In his book, FANATIC: 10 Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die, Jim Gorant takes you on his pilgrimage to golf heaven on earth, Augusta National. It’s good stuff for the golf or sports junkie. Jim provides vivid glimpses into this world-famous golf landscape and the strange sideshow outside the tournament gates.
The book, which includes nine other sports must-do’s, comes out in paperback the week before the Masters. Jim is a Sports Illustrated senior editor and a self-described sports addict. We hooked up via email earlier this month.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: It’s been a few years since your sports fanatic boondoggle. Do you still owe your wife big-time?
JIM GORANT: I owe her for agreeing to marry me in the first place. Seriously, I think it helps that the book turned out well. She’s always proud of me, but in the end she enjoyed reading it herself and that helped make all the sacrifice and craziness seem worthwhile. It doesn’t hurt that over time you tend to forget how bad things were. It’s the same phenomenon that allows women to have more than one baby. Within months of having the first they sort of forget how miserable the experience was. Maybe sleep deprivation has something to do with it.
AG: You’ve no doubt watched the Masters all your life. What was most startling about actually being at the Masters and Augusta National?
JIM GORANT: To me the most startling thing was the juxtaposition of the scene outside the gates at Augusta National and on the grounds. The course is pristine and beautiful, but you expect that. What you don’t expect, or at least I didn’t, was the sort of honky tonk, flea market feel that dominates the streets outside the club. It’s sort of where Bobby Jones meets John Daly. If I’m being totally honest, I also love any chance to use the word juxtaposition.
AG: You were fortunate to see Jack Nicklaus in his last Masters appearance. What else is on your Augusta highlight reel?
JIM GORANT: Amen Corner, Magnolia Lane, players skipping the ball across the water at 16 during practice rounds, lunch on the clubhouse balcony, and a friend who’s a well-known TV personality trashing a customized golf cart while cruising around the development we were staying in the rain well after midnight.
AG: Did the experience disappoint you in any way? Now that you’ve been, have you gone back?
JIM GORANT: I have been back and imagine I will certainly go again. I really loved it. It’s just one of those places that so unique and so special that it makes you feel lucky to be there. You don’t want to leave.
AG: I’ll be a first-timer at the Masters this year. Any tips or advice? Should I go easy on the pimento cheese sandwiches?
JIM GORANT: You’re on your own with those pimento cheese things. I stayed away. Although I will say, they’re a great deal, like all the food at the Masters. Otherwise, wear comfortable shoes because you’re going to want to cover a lot of ground in order to see everything there is to see. As for viewing, I like 16 during practice, and the spot right by the 12th tee where you can see part of 11, all of 12 and all of 13. It’s beautiful and there’s plenty of action.
AG: If you made a list of golf tournaments to see before you die, what events besides the Masters would be on your list?
JIM GORANT: Good question. Obvious answers are the other majors, U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA. I also really enjoy the Players, because it’s a such a different-looking course with lots of dramatic risk/reward shots. Beyond that I’d want to hit the classic venues — Riviera, Pebble Beach, Colonial. Phoenix for the, um, atmosphere, and then something in Hawaii, because who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii?
AG: Any good stuff you can share that didn’t make it into the book?
JIM GORANT: No. All the good stuff is in there.
−The Armchair Golfer