“I’ve never been to heaven and thinking back on my life I probably won’t get the chance to go. I guess winning the Masters is as close as I’m going to get.” – Pro Golfer Fuzzy Zoller
Words by Cameron Higgins
Golf is, as they say, the gentleman’s game. Played by anyone who can afford club memberships, clubs, balls and greens fees — which are ridiculously expensive — golf is by nature, an exclusive activity.
The problem is though, golf is also a damn good game. Played across ridges and swales of grassy, park-like land, golf is played hand-in-hand with nature, against oneself. Of course, issues of irrigation cost and land development, maintenance, manipulation of the environment and pollution haunt the 18-hole golf course. In one light, everything positive about golf comes packaged with a potentially negative flipside.
So, given that the game of golf itself is slightly problematic, it is only fitting that The Masters, the Superbowl of the golf world, is the most problematic event of them all. Played at Augusta National, The Masters traffic in Old South fantasies of magnolias and perfectly trimmed greens. August National itself is famously exclusive: Condoleezza Rice was the first woman to be admitted as a member in only 2012. The first African-American member, Ron Townsend, was admitted as late as 1990. A four day badge to The Masters costs around $5000. Nothing about the establishment or the event scream ‘progress’ (although August National did just announce a new, women’s amateur tournament, which is certainly a step in the right direction).
Yet The Masters is visually glorious. There is special magic in the air: amateurs go unconscious and play the best rounds of their lives, while the super pros mysteriously flounder. Some of golf’s most iconic moments happen during this event: Tiger’s youthful debut in 1997, Phil Mickelson’s victory in 2004, Tiger’s ridiculous chip-in on the Sunday round in 2005.
Plus, Augusta National’s course is undeniably spectacular. The fairways are immaculate. The greens look like they just left a grass salon. The pines are tall, the magnolias pink, and everything is in springtime bloom. The best pros in the world bring their A-game in pursuit of the coveted green jacket. There is always Sunday drama on the final fairways. In short, The Masters, with its combination of unparalleled play and immaculate setting, serves as a blueprint for the perfect round of golf.
On one side of The Masters, we have beauty and athletic excellence. On the other side, we have exclusivity and troubling legacies. Like the NFL and its concussive violence, the Masters makes for great, conflicted television. So, with both sides of this coin in mind, we recommend that you fix some kind of bourbon or sweet tea related beverage this weekend, settle in to watch the Masters, enjoy the beauty of the game, and reach your own conclusions about its legitimacy. See you at Amen Corner.
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