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Must Reads: One house is still parked next to Augusta National despite club’s attempts to buy it

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The home of Elizabeth and Herman Thacker has remained a constant near Augusta National since the house was built in 1959.
(Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)

The grass is undeniably greener on the other side of the fence.

In fact, Elizabeth and Herman Thacker don’t even try to compete.

They keep their modest home tidy and appealing, but they have the world’s most famous neighbor. Theirs is the lone house next to Augusta National, seeing as the golf club spent a reported $40 million in recent years buying up their old neighborhood for more Masters parking. Their house, at 1112 Stanley Drive and just around the corner from Gate 6-A, is the sole survivor.

The place is close to the course but isn’t in danger of being pelted by golf balls. If John Daly were to use the No. 1 green as a tee box and continue hitting in the direction of that hole, he might be able to reach the Thackers’ backyard.

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The elderly Thackers, who built their three-bedroom brick home in 1959, turned down offers from the club to sell it, instead choosing to stay where they put down roots six decades ago and raised a son and daughter. Married 63 years, the Thackers tend to finish each other’s sentences.

“There were houses all the way up to yonder, houses everywhere,” Herman said from a chair on his back patio.

“Now, nothing but trees,” Elizabeth said. “It was houses all the way up to Walgreens, and even Walgreens was a house.”

The Thackers don’t mind. They appreciate the peace and privacy they get 51 weeks a year, but they also like the teeming activity surrounding the Masters, when the fields surrounding them fill with cars of spectators — they’re called patrons here — fortunate enough to obtain tickets to golf’s most prestigious event.

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“We love it,” said Herman, 86, a retired foreman for an insulation company. “We wouldn’t be anyplace else other than right here.”

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The house from the grass parking lot near the north gate of Augusta National.
(Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)

Occasionally, sightseers are under the mistaken impression that the Thackers are some kind of unofficial Augusta gatekeepers.

“We have a lot of people that come by,” Elizabeth said. “We’re out in the yard working, and they’ll stop. They’ll say they’re from Hawaii and that they just want to see Augusta National, asking us if we think they can get in. We say, ‘Well, go up there to the guard house and ask ’em.’ ”

Of course, thousands of people pass by the house each day of the tournament. Except for an occasional dull roar of the gallery, the Thackers can’t hear much of the activity at the tournament — as long as the weather is decent. But if there’s a chance of lightning …

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“They sound the siren,” said Herman, pronouncing it si-REEN. “Let’s you know when the storm’s coming. They sounded it this afternoon. I didn’t see no clouds in the sky, so I didn’t know what was wrong.”

Like spectators fleeing foul weather, most of the neighborhood quickly packed and left when Augusta National decided to cobble together more land.

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“People jumped at it when they said $150,000 or $200,000,” Elizabeth said. “The people next door took about $200,000. They all would take off and leave, and we never left. … The taxes went so high at that time too.”

In case they do eventually decide to sell their home, the Thackers have given the club the right to match any offer.

The couple’s affinity for golf runs deeper than their proximity to Augusta National. Their grandson is PGA Tour player Scott Brown, who spent much of his childhood at the house. When Brown was a kid, he and his grandfather routinely attended the Masters.

“I’d take chairs and put them at the 16th hole, right at the ropes,” Herman said. “Then I’d come back home and he’d eat breakfast, and then we’d go back over there and the chairs would still be there. People don’t bother them. We stayed right there all day.”

Brown, who won the 2013 Puerto Rico Open, has never played in the Masters but would have qualified had he won the Valero Texas Open this past weekend. He was in contention Sunday but finished tied for seventh.

“If he won,” Herman said, “then you’d really have something to write about.”

Brown and his family live in nearby Aiken, S.C., but his grandparents still maintain a room for him in case he’d need a place to stay closer to the tournament — should that need arise.

Call it a Masters bedroom.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer


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