As I sit at the airport waiting for my flight home, I’m trying to figure out what part of my body hurts the most – Is it my knees? Is it the soles of my feet? Or is it my shoulders? I just finished covering my first Masters golf tournament and it was by far one of the most grueling assignments of my career. Over the past six days I walked nearly 60 miles up and down the fairways to cover the iconic tournament.
There are a lot of things that make the Masters unique, but one thing that makes it the most difficult golf tournament to cover is that the photographers are kept outside the ropes, forcing us to move from hole to hole with the rest of the crowds. Therefore, you have to plan your strategy in advance and know that you’re not going to be able to get every shot on every hole. Instead, you get to a location that makes a nice picture and wait for the golfers to come to you. After they pass, you move on to the next location.
It becomes even more difficult as the week goes on because more and more fans arrive and they cluster around the greens. Harry How, a fellow Getty Images photographer who has covered numerous Masters tournaments, gave me some good advice. He said, “When you get to the greens, always stand by fans who are drinking beer. Because they usually leave rather quickly to go get another beer or to go to the bathroom.”
Day one of the tournament started with my alarm going off at 5:00 AM. We had to be at the course early to get a position for the ceremonial tee-off by the honorary starters – Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Arnold Palmer. It was quite a site to see 50 photographers being led up single file to the clubhouse while it was still dark out. We were allowed onto the course about five minutes before the general public in order to find a good spot for the ceremonial start to the tournament. It was worth it, but we didn’t leave the course until after 8:00 PM that night. Even though it was a long day, I was excited to get the first day under my belt.
We didn’t start quite as early the next day, but we were still at the course by 6:30 AM to get ready for the start of play at 7:45 AM. As we walked through the gates to the course, there were already hundreds of fans waiting for the gates to open. The fans line up early so that they are able to go to any spot on the course and put down a chair.
Saturday is usually the easiest day at a golf tournament. The field is cut down almost in half and you don’t have to worry too much about the players in the back of the pack. I spent most of my day hopping back and forth between the top five groups. Bubba Watson held on to the lead that he had established on Friday with five straight birdies on the back 9.
On Sunday, there are pens roped off on the 18th green that are solely for the photographers. If you don’t get assigned to a pen or if you want a different location around the green, you have to line up once again at 6:30 AM in the morning to go out and put a chair down around the 18th green to mark your spot. Luckily I was assigned a spot in the pen on the right hand side of the green so I didn’t have to arrive early to put down a chair. By the time that we arrived at 9:00 AM in the morning, there were already chairs about 15 rows deep around most of the 18th green.
The leaders teed off at 2:45 PM. After Jordan Spieth went into the water on the 12th hole, it was all but over. Even with the assigned spot on the 18th green, I wanted to make sure I would have a good spot, so I left the leaders after the 14th hole and made my way to the final hole.
As Bubba Watson putted in for a three-stroke victory on the 18th hole, he dropped his head and bent over, as the fans roared and stood on there feet. It was a masterful performance by Bubba but unfortunately for the photographers, there wasn’t a great celebration picture on the final hole.
In all, it was one of the most memorable assignments that I have ever had. Our golf photographers at Getty Images are the best in the business and they always talk about how great of a tournament The Masters is to cover. Now I know why. And I can’t wait to go back.
Ezra Shaw has been working for Getty Images as a Staff Photographer for over 15 years. He began his career assisting many Sports Illustrated photographers both in London and New York City. After settling down in New York City, Shaw spent nearly ten years traveling the world with New York City as his base before relocating to Sydney, Australia in 2006 to experience what life “down under” had to offer. After spending nearly three years in Australia, Shaw relocated to Marin County in northern California.
His assignments have included both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games, the Super Bowl, World Series, World Cup, Tour de France, and numerous other events. His pictures have appeared in many publications around the world, and Shaw has won awards in the World Press Photo, NPPA Pictures of the Year, World Photography Awards, Pictures of the Year International, and the Sony World Photography Awards.