By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
There was some talk a couple of weeks ago about moving The Masters golf tournament out of Georgia. For those of us familiar with the game and the course, we could only shake our heads at such tomfoolery. You can’t move The Masters from Augusta, The Masters is Augusta. Sure, you could move the tournament to Poughkeepsie, but then it would have to be the Pepsi Cola Poughkeepsie Open, or some such thing. What the “move The Masters” people didn’t understand is that the tournament played at Augusta National each spring is, as Jim Nance dubbed it, “a tradition unlike any other”. It would be like taking the Boston Marathon out of Boston or the Kentucky Derby out of Churchill Downs. Sure, you may have an event, but it would lack the prestige and history that we’ve come to love.
I was rooting for Jordan Spieth to win The Masters this year. I love a good comeback story and from all accounts, he is a really good guy. Unlike Bryson DeChambeau who, by those same accounts, is a real jerk on and off the course. Unfortunately Jordan didn’t win, but he had a good showing, and kept it exciting to the end.
No matter who wins, The Masters holds a special place in the heart of every golfer. It’s all about tradition, and it’s defined by a set of odd rules and customs that just don’t exist outside of Augusta National. Here are just a few:
- Food prices are ridiculously cheap. A cup of coffee, for example, is $1.50. Starbucks could learn something from those folks at Augusta National.
During WWII, when manpower was short and the course was closed for the duration, they set 200 cattle loose on the grounds in hopes that they would “trim” the grass by eating it. The plan was that once the cows were fattened, the club would sell them for a tidy profit, since meat was being rationed. However, the cows, not realizing where they were, continued to devour azalea and camellia bushes at an alarming rate. Finally, they were sold and, instead of a profit, a loss of $5,000 was recorded in the Augusta business ledger.
- Caddies must wear white jumpsuits, which make them look like a parking attendant from the 1950’s.
- TV commentators are required to call the spectators “patrons”. Man, that is some high class crowd. Makes me think of frequenting a posh salon or uber-expensive tasting room. But there must be some truth to it because it is the one tournament where you don’t hear some yahoo screaming, “You ‘da man!” after every tee shot. Augusta National also forbids patrons from wearing their caps backwards. In other words, it is the polar opposite of the Phoenix Open.
- Another tradition is that cell phones are banned. Instead, there are banks of payphones for “patrons” to use, which means there are very long lines of people waiting to use one. The millennials must gaze at these “antiques” and wonder how their grandparents posted selfies with them.
- You can be arrested for selling tickets to The Masters. A few years ago 24 people were arrested for doing just that. One must understand, that to be a patron you don’t buy a ticket, you apply for a ticket.
- In another move that is sure to irritate somebody somewhere, the bunkers at Augusta aren’t filled with sand, they are actually composed of waste product from the mining of aluminum. The byproduct of the waste is a really white quartz, which sure looks like sand but is much more expensive.
- Hamilton Tailoring Co. of Cincinnati is the exclusive maker of the green jacket, awarded to every winner. But don’t even think about trying to order one for yourself… Hamilton Tailoring does not accept orders from the general public. Even the Master’s winners are forbidden to take the green jacket from Augusta, except for the first year after their win. Sergio Garcia was so thrilled with his win that he wore his green jacket during his wedding reception.
And finally, not to crush your illusions, but there are no birds allowed at Augusta National. No one knows quite how they manage to keep the birds out. Personally, I have visions of Tom Skerrett in “Steel Magnolias”. In any event, the chirping birds you hear on the telecast is a “sweetener” from the sound people at CBS.
All of this makes for a very special tournament, one I hope to see in person one day. That is, if I can live up to being a “patron”.