AUGUSTA—NOT SO AUGUST

Augusta, Georgia, home of the Masters Golf Tournament, was first settled by representatives of James Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia colony. He was a member of the British Parliament and, in 1735, after establishing Savannah, he directed his men to build a fort for defense and that became Augusta. It was named for Princess Augusta,  the mother of the future King George III, the scourge of our founding fathers.

August, among other things, means marked by majestic dignity or grandeur.

Given its humble origins and its titular source, one would not associate the adjective with the town. yet, during the annual Masters Tournament, CBS and related sports media. attempt to  attach that cachet to the event.

In Salon.com writer Thomas Hackett offers his opinion that this reverence for the event and for the course on which it is played, is entirely unjustified. http://www.salon.com/2013/04/11/the_masters_presents_a_phony_sanitized_south/

“A tradition unlike any other” goes the tiresome CBS tag line for the club’s annual invitational. But it is a tradition of privilege and exclusion.

Legendary golfer Bobby Jones, who remained an amateur during his playing days, established both the Augusta National Club and the tournament now held annually early in April amidst blooming azaleas and the absence of the overt blatant commercialism rampant in all our major…and minor…sports today.

The announcers speak in hushed terms and stand to lose their jobs should they treat the tournament with other than utmost respect or inject any negativism on any topic into their commentary.

Hackett traces the event’s origins, indeed the origins of the course itself, constructed in 76 days with black laborers earning 10 cents an hour, ten hours a day, six days a week, during the middle of the Depression.

He also explores the elitist, racist history of both the course and the tournament in a rather scathing enumeration.

Yet there’s just no getting around it: Jones presided over a racist golf club. The financial legerdemain is complicated and ultimately incidental, the bigotry is not.

  • Not until 1975 were African-Americans allowed to compete in the Masters. Ostensibly, the tournament is an “invitational.” However, it had established well-known protocols for who got invited. If a player won a PGA event in the preceding year or if he finished the year among the top 25 money winners, he received an invitation. The African-American Charlie Sifford had won the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open, and was among the top money winners in the late 1960s. Yet “Sifford didn’t meet the qualifications,” the tournament committee insisted. In his book “Just Let Me Play,” Sifford writes that word came back that the club’s autocratic chairman, Clifford Roberts, said that “As long as I live, there will be nothing at the Masters besides black caddies and white players.” (For his part, Jones sent Sifford a letter demanding that he stop casting aspersions against the club. And while the quote is often-repeated, many golf historians don’t think it sounds like something Roberts would actually say, even if he believed it.)
  • Not until 1983 were players permitted to hire a caddie who wasn’t black. Some claimed this was a matter of well-meant racial beneficence. To others, the policy was about maintaining comforting racial hierarchies. “A Martian skimming overhead in his saucer would have to conclude that white Earthlings hit the ball and black Earthlings fetch it, that white men swing sticks and black men carry them” is how John Updike described the tournament in 1979.
  • Not until 1991 – nearly 60 years after the club opened – did Augusta National admit a single black member.
  • Not until last year did the club accept women members. Condoleezza Rice, one of the two women admitted, recently said that she has “long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf.” (Of course, we should expect that Rice would overlook the club’s history of blatant class, race and gender hierarchies: She ignored far more egregious things working for George W. Bush.)

Unlike Hackett, I’m not a big fan of golf. I’ve played regular, grown-up golf about half a dozen times and really only followed the game fairly closely when local hero Arnold Palmer was at his peak and there were far fewer options available for TV viewing.

I know who Tiger and Phil are but Rory? Wasn’t he a 50’s action movie star? I do miss seeing Tommy Bolt wrap a 7 iron around a tree after an errant shot but the only golfer I’ve ever been able to identify with was John Daly, and about the only things WE have in common are a prominent girth and a “fuck you” attitude, me without the attendant substance abuse problems that have been the bane of Daly’s career.

I don’t know if Hackett is accurate in his depiction of Augusta’s foibles, but I can agree that the tournament is, in substance, not distinguishable from its counterparts played on the verdant courses which seem to be increasingly owned by the utterly crass and classless The Donald.

The participants are no longer the equivalent of itinerant peddlers but instead willingly sell themselves to the highest bidder for all their equipment and clothing needs and probably even for the toilet paper they wipe themselves with. (And I’m certain their shit…even at Augusta…does stink)

Enjoy the golf but don’t delude yourself that Augusta’s grass is any greener than the lawn across the street.

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Comments

  • anonymous  On April 12, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    How do you view Condoleeza Rice’s and Darla Moore’s membership? Is Rice not only a token black but a female token black? Is it a step forward for minority rights or does the fact they are both conservatives make their membership meaningless? For the club, a serious attempt to move forward or a public relations move?

  • toadsly  On April 12, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    The Masters, for me, heralds the beginning of spring. All sports events are self-serving, but, at least, this one is a feast for the eyes, presented with minimal commercial interruptions.

  • Devildog  On April 12, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    The trees and flowers are magnificent. Enjoy!

  • Devildog  On April 12, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    Sorry, I forgot to add that I am insensitive, lack conscience, and must be a rich, old White man (at least one of those is not true). If I don’t go for Tiger to win, am I a racist or just someone who goes for underdogs?

    • toadsly  On April 12, 2013 at 8:40 PM

      I’m rooting for Fred Couples!

      • Devildog  On April 12, 2013 at 10:14 PM

        Toadsly, I’ll go along with Freddie. In women’s golf, I go for the best/better looking player.

        If I ask UMOC who he’s rooting for in the Masters, I bet I’ll get an earful.

        • umoc193  On April 14, 2013 at 5:28 AM

          No earful on my Masters rooting. I just don’t give a shit.

          Well, let me qualify that statement by adding this. I sort of root for Tiger simply because of the idiocy that attended revelation of his infidelities. It was disgutsing to see and hear sports pundits pontificating on the horrors of his behavior, probably the morning after they were shacked up with some random golf groupie, acting as if Tiger was the first golfer in history. indeed first athlete in history, to have cheated on his wife. That was ludicrous. And so many rooted for him to fail on the golf course merely because of his off course behavior.

          But if Walter Hagen or Gene Sarazen emerge from the pack to earn the (hideous) green jacket, I will not be disappointed.

  • Little_Minx  On April 12, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    Mark Twain was right.

    • Devildog  On April 12, 2013 at 11:27 PM

      Now, now, Minx, don’t be jealous.

      • Little_Minx  On April 12, 2013 at 11:43 PM

        Contempt, not jealousy.

        • Devildog  On April 12, 2013 at 11:49 PM

          Easy now. Contempt? Wow, that’s pretty strong-no? Just because I admire beauty. Trees, flowers, melodies, etc. What do you expect from a troglodyte?

  • anonymous  On April 13, 2013 at 1:47 AM

    Winston Churchill was right.

    • Devildog  On April 13, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      Not nice Anonymous!

  • Little_Minx  On April 13, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    Thoughts on Tiger’s “drop”? I recall when golfing’s honor system for scoring was so ethical that a golfer would self-disqualify for mistakes of which s/he was even unaware.

    Then again, Tiger’s so clueless that he in recent years he openly supported Augusta’s ban on female members on grounds of tradition, blah-blah-blah, despite similar arguments having long been used to exclude non-whites like himself.

    • Devildog  On April 14, 2013 at 12:44 AM

      Not a big fan of Tiger but, from USA Today, 8/20/12:

      “Tiger woods, who has said repeatedly he believed Augusta National should have female members welcomed the announcement … (that Moore and Rice were admitted as members).

      minx, my guess is that you are not that familiar with golf rules so I will not go into your opinion because you are probably not aware that the rules were changed two years ago to permit the rules committee to not dq a player for rules violation. Actually, even previously, one was dq’d for signing a wrong scorecard not for an illegal drop.

      Also, in this case, the rules provided for the rules committee to make a decision knowing the facts and that was what was done-the committee ruled 2 stroke penalty but no dq.

      Minx, once again, you have demonstrated you know not of which you speak.

      • Little_Minx  On April 14, 2013 at 1:40 AM

        Reading comprehension 101: “I recall when golfing’s honor system for scoring was so ethical that a golfer would self-disqualify for mistakes of which s/he was even unaware.” This was in reference to the olden days. When I posted last night, I was already aware from news reports re Tiger’s “drop” that the rule had been changed a couple of years ago re such matters. Nonetheless, several people are still calling for Tiger to self-DQ, as a matter of principle and honor.

        By last summer Tiger may have publicly changed his tune re women joining Augusta, but that wasn’t his stated view previously (too late to look up sources at this hour, but I recall vividly my disgust at what he said).

  • Little_Minx  On April 14, 2013 at 1:54 AM

    Just because Tiger doesn’t HAVE to DQ himself doesn’t mean he can’t. See “Golf 2013: On the links, integrity rules”:
    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/golf/golf-2013-on-the-links-integrity-rules-683379
    There’s also that little matter of Tiger’s admitting that he KNEW AT THE TIME that he was placing the ball 6′ away from where he ethically should’ve.

    • Devildog  On April 14, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      So, minx, I’m the one who needs reading comprehension, eh! The Tiger situation has nothing to do with self-reporting and self-disqualification. While ignorance of the rules is no excuse, this infringement was discovered and dealt with by the rules committee. Players don’t self-disqualify. They report their own violations, sooner or later after the infraction, and the committee disqualifies. Before the change a couple of years ago, the committee had no discretion; had to disqualify. Now they do and they exercised it. ’nuff said!

      If you read the article I cited with comprehension, you would have understood it used the past tense in saying Tiger had spoken out before. But, anyway, he did not have an obligation to speak out and since you had accused him of speaking out the opposite way, examples please.

      I’m no fan of Tiger and the only thing I “like” about him is that his father was carrer military (Army) and Tiger spoke out for the military during Obama’s first inaugural.

      One more observation that I didn’t hear on tv. The rules committee chairman said they reviewed the drop shortly after it happened after receiving a heads up from a viewer and ruled it legal. How the hell could they do that when it should have been obvious it wasn’t?

      Minx, if Tiger was a happily married family man, I think your attitude would be different-unless, of course, you are a racist.

  • Little_Minx  On April 14, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Found in the Devildog book of debate techniques:

    1. Claim the person said the opposite, then accuse that person of ignorance.

    2. Attribute thoughts to the person that the person didn’t say.

    • Devildog  On April 14, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      For example(s), minx?

  • toadsly  On April 14, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    Down Underer won Masters. I suppose Reg Henry is pleased.

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