On Thursday 06th April 2017, as in most past years in early April, the US Golf Masters tournament got underway at Augusta National Golf Club. Unlike Carlsberg, this is not just probably, but definitely, the most prestigious golfing tournament in the world.
Set in undulating and towering pine tree lined hills in Georgia, the course is occasionally interspaced with striking bunches of azalea trees, on couture grass fairways. There are venerated, hand crafted, and manicured greens, occasionally edged with manufactured creeks and ponds inhabited by Augusta's famous turtles and other such gracious creatures shy to the public eye. They are deliberately and strategically patched with blinding white sanded bunkers, varying in size from standard to gargantuan. All are serenaded by the musical calls of the Augusta's feathered wildlife high in the pines. Augusta in April is a sight to behold.
There is no other tournament like this in the world. This is Augusta and this is the most sought after title in the world of golf.
And all built on sanitised racism and bigotry.
Unlike the other major tournaments, the US Masters by its very location is not an ‘open’ tournament, nor does it have its own rules or regulations. It is constituted solely on the Augusta club's own regulations and rules, one of which is ‘invitation’ only.
As social and civil perceptions changed, with particular emphasis towards racism and bigotry becoming less tolerable, ‘invitation only’ - A term with varying conditions to suit the creators (Charlie Sifford), equipped Augusta's officials with the necessary weapons to retain their historically racial programme whilst circumventing allegations of racism and bigotry. Simultaneously, appearing to be welcoming to all and sundry while grandstanding their ostentatious Southern gentlemanly hospitality and surreptitiously retaining traditional Southern values such as those expressed by one of Augusta’s founding fathers, Clifford Roberts: "As long as I'm alive, golfers will be white, and caddies will be black."
Roberts, late in to his twilight years, blew his brains out on one of the greens apparently on being informed that his cancer was incurable. A civilised, honourable and Southern gentlemanly act of surrender.
Apparently when this ‘unofficial rule’ changed in 1983, the black caddie rule that is and not blowing your brains out on one of the greens – that was never a rule, the black caddies went on strike or at least strongly protested as they stood to lose a lot of income and hereditary family ties to potential wealth. Even in the townships of the apartheid system in South Africa, wealthy blacks were to be found. Wealth in monetary value does not always translate or equate to a social status value. A wealthy black family in apartheid South Africa was still classed as a kafir when in comparison with the lowest white trailer trash family.
As of 1963, the tournament has always started with an honorary T shot by an invited player, officially considered to be one of golf's greats, to be the first to T-off. This year and co-joined by old pal Gary Player (apartheid South Africa), the honour fell to Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus, as a mark of respect to the passing of Arnold Palmer last year and prior to striking his ball, removed his golfing cap while looking up to the heavens. Nicklaus is considered by many to be the greatest golfer ever with the possible exception being the amateur Bobby Jones (another founding member of Augusta).
As per usual, the hopeful, the maybes, we’ll see, I’ll give it a go and this year is my year, all turned up to do battle. The weather played havoc on both Thursday and Friday and by Saturday the cut had been set and made. Only those who made the cut were invited to stay until dinner time Sunday. Forty of the original grouping were told that they were now surplus to requirements. The weather, the speed of the greens, the fairways, the weather, cross winds, the weather again, were all given as excuses by all those who were told to pack their bags. Strangely it was never pointed out that the 50+ who remained also played in the same weather conditions!
One particular golfer who didn’t make the cut and didn’t let the weather interrupt his preparation was Ireland's Shane Lowry. Lowry, unperturbed by such inclement times, took out his hurl and knocked a few sliothars around with his family while waiting on Irelands call. A bit of craic really!
Danny Willett, initially sent home had his marching orders quickly rescinded, since as last year’s winner, Danny, is expected to place the green jacket upon the shoulders of this year’s winner.
Rory McIlroy turned up along with Dustin Johnson to be once again classed as one of the favourites to win. Like last year and the years before, Rory had a plan in hand and having been given great advice by a person who could be best described as a senile auld racist bastard called Nicklaus, announced to the world that he was ready to rumble.
Rory, prior to the tournament made it known that he will remain unfulfilled in his life until he wins the Green Jacket and complete his grand slam of majors. News that didn’t seem to perturb his soon to be wife Erica or that the children she may bear him will not just quite cut it!
As ever gracious in defeat, during his interview, he excused his failure to live up to expectations, not by focusing on where he went wrong or the fact that there were much better players out there than himself, but decided it would be best for his own self esteem to adopt a Beckham's ‘cunts’ moment and focus on himself the false positives and repeated again to the world just how wonderful he really is.
Dustin on the other hand fell down a set of stairs prior to the start of the tournament and ruled himself out due to injury. Slight ambiguity remains on exactly whose stairs he fell down and whether he was running up them in anticipation of what was awaiting on him at the top or he was running down them in desperation of what was chasing him from the top ..... no trespassing on Southern gentlemanly hospitality is a rule I’m afraid!
By Sunday evening, Lee Westwood, who was declared by golfing pundits prior to the tournament as being a great golfer but never ever likely to win it, lived up to that forecast, and was joined by past winner Jordan Speith in the losers tent. Speith, who always seemed to chase it to the end began Sunday on a high and then a low, and then a high, then a low and then flat-lined. His playing partner’s, Leonardo DiCaprio’s love child, Rickie Fowler, initial charge was bluntly rebuffed by Garcia and Rose.
Fowler, a person who looks like he would rather steal your car than play golf and dresses like it too, bruised and battered from Garcia's and Rose's reprisals humbly capitulated, ordered a slushy and left the battle field for the loser’s tent too.
Old timer, 39 year old Matt Kuchar scored a whole in one on the 16th and in an act of selflessness and after writing an inscription on it, handed his ball to a young child from the crowd as a memorable keep sake. Let's hope it wasn’t his phone number!
As the losers tent began to overfill, with the exception of the presence of McIlroy, Rose and Garcia continued to battle on in to the early hours of Monday morning, in the UK that is, to take the tournament to a play-off. Garcia having battled all day against a thorny English Rose eventually triumphed. Rose, as ever the gentleman, congratulated his very good friend Garcia and walked off to be interviewed. Gutted and in the midst of his disappointment he was asked the vexing question of where did it all go wrong? Are you fuck’n for real should have been Justin's answer but he held that one back for a later impromptu off camera discussion and responded politely graciously and admirably.
Garcia on the other hand was presented with his Green Jacket by Danny Willett who looked as if he had just read another tweet from his brother!
And so, as I finished off the last bottle of my Coors Light, £13 for 20 330ml bottles in good auld Tesco, hard to beat but wouldn’t ever recommend any attempt to drink the whole box in one sitting especially when you have work in the morning!, arose gracefully from my seat, removed the match sticks and a badly aimed finger from my eyes, and as I prodded over to switch off the goggle box I began to ponder what was the allure of the US Masters that enticed me every year without failure, especially since I don’t play golf! Was it a personal subconscious desire to be there and witness that moment when someone would eventually turn up and mention:
· The historically racist elephant in the room
· That the bird calls are actually bird noises that television companies add to the setting to give Augusta a more immersive paradisiacal feel to viewers
· That those crystal clear reflections from the ponds are not by chance and are the direct result of a dye, a food dye to be precise.
· That the bright white sand isn’t sand at all but a quartz waste product from the feldspar mining process
· That the deep green colours of fairways and greens is in fact artificially coloured in places to give a more uniform green appearance on television
· Or maybe it is the vain hope that someone will stop Peter Ellis eulogising Bobby Jones by pointing out that in fact he was not just a great golfer full stop, but a racist bigoted bastard who just happened to have played great golf.
· Or maybe the honorary T shot should be changed to an honorary bunker shot!
Is it more in line with the words of Thomas Hackett:
But in truth I know that the legacies of Southern bigotry haven’t so much been elided as they’ve been artfully revised, lyrically evoked and profitably celebrated. And still I watch. Most of us who watch golf also play the game ourselves – after a certain age, that’s not the case with baseball, basketball, football or synchronized swimming. We watch to learn, to study how the pros maintain their concentration as they navigate apparent and hidden hazards. Although its stately manicured grounds seem gentle and benign, Augusta National is full of those hazards – moral, historical and otherwise.
No matter what, next April I will be plonked in front of the goggle box, Coors Light in hand and ready to rumble. Oh, I still hum along to Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd too!