, and/or girlfriends caddy for them.  And there is a lot of clowning around.  But it all turns serious on Thursday.

Brandt Snedeker and Wife Mandy in Par Three Tournament

I took the photos for today’s blog during my last trip to Augusta in 2009. The top photo is of my favorite hole on the course, the par five 13th. It is from a different vantage point than is usually shown on TV because it is looking from the fairway near the landing area back toward the tee, which is to the right around the dog leg. In the background of the photo is the twelth green. The drive must avoid Rae’s Creek, seen to the right in the photo, which snakes around the left side of the fairway. The fairway slopes toward Rae’s Creek and rises up midhole to a plateau and then descends toward the green. Rae’s Creek follows the fairway the entire way and then passes across the fairway directly in front of the green and meanders around the right side of the green, which slopes up toward four pristine white sand bunkers, two directly behind the green, two to the left, and a sea of shades of pink, purple, orange, and white azaleas planted around the trees on the rising ground behind the green. Just a beautiful setting! This is a hole where the gambling golfer can pick up one or two shots or more, or lose as many or more strokes after mis-hitting a shot or two. It is the site where many a green jacket is won or lost. The drama on the thirteenth on the last day of the competition is spectacular!

Thirteenth Green at Augusta National

green jacket


wish i had a green jacket

it would really have a nice feel

to wear on special occasions

such as the master’s champion’s meal

but the golf game is not there

chances for the jacket are blown

i suppose i’ll just have to

buy a green jacket of my own.

© rt tulley

The Loneliest Walk in Golf

I was attending the Zurich Classic in Avondale, Louisiana this weekend. I happened to be in the Eighteenth Green Cypress Suites and through my binoculars was watching David Toms coming up the eighteenth fairway. He was obviously looking for his tee shot near the water, on the right side of the fairway. Apparently, the ball went into the water, because shortly thereafter he began the lone walk back to the tee. I think his ball must have last passed the edge of the hazard not far from the tee. His trek to the tee seemed to take forever as he walked with what appeared to be a dejected look by his body posture. He re-teed and hit his third shot from the tee, after counting the original drive plus the stroke penalty. His caddy waited by the side of the fairway while he walked to and from the tee and I was thinking how lonely it must be taking that walk all by himself. I recalled a time that I had done a similar thing. I was playing in the Louisiana State Junior Golf Tournament when I was in high school at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport. Before the round, I had great hopes for doing well in the tournament and marched to the first tee full of positive anticipation. I hit my first drive beautifully. It looked like it had gone far and straight. When I walked to where the ball should have been, it was nowhere to be found. I searched frantically but unsuccessfully all around the area, including in the rough, for the ball. According to the rules of golf, I had to walk back to the tee and replay the drive after taking a stroke penalty. So I was lying three from where my second drive had landed. I went on to triple bogey the hole and my game was downhill from there. I went on to have a very substandard round. Likewise, Toms triple bogied the eighteenth and finished one over par for the round. I imagine he had been trying to cut the corner on that drive because he was pressing to make an eagle, since he needed something really good to get back into contention. I felt sorry for him as I recalled my loneliest walk in golf. Bad scores are part of golf. But it shouldn’t be lonely.-rt


New Orleans PGA Golf Tournaments


I am thankful for New Orleans PGA golf tournaments. This is for several reasons which I will soon explain. The tournament has a long history dating back to 1938 when it was originally held at City Park. The current tournament is called the Zurich Classic and is played at the TPC Louisiana golf course in Avendale. Prior to that, it was at English Turn Golf and Country Club, and before that at Lakewood Country Club.

As with the previous two years, I was invited to the Zurich Classic this week as a guest of Steve Windham from the Lieutenant Governor’s office to showcase my Audubon Golf Trail book as part of the Audubon Golf Trail booth. Many thanks to Steve and the other workers, Jason, Luciene, Michelle, Evelyn, Manuel, Millie, and another Michelle. This is one fun group of people.

In previous years, I have fond memories of attending the Greater New Orleans Open at Lakewood Country Club with my dad. We never failed to have great times there, following such notables as Frank Beard, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson. I remember not caring for Jack Nicklaus too much until I saw him play in New Orleans, then became a devoted fan. At that time, there was none better. I also went to a couple of tournaments at Jack’s course, English Turn. There I remember following Jack and Fred Couples. Back when it was played at Lakewood it was called the Greater New Orleans Open. Dad and I would jokingly called it “Ganoo.” after the initials for the Greater New Orleans Open (Dad and I had similar wierd and warped senses of humor. We could find humor in the most mundane things:  I remember on one vacation someone in the family misread the sign on the “Litter Barrels” placed by the side of the road. From then on they became “Little Barrels”. We always laughed when the first family member announced another little barrel was approaching).

This week, I mostly worked in the Audubon Trail booth, but had an opportunity to follow David Toms for 5 holes on Friday. Through Saturday, that was his best round, a 68, four under par. I thought he was hitting the ball beautifully. On the sixth hole I noticed a couple in the gallery that were obviously over-joyed parents who were watching their young son carry the score standard for David Toms’ and K.J. Choi’s group. There happened to be a medium sized alligator just out of the lake on the hole with his head raised up. The proud parents got a photo of their son with his standard and the aligator in the background. I spoke to these parents a couple of times. They, as well as the son, were so excited that he got to be in the group with his hero David Toms.

We had an informal putting contest in our booth. The golfers that could hole the most putts in a row were given free games of golf. On Thursday, we had a guy hit 30 in a row, then another on Friday actually made 102 in a row, believe it or not. Saturday’s record was 34, I think. I enjoyed watching the young kids putt. We had two brothers, by the name of Koby and Caleb, who putted amazingly. I told them that they would probably be playing in the real tournament one day. Remember those names! By the way, I’ve never seen so many kids who are obviously Ricky Fowler fans – they all wear his patented hat; some go as far as to wear the complete outfit-one small kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old was decked out in Ricky’s Sunday Orange, complete with orange hat, shirt, pants, and shoes. Wow!

We were fortunate to have the Lieutenant Governor, Jay Dardenne, stop by the booth on Saturday, and Steve got interviewed on the radio for the NOLA Golf Show.

Since they wouldn’t allow me to bring my camera to the golf tournament, the photo above is from my book. It is a picture of the seventeenth green from the eighteenth hole cart path. I used this photo because, by coincidence, our booth was very close to the place this photo was taken (By the way, the egret was actually taken at Olde Oaks in Shreveport and I photoshopped him into the TPC photo for effect). The photos below I took with my cell phone. They do allow cell phones at this tournament. The first photo shows our booth. You may be able to see the similarity view to the first photo. The final photo is from the Eighteenth Hole Cypress Suites from the Audubon Golf Trail sweet on the second floor. You can see the eighteenth (in the forground) and ninth greens.


Audubon Golf Trail Booth at Zurich Classic


Finally, my friend Gay aske

View from 18th Green Cypress Suites at Zurich Classic

d me to post a photo of Tripod, the famous three legged alligator who hangs out on the back nine at TPC Louisiana. I was playing number 18 with friends when we spotted him lying on a rake next to the sand trap near the eighteenth green. I didn’t actually realize this was Tripod until I saw a TV video of him and noticed the two missing tail spikes. I wish I had gotten a closer picture from the front (his missing leg is the right front one), but the chicken in me took over. Here you go, Gay:


Tripod the Alligator

Local Rule:

Golfer may drop another golf ball without penalty in a safe position, no closer to the hole, should an alligator sit on, guard, ingest, or otherwise endanger said golfer when approaching his/her original golf ball. Golfers may only evoke this rule if the original golf ball is within approximately ten gator lengths of the ball. The use of this rule should rest solely on the judgement of said golfer. Measurement is discouraged, as is original ball retrieval.

© rt tulley


dad and i so loved

the joy of watching

the great golf professionals at ganoo

watching them boom the ball

and see the great things they could do

and after every tournament

we would feel so inspired

it certainly looked easy

to be as good as we aspired

but on the return back home

it didn’t take but a few shots

of chunks, dunks, and ob’s

to realize that we were still as bad

as we originally thought.

© rt tulley


My Dad


dad's stuff

Dad's Stuff

I am thankful for the life of my dad, Fredrick Thompson Tulley (1919-1983), his influences on me, and the mentoring, coaching, and love he showed to me over the years he was alive. Today would have been his 94th birthday. Unfortunately, lung cancer took him when he was only 64 years old – 30 years ago. As I am approaching the age he was when he died, I realize how young he actually was when he passed away. But time and tide do not diminish the memories that he left with me. Thanks, Dad! Dad was my golf coach and always showed care and compassion as he would often put my deteriorating golf game back together with my broken ego and heart. Even now, I remember the tips he would give me and I try to emulate them when trying to improve my game.


The photo above shows a collection of things that belonged to my dad. Although they are in no way representative of the man he was, they do rekindle some fond memories, a few smiles, and a misty eye or two. The old faded  photo below is one of the first photos I took and developed in our basement darkroom when I was something like ten years old. It is of my dad holding a Kodak rangefinder, exactly like the one with which I took the photo, and our family dog Cindy. -rt


Dad and Cindy

Dad and Cindy



years ago

we stood on the first tee

he wore a brightly colored striped

orange, green, and white jacket

with pride

and  i had made fun of him for it

but i knew it was dad

and we shared a laugh


what can I say about dad

that would do him justice

from the early memories of him

to the later ones

he’ll always be inside my heart

his lessons a part of me

his trust

his love

his laughter

as he entertained all of us

with the stories he told

his mentoring

his compassion

the father-son tourneys

that we never did well in

but playing together were highlights

times when i caddied for him

more times when he caddied for me

it gave me confidence

to do better than i knew


that old jacket

not nearly as brightly colored now 

as it once was

still hangs in my closet today

that jacket

remains as one of my most precious mementoes

of the times we shared.

© rt tulley

rt wearing dad's jacket

rt Wearing Dad's Jacket


Impossible Lie

impossible lie

I am thankful for integrity, that special feature exhibited by certain people whom you can trust to be honest and have character under any circumstance. It is so tempting to try to justify lapses in integrity, but we are rewarded if we avoid that temptation and put all above board and stay true to ourselves.


When I was trying to come up with a photo idea for integrity, my love of golf came to mind. Golf is the only sport I know of in which the participants “referee” themselves. Golf is a game that calls for playing the ball as it lies. It is common for golfers to call penalties on themselves. That’s why it takes a great amount of integrity to play as the game was intended. Sometimes, it would be tempting to kick the ball out of a mess it’s in, such as the one in the photo, especially if no one is looking. However that is not how golf is supposed to be played.


I am reminded of Webb Simpson who called a stroke penalty on himself at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans in 2011, while, when addressing a putt the wind blew so strongly that the ball moved. Even though he hadn’t touched the ball, it clearly moved and that was in violation of the rules of golf. That stroke penalty cost him the victory; he ended up in a playoff with Bubba Watson, which he lost. Even though most golfers believed the rule was unjust in cases such as these in which the golfer is not responsible for the ball moving, the rule had to be followed. Although Simpson did not win, he gained a lot of respect from people who realized the cost he paid by staying true to his integrity. And probably because of Webb Simpson, the rule was changed on January 1, 2012, so that when a ball moves by no fault of the golfer, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.


This photo shows a nearly impossible golf lie. By the rules, the golfer has the option to play it as is or take a stroke penalty and drop it within two club lengths no nearer the hole or drop it as far back as they like as long as it is on a line from the original umplayable ball position and the hole. It is up to the golfer to decide if they have an unplayable lie or not and if they find it unplayable, which method they use for the next shot. Golf is an excellent self-enforced game, one of the reasons I love it so much. It is truly a “gentleperson’s game”.  -rt


bad lie


i found myself in a bad lie

of which there was no return

i hemmed and hawed

but a lesson i thus learned

for it is easier to tell truth

from the beginning to end

than to have to remember

when it was the truth did bend

so it was easy to spot

the great falsehood that i had spread

and rather than justify and explain

best admit and put it to bed.

© rt tulley



Golf Tees

Golf Tees

I am thankful for preparation.  Good preparation requires careful planning, education, study, research, and practice.

Golf tees are used to set the ball up for the first shot on every hole. For that reason, I use golf tees here to represent preparation. Golf tees are the most simple and humble of all golf equipment, and although golf could technically be played without them, their use allows the ball to be put up into the air above the ground and permit better unimpeded contact with the ball. Thus, tees allow for better and longer drives. So it is with good preparation for anything. Although sometimes we can “wing it” without preparation, if we are well prepared our chances for success are much greater.

Golf tees now are mostly wooden or plastic. My dad told me that when he first began playing golf, sand was supplied at the teeing ground in boxes and mixed with a little water to mold a sand tee. Thus came the name “tee box” for the teeing ground. The first golf tee, which sat on top of the ground, was patented in 1889. It was only later (1892) that a patent for tees which were pushed into the ground was issued. It wasn’t until the 1920s that wooden golf tees began to become routinely used with the advent of the “Reddy Tee” (Brent Kelley, I still have some antique golf tees my dad gave me, some of which are wedge looking and others, called Rite Hite tees, which have a ridge which automatically set the proper height to tee up the ball. Tees have gotten longer over the years with the advent of the oversized driver, however, tees today are not nearly as exciting or revolutionary as the wedge tee or the Rite Hite tee.  However, modern tees do the job just fine.


tee it up


it seems that on many nights

i have this recurring dream

in which i am trying to tee up my ball

and no place is adequate it seems

i keep trying new places

on which to tee the ball

but no matter where it goes

off the tee it soon falls

and my partners begin to get agitated

because i am so slow

so i rapidly tee it up in a place

that obstructs my swing though

when i try to hit the ball then

it only dribbles off of the ball tee

so i wonder what it is that this dream

and my psyche are trying to tell me?

© rt tulley