You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Masters Madness

Well, no one fell for National Public Nudity Day, if you don't count my bathrobe slipping off when I went to get the newspaper. * However, a different kind of madness is settling in a week later. It's time for The Masters.

Every year, a collection of rowdy, ill-disciplined, smelly, and violent brutes gathers at the Augusta National golf course in Augusta, Georgia. There, these media personalities are hosed off, disinfected, and horsewhipped until words like "bikini-wax" and "swing those shafts" are purged from their vocabulary. After that, they don special ESPN and CBS attire, approved by the secret cabal that runs the golf club.

After this the golfers themselves show up and the process begins all over again, especially for John Daly, Tiger Woods, Fuzzy Zoeller, and anyone who "talks funny."

The Masters is as old-fashioned as a ...well, as an old-fashioned.

It's also steeped in tradition: The Green Jackets**, Magnolia Lane, Butler Cabin, the Par-3 Tournament, the Champions Dinner, the ceremonial tee-off of legendary players (I hear this year it's Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and that Tin Cup guy), Mint Juleps, and charming old Southern members who talk so slow, you could play a round with them before they'd finished introducing themselves.

There are a few lesser known traditions:
  • The Annual Running Off of the Riff Raff with the Official Masters Electric Cattle Prod
  • The Annual Shunning of the National Organization of Women Protesters
  • The Annual Sweet Tea Drink Off (Followed by the Unofficial Annual Filling of Rae's Creek)
  • The Bi-Annual Castigation of CBS for Some Imagined Oversight in Order to Keep those "Television Hippies" in Line
The course is a beauty, or at least it is on television (especially HDTV). The average golf fan will never see the legendary Magnolia-lined, rolling hills and severely sloping greens in person. Even the fans are vetted, with a limited number of tickets available to a pre-approved list of people who have undergone the necessary physical examinations and gotten the appropriate haircut.

That and the pimento cheese sandwiches add to the rarefied atmosphere.

The golf itself is fascinating. The greens undulate like Shakira in a Red Bull-fueled dance-off. On occasion a slow putt will roll by the hole, the way a retired couple in an RV casually sight-sees the upper Mid-West, only to stop well off the green, twice as far away from the hole than when it started.

The average golfer probably feels just a little bit of Schadenfreude when something like that happens to the greatest golf pros in the world.  However, this is swept away when a player turns around and sinks a 90 foot putt along those same mountainous contours.

One of the courses where I used to live had a couple of copies of the par 3 holes from Augusta National, numbers 12 and 16.  The first time I played the number 16 copy, my ball found its way to the bottom of the front of the green. The hole was cut in the center, halfway up an imposing grade, with the grass cut so low, a June bug wouldn't so much as tickle his belly walking over it.

The first three putts I hit at the hole came right back down to my feet.

As the old PGA signature line goes, "These guys are good." It's gonna be a fun weekend.

*Late April Fools! We don't get a paper.
** The Green Hornet can only wish he could get one of these.

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