This is one of the spring weekends we like the most.
Baseball is finally open and the soothing sounds of bats on balls and balls smacking into leather gloves once again soothes our covid19 tortured soul. Even Judge Hirsch, as his beloved Cubs race to the basement, is still full of hope this opening weekend. You never know.
Sunday is Palm Sunday. We love a good Palm Sunday. It's a welcoming event. It celebrates Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem. We were welcomed into the REGJB a little less reverently when we first arrived. More like a stranger in a strange land. However we celebrate inclusiveness.
Speaking of inclusiveness, we find ourselves this weekend, once again, in Augusta, Georgia, a sleepy little town of small-town America strip-malls and Olive Garden and Carrabba Italian restaurants, and a Courtyard by Marriott just off I-20 and down the road from the most iconic golf tournament in the world, known for its exclusiveness. This weekend, like every Masters weekend, the Azaleas are in magnificent bloom and the golf course is perfection. The place is abuzz with Tiger Woods who is making a Ben Hogan* like comeback to golf at the highest levels. Those Judges and lawyers born during the age of Starbucks have no idea what any of this means, and we don't care.
What if the old REGJB was run like the Augusta National Golf Club?
Invitation only. You can't ask to join Augusta, you have to be invited. If you ask you will never get an invitation. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was surprised one day to receive an invitation. She accepted.
No cell phones allowed.
The people who attend this weekend are called "Patrons" not customers or fans.
The menu is simple and cheap, headlined by the famous Pimento Cheese Sandwich which costs $1.50. The recipe is a guarded secret.
|Pimento cheese Sandwich in the traditional Master's green wrapper.|
The egg salad is $1.50; the ham and cheese is $3.00. The most expensive items on the menu is a beer for $5.00 or a while wine for $6.00. Going to the Masters should be on any fan's bucket list. The most coveted souvenir is a seven inch tall beverage cup. People paw through the garbage to get one. The NY Times did an article on the cup.
Bad behavior is not tolerated. There is no shouting "in the hole!" when the player hits a tee shot 450 yards from the hole. No shouting "you da man!" or "baba-booey". Any such hooliganism will result in your admission privileges being revoked.
The conduct code doesn't just apply to fans. In 1994 CBS golf commentator Gary McCord called the Augusta National's greens fast (which they are) and opined that they were groomed "with bikini wax". McCord quipped that some mounds behind some greens reminded him of "body bags". The powers that be at Augusta were listening. Several months later it was announced that the chairman of the club had informed CBS that Mr. McCord would not be welcomed back because of "distasteful comments."
In 1966 CBS commentator Jack Whittaker was calling a playoff at the Masters. People surged towards the 18th hole. Whittaker said on TV "here comes the mob." That was that. The Master's chairman huffed that it was not a mob, and Whittaker was banned. This story has a happy ending. Whittaker was given a ticket for admission by a CBS executive five years later. During that same tournament a CBS announcer fell ill, and the same chairman who had banned Whittaker asked him for help. Whittaker took the mike and called Master tournaments for the next ten years.
Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on worldwide TV and was banned from the Oscars for ten years. Gary McCord quipped about fast greens and he was banned for life.
All caddies wear a white jump suit that must be returned at the end of the tournament. The champion gets a coveted green jacket and hid caddie gets to keep his jump suit with his name on the back.
The tournament is invitation only. All former champions are qualified to play for life. Players who win other tournaments during the year are qualified to play, and the club may invite any other player to compete as well. All invitations are personalized letters that arrive in the mail and each one requests an RSVP. Phil Mickelson, a former champion, famously declined his invitation to play this year, still smarting from in inadvisable dabbling in opening a competing tour in Saudi Arabia, which imploded under the weight of the Saudis abuse of women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community.
There is something special about the back nine at Augusta, especially on a Sunday. Before Tiger, there was Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear. His Sunday back-nine charges, starting at "Amen Corner", the three most beautiful golf holes in the world, are legendary and awe inspiring.
In 2019, trying for his first comeback, Tiger was down two to Fancisco Molinari as Molinari approached the twelfth on Sunday. Molinari put his shot into Ray's Creek. Tiger, born for this type of pressure, landed his ball gently on the green. He made par, while Franciso double boogied and they walked off 12 tied for the lead.
There is much wrong with the genteel old south. You will not read us wax poetic about good old days gone by. We know the Augusta National Golf club did not admit women and minorities for many years. That was wrong.
But there is a level of quiet culture that we like. The food is good and reasonable. People are friendly. No one's head is buried in a cell phone because they are not allowed. We like being a patron - it is so much better than being a fan at a dolphin game with the sweating and swearing masses clamoring for twenty-dollar beers.
For one weekend during the year, class wins out.