Inside Augusta: Masters rookie discovers a golfing theme park

    Story highlights

    • "Augusta is Orlando for golf freaks," says Masters first-timer
    • No timeshare presentations, but it could be any theme park in Florida
    • The top-class players on show have more tricks than killer whales at Sea World
    • Seeing three of golf's greatest legends tops off a perfect pilgrimage
    I'm a Masters rookie. My assignment here this week as part of CNN's coverage team marks the first time I've been to the tournament or Augusta National Golf Club.
    I don't know what I really expected when I got this assignment, but it sure wasn't what I found.
    Augusta is Orlando. That's what keeps going through my mind. Orlando for golf freaks. Florida in Georgia. Golf World, anyone?
    Arriving off Interstate 20 onto International Drive -- I mean Washington Road, which leads to Augusta National -- the first thing to catch my eye was the ticket brokers, some with just tents, others with tents set up outside their motorhomes. The only thing that seemed to be missing was the mandatory 90-minute timeshare presentation, but maybe that was being offered somewhere.
    Along the road, the restaurants and bars are jammed, and hawkers try to push traffic inside -- even the person dressed up as a Subway sandwich. Traffic is Orlando-like, too. It inches along and genteel Southern hospitality doesn't extend to the road. It can take forever for someone to let you make a turn across traffic.
    The entrance to Augusta could really be any Orlando theme park. In the mornings, the multiple lines are long as people get their passes checked and check in any bags. No backpacks in Augusta National.
    That means you have to get stuff inside. Disney perfected this, to great profit. Augusta National has it nailed too, but at least