By: Gary Van Sickle

AUGUSTA, Ga.—What I learned from Monday’s first-ever solar eclipse during Masters Tournament week:

Only Tiger Woods can block out the sun here at Augusta National Golf Club.

To be fair (and who really wants to be that?), the sun still blazed brightly on a lovely afternoon at Augusta National Golf Club. It was only 80 percent covered by the eclipse. So the patrons, players, media and anyone else thinking it was going to be Midnight in Mid-Afternoon had expectations much too high. Much like University of Kentucky basketball fans.

Masters branded eclipse glasses were passed out Monday (Masters Images)

Maybe those folks who rushed north toward Erie and Buffalo to find the eclipse’s “path of totality” had the right idea. If you wanted eclipse dramatics, you needed to go all-in on the “total eclipse” part and that wasn’t in Georgia.

It was perfect eclipse viewing weather—sunny with only a few wispy clouds. The peak eclipse time visible on the grounds was a little after 3:15 p.m. The Masters distributed official Masters-logo eclipse glasses to all patrons, players and media who wanted them. They’re nice souvenirs and no doubt already available for several gold doubloons on eBay.

I tried them out and they worked surprisingly well. You could see how much of the sun was covered by the moon. By the time I got around to it, the eclipse part was down to a crescent moon. (Or crescent sun? Confusing.) The glasses were too dark for anything else except looking at the sun but they were a classy accessory to my own fashionable wardrobe—a lime antique Nike polo with a logo of a red crustacean putting on a green from a defunct New Orleans-area course named Bayou Barriere

Canadian golfer Corey Conners used the glasses (his own pair, not mine) during his practice round. “I was fairly impressed, actually,” Conners said. “It exceeded my expectations. I had a little look at the eclipse and it was cool. It was way more defined than I expected. I had my sunglasses on the whole round so I didn’t really notice but I took them off for a moment and it did seem a little darker.”

Conners remembers the last eclipse from 2017. He didn’t get a look at that one. “We were on a plane and had to keep the window shades down,” he said.

If you weren’t looking at the eclipse through special glasses, though, and were standing around watching practice-round golf, you wouldn’t have known an eclipse was in progress. It stayed bright and sunny throughout despite what Conners said. Remember, he had sunglasses on that colored his view.

Ben crenshaw in eclipse glasses on Monday at the Masters.
(Photo by Dave Shedloski)

“It was a big nothing-burger in my mind,” said Rod, a spectator from Michigan. “But the glasses are a phenomenal souvenir.”

The eclipse had an upside in his opinion, however. “It took the edge off the sun just enough,” he said. “It was getting hot.”

I found a woman in a bright green jumper, a local resident, standing near the first tee with a younger friend wearing a bedazzled headband that may or may not have been a tiara. Green Jumper was disappointed in the show. “I thought it would be a littler darker, closer to dusk-like,” she said. “I remember the last time in 2017, it might have been in the fall, it got really dark here. Our lamppost came on because it was so dark.” I asked her friend about the faux tiara. “That’s funny because her name is Tiara!” Green Jumper said. Really? “Not really,” she admitted.

They preferred to remain anonymous women. Tiara rated the eclipse—her first—as a 10 out of 10. Why the good score? “The souvenir dark glasses they gave us,” she said. Sounds familiar.

Former U.S. Open champ Bryson DeChambeau launched a massive tee shot into the bright sky off the first tee a few minutes before I joined them. Were you watching Bryson tee off or were you watching the eclipse, I asked. “Not him,” Green Jumper answered.

David Bartlett from Brookfield, Wis., attended the Masters on this special Monday because his wife won four tournament tickets in the annual Masters practice-round lottery after more than ten years of trying. David was there with his wife, Renee; his son, Steve; and his daughter, Samantha. The good news? They won tickets in the lottery. The not-as-good news? They won Monday tickets only. And they had already amassed several bags of goodies purchased in the patron souvenir shop.

“It was the Masters and a solar eclipse together, it was a good day,” Renee said. Samantha thought it was pretty cool to witness but nonetheless gave the eclipse only a B grade. “Well, it wasn’t even a total eclipse here,” she said.

David termed the event “underwhelming.” The eclipse, not the Masters. I asked him to name the the last time he was this underwhelmed. Before he could answer, his son jumped in. “Don’t even look at me!” he said.

The guys I should have been interviewing were over by the first-fairway gallery ropes. They were four friends—one from Washington, one from Florida and two from Athens, Ga. Each man held a Masters green souvenir plastic cup with a beer in it and had at least three other empty cups stacked beneath it. So that’s four beers if you’re keeping score at home.

Except for Aaron Wallace, one of the Georgians. Two of his drinks were zero-calorie sports drinks. “You’ve gotta stay hydrated during an eclipse,” he said.

Despite enjoying some adult beverages, the Beer Guys noticed something that I hadn’t. The shadows. During the eclipse, the shadows on the green were different. More precise? More detailed? It was hard to describe. But definitely different.

“It was flat light,” explained Patrick LaZelle of Camas, Wash. “I noticed it and we started making some strange kinds of hand-sign shadows.” It was not the beer talking. The shadows were just a bit off.

Spike Buckowski runs Terrapin Beer Co. in Athens. He described the eclipse event as “slow going, like an uphill putt.” That seemed to fit. And he appreciated the occasion, he said, “A once-in-a-lifetime chance to be at the Masters during an eclipse.”

He’s a beer expert. It’s his job. If the eclipse was a beer, what brand would it be? “A Blue Moon, of course,” he said. Because of the lunar tie-in? Nah, I’m pretty sure it was just because Terrapin Beer distributes Blue Moon.

LaZelle, asked for his assessment, said the eclipse was “fine.” That brought a chorus of jabs from his pals but he doubled down.

“We’re at one of the most beautiful places in the world,” he added. “I could take or leave an eclipse right now.”

He didn’t have to, though. A peek through my Masters-logo eclipse glasses revealed this Big Event was almost over. Luckily, another Big Event starts here Thursday.

Gary Van Sickle

Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980, following the tours to 125 men’s major championships, 14 Ryder Cups and one sweet roundtrip flight on the late Concorde. His work appeared, in order, in The Milwaukee Journal, Golf World magazine, Sports Illustrated and He is a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America. His email gvansick at aol dot com.

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