<
>

East Lake perk a lifelong dream for Kisner

When asked about playing practice rounds at Augusta National prior to the Masters, Kisner said, "They're going to be so sick of me. They're going to have to tell me to stop coming, I'm going to be there so much." Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

ATLANTA -- Kevin Kisner owns such a detailed personal history at the Masters Tournament that even the most pertinent details are hazy these days.

He attended his first when he was 8 years old -- or maybe 10. He's been there 35 different times -- or possibly closer to 50.

For a guy who grew up in Aiken, South Carolina, just 20 minutes from Augusta National Golf Club, Kisner has plenty of memories from golf's mecca. One substantial experience, though, is noticeably missing: He has never played in the tournament.

That will change next year.

Thanks to being one of the top 30 players on this year's final FedEx Cup points list, Kisner earned himself a trip to East Lake Golf Club for the Tour Championship. As if competing for a potential $10 million first-place bonus isn't enough of a perk, inclusion in the field also reaps a spot in next season's invitational events, the first WGC and each of the first three majors.

That means the local boy will finally add another Masters experience to his list.

"I know it's cool to get into everything else," Kisner said Tuesday, "but playing in the Masters has always been a lifelong goal."

Officially, 13 players earned their invitations to Augusta next April by getting into this week's event. Some, including Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar and Brooks Koepka, were going to qualify via their world ranking anyway. Others, such as Harris English, Robert Streb and Scott Piercy, will be making a repeat trip down Magnolia Lane.

Of those players, only Kisner and Daniel Berger will cash in golf's version of Willy Wonka's golden ticket, parlaying placement in the top-30 into a first career Masters berth.

"When you dream of becoming a professional golfer, you think of the Masters," said Berger, who finished in second place at last week's BMW Championship. "To have that opportunity is something that I can't even describe."

Unlike Kisner, Berger doesn't own any personal experience with the year's first major.

Check that: He owns some virtual experience.

"The only time that I've played it is on Tiger Woods [the video game]," he offered with a laugh. "I honestly don't even like watching the Masters, because I get jealous of everyone who's playing. I literally will only watch little pieces of it on Sunday, but I won't sit there for three or four hours and watch every shot, because I get so angry."

Next year, that anger will be left for others.

That's because the line between earning all of the Tour Championship's residual effects and watching from the couch at home is thinner than a 1-iron off a cart path.

Minutes after completing his final round at the BMW this past weekend, Daniel Summerhays stood on the back patio of the Conway Farms clubhouse and began reminiscing. His thoughts turned to a trip with his BYU college team to Augusta on Sunday morning of the 2006 Masters.

"I try and go to church on Sunday as often as I can," he said. "We had been back behind the 12th tee for three or four hours and my coach was like, 'Hey, Summer, I think we should probably get going and try to catch a service.' And I said, 'Coach, I'm feeling it right here, right now.' It's a special place."

This wasn't just some random reminiscing. With the tourney still in progress, Summerhays was teetering between 30th and 31st on the FedEx Cup points list. One would afford him the opportunity to live his dream for the first time next year; the other would keep him at home.

He finished 31st. By two points.

With a strong season that included three playoff losses, Kisner wasn't sweating it out this past Sunday, but that doesn't mean a Masters invitation wasn't weighing on his mind any less.

In fact, he's already developed a game plan leading up to next year's event.

"I can't wait to be able to play [practice rounds] all the way up to the tournament," he explained. "They're going to be so sick of me. They're going to have to tell me to stop coming, I'm going to be there so much."

For a guy who started going there when he was 8 or 10 and has attended the tournament 35 or 50 times, the details won't be so hazy come April.

Kisner will take full advantage of the perks of reaching the Tour Championship, perks he's been waiting on for a lifetime.

"It's going to be awesome," he said, shaking his head in what can only be described as lingering disbelief. "I can't wait."