For the past 77 Aprils, the golfing world has made a near religious pilgrimage to Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia for the playing of the Masters Tournament. This is the most tightly controlled and anal retentive golf tournament in all of Christendom, not to mention Judaicdom, Muslimdom, Hindudom, Budduhdom. and all other spiritualdoms across the globe. In Augusta it is mostly Southern Baptistdom.
To say that Augusta National’s membership is “exclusive” is like saying that Dachau inmates were “willowy”. Most of the club’s 300 members are male, white, captains of industry, political poohbahs, famous former athletes or coaches and such. There is no application process because the only way to become a member is to pretend that you don’t want to be a member and then wait for one of the current members to realize that if you were a member that there would be some benefit to the other members. Got that?
For instance, if you could arrange really, really good free seats at Super Bowl or World Series games, help pass favorable legislation that benefits a member’s particular company or pony up several billion in additional capital to save Goldman Sachs from folding, you could be asked to become a member. Suffice to say, some of these members can’t play golf very well but their deal-making skills are extraordinary. “Deal making” is the only known reason that the club invited Donald Trump to join in 2012.
The club was founded by legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones and his buddy Clifford Roberts. The site of the golf course is a former antebellum indigo plantation which may explain why, until 1983, all of the caddies had to be black. Massa Clifford explained the situation very diplomatically, “As long as I am alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black.” It is probably no coincidence that the black caddy stipulation was dropped only after Massa Roberts died by his own hand in 1977. The club waited six additional years after his death to change the policy, thus barely avoiding the embarrassing 20-year anniversary of the 1965 Civil Rights Act . Put a star on the PR department’s chart.
In the early years, the Masters tournament was a smallish affair featuring professional golfers watched by a handful of the club’s members and their rich pals. These guys got their jollies hanging out with professional golfers, back then a somewhat tawdry group of hustlers, gamblers and ne’er-do-wells who could pound the crap out of a golf ball and putt. As golf became more popular, the tournament committee was faced with the reality that sooner or later the hoi polloi would have to be admitted to the grounds. This was especially true when Lee Trevino arrived on the scene in 1968. How could they let a Mescan compete but keep the Mescan fans from attending if they had the price of a ticket? Woo boy.
Then, and this was a shocker, Lee Elder won the 1974 Monsanto Open. According to the club’s own rules, the win qualified him to compete in the 1975 Masters. Lee Elder is, last I checked, of the Negro persuasion. Double “woo boy”. I mean, how were the members and fans supposed to keep track of who was a player and who was a caddy, what with them looking the same and all?
Well, this problem has only deepened over the years and as a bulwark against the rising tide of hoi polloi players and fans, the tournament committee has instituted rules that provide the illusion that the tournament is still the unspoiled worship of golf that it was meant to be. According to the New York Times, the following is a list of the things that gentlemen don’t do and are therefore prohibited at the Masters: (1) no running on the grounds, (2) no sitting on the grass near the greens, (3) no bare feet, (4) no chairs with arms, (5) no folding chairs, (6) no rigid chairs, (7) no flags, (8) no signs, (9) no banners, (10) no coolers, (11) no strollers, (12) no radios, (13) no standing in sitting areas, (14) no sitting in standing areas, (15) no cameras, (16) no hats worn backward, (17) no metal golf spikes, (18) no outsized hats, (19) no carts, (20) no lying down anywhere, (21) no ladders, (22) no large fanny packs, (23) no scalping tickets within 2,700 feet of gate, (24) no walking through the driving gate, (25) no recorders, (26) no periscopes, (27) no outside food, (28) no cell phones and (29) no yelling “You da man”.
My guess is that next year, yelling “Get in the hole” will be added to the no-no list. If not, it should be.
The club admitted its first black member, Ron Townsend, in 1990 but only under threat of losing the tournament if they didn’t. The club waited another 22 years before inviting women to join, well, two actually, Darla Moore, a South Carolina business woman and Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State and a known black person. The latter choice covering two minority birds with one invitation.
Here is my suggestion for Augusta National’s membership committee: use the Condi Rice gambit and get your membership diversity up to 21st century levels by extending invitations to black women who can then be double counted. Suggestions include: Oprah, Beyonce, Michelle Obama, Susan Rice, Cicely Tyson and Aretha Franklin. However, you fellas know how exuberant these darkie women can be and some of them may want to occasionally run down the fairways barefooted in their oversize hats, pulled on backwards, hollerin’, “You da man, you da man”. Cut ’em slack, boys.
Observoid of the Day: Golf allows one to play a gentleman’s game while dressed like a pimp.