Park brings fans together

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Every second week in April, Doodles Woodward rallies up her two sons, her dog Maggie and sets forth in her recreation vehicle for the Masters Tournament.

The 79-year-old from Georgetown, S.C., has parked among dozens of other golf fan-filled RVs for 28 years at Rae's Creek RV Park on Berckmans Road near the gates of Augusta National Golf Club.

"My year really starts the week of Masters," Mrs. Woodward said. "This is my 28th year, and I'll keep driving my RV until I'm 85."

Many families who gathered at Rae's Creek RV Park on Friday evening have made the same trip several times. The RV enthusiasts said being close to the action of the Masters and bonding with other RV families only adds to the experience of also attending the event.

Mrs. Woodward and her late husband, Fred Woodward, began driving an RV to the Masters in the mid-1970s. They often parked at a lot between Washington and Berckmans roads, she said. Her husband's memory lives on, though the parking spot has changed.

"I know I'm carrying on something my husband started in 1947," Mrs. Woodward said. "He went for 50 years straight until he died in 1997. I just have to keep doing what he wanted me to do."

Mrs. Woodward has also kept up the tradition of having pot luck dinners each Masters Week with two families she met more than 20 years ago. Beyond enjoying another year of friends and fun, Mrs. Woodward said she looked forward to rooting for her favorites today.

The Staggs family had three generations parked at Rae's Creek on Friday evening. Javie Staggs, of Cincinnati, said his family began making the trip from Ohio to the Augusta National more than 50 years ago.

Mr. Staggs, 27, began the tradition at the age of 12. He has traveled to golf tournaments all over the country, but Mr. Staggs said none compares to his camper experience at the Masters.

"It's just beautiful," he said. "It's a different atmosphere, because the people are so laid-back and you make friends."

Those who rent hotel rooms for the Masters could never understand the RV experience, said Dan Moore, of Charleston, S.C., a 10-year RV Masters fan veteran.

"What you find with RV people is that they really get together," said Mr. Moore, 44, adding that in contrast, "You're not going to see people gathering around talking at the elevator (of a hotel.)"

Dan Besse, 66, of Saskatchewan, agreed. He and his wife, Rhoda, drove 2,500 miles in their RV for their first trip to the Masters. The lifelong golf fan and RV fanatic said the camaraderie and closeness to the green would bring him back to Augusta next year.

"We brought our houses with us," Mr. Besse said. "I'd like to think that makes us a little more involved than those that just jumped in their car and came here."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.


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