A Must See For Every Sports Fan
by Dan Eberhard

While on vacation last week I was fortunate enough to walk the flawless fairways of Augusta National for a Masters practice round.  The course truly was everything I expected it to be and much more.

As an avid golfer in my spare time and a former grounds crewman, I've grown an appreciation for what it takes to make a course look that good.  You can almost hear the piano music CBS plays when you walk up to "Amen Corner" and see the Ben Hogan Bridge with the azaleas in the background.  Everything from the tee to the green could be in a museum and I guarantee we have all putted on greens that aren't cut as tight as the fairways in Augusta.

To cap it all off the other patrons are genuinely courteous and concessions are surprisingly dirt cheap.  I thought I mistakenly got the senior citizens discount when I was only charged 75 cents for a soda that would have cost me 6 dollars at a baseball game.

If you're lucky enough to find your way in, Augusta National is a must see for any sports fan.  This left me pondering the other sports venues a little closer to home that are worth paying a visit to if you haven't already.

Pinehurst No. 2  Home of the 2005 U.S. Open.  The 98-year old golf course will be an impossible ticket in June.   You can play North Carolina's most famous course any other time of year for $275.

Cameron Indoor Stadium  Home of the Duke Blue Devils.  The smallest, hottest, loudest place you will ever watch a basketball game.  The Cameron Crazies reputation speaks for itself.  Looks like a Temple from the outside, feels sacred on the inside because of Duke's success.

Reynolds Coliseum  Former Home of the NC State Wolfpack.  Jim Valvano, David Thompson, ACC Tournaments and other classic games make this place special.  These days plenty of seats are available at the Lady Wolfpack games.

Dean Smith Center  Home of the 2005 NCAA Champion North Carolina Tar Heels.  Love them or hate them, the tradition behind the program makes this place worth visiting at least once.

Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium  When the Pirates are winning, there's no better place to tailgate and spend a Saturday afternoon in the fall.  Skip Holtz hopes to restore the energy that has been lacking the past couple of seasons.

Bank of America Stadium  Home of the Carolina Panthers.  Opened in 1996 and remains one of the top stadiums in the NFL.  Features two giant scoreboards in each end zone and every one of the 73,000 seats is a good seat.

Clark LeClair Stadium  Named after a coach that has inspired a community, the new home of the Pirate Baseball team is easily the best college facility in the state and one of the nicest in the country.  The "Jungle" and a perennial top 25 program make this a great place to watch baseball.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park (old and new)  The old stadium was the site for the movie Bull Durham and had such landmarks as the "smoking bull" who's eyes turned red and tail wagged when the home team went yard.  The new park has an old school feel and is one of the nicest triple-A parks in the country.

Lowe's Motor Speedway  Located centrally in the NASCAR capital of the world.  The track hosts several stock car events each year including the Nextel All-Star Challenge (May 21st) and the Coca-Cola 600 (May 29).  You can pretend you're Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the speedway's Fast Track Driving School.  Participants receive instruction and then turn laps in real NASCAR stock cars.

Sports sites are not in order by rank.

Dan Eberhard