The Week That Heaven Comes To Earth

April12/ 2008

There is an old golf joke attributed to Lee Trevino in which the punch line is “because not even God can hit a one-iron”.  This is the week when God doesn’t play; but He is the Greens Superintendent.  Travel down Washington Road with BobLee as he does his annual Masters Memories. ……………   And speaking of “The Big Guy”, did you know He called Ol’ Roy earlier this week?  BobLee got hold of a copy of the conversation.

So I walked up to a security guard beside the Eisenhower Cabin and simply asked “where did they find his body?”  He somehow knew I was asking about Clifford Roberts, former Executive Curmudgeon of The Masters.  “Mr. Roberts” had committed suicide 4-5 years earlier behind the cabins at Augusta National.

“Right down there by that pine tree next to the pond.” the guard replied.  “It was ruled a suicide and likely was but that sonofagun did have some enemies”.  The Masters is simply “a very special event” for so many reasons.  The knowledge and cordiality of everyone you meet being a big part of that.

My first Masters was in the mid 90s.  After several visits I started taking tour buses down for the Wednesday practice round.  I did that for 3-4 years then decided it was time to move on to Internet Legending.  But those 5-6 visits are chockablock full of memories.

The Masters is not Tiger or Jack or Arnie or “the back nine on Sunday“.  The Masters IS Augusta National Golf Club.  DO NOT call it Augusta National Country Club !! …. or Mr Roberts will come out of his grave and pop a cap on your dumb ass.

Knowing the high tone level of you Buddies & Babes, many of you have been yourselves or plan to someday.  That’s the two classes of real sports fans – those who have been to The Masters and those who intend to go.

I’ve been fortunate to attend or be associated with most of the “biggies” in sports.  There is “Augusta National during Masters Week” and then there’s a big pile in 2nd place …. Kentucky Derby, Daytona 500, Indy 500, World Series, Super Bowl, Wimbledon, Final Four, State’s Red/White Game, and Coach K’s annual “We’re sorry ____ is transfering but we wish him well” press conference.  None of those equal “Augusta National @ The Masters” (OK, the Derby is darn close!).

Just a lot of random thoughts …..

ANGC is special because you see it every year and have seen it every year for 20-30 years.  It’s the only course you know as well as your own.  “Amen Corner” is as much a say-no-more term as “the Green Monster” …. “Touchdown Jesus” …. “the frozen tundra” …. “the Brickyard”.  If you have to explain it you are running with the wrong crowd.  Your Aunt Sadie knows “Amen Corner” and she doesn’t know the embedded ball rule from the infield fly rule.

Washington Road which runs by the entrance to ANGC is a busy commercial/industrial gauntlet like Raleigh’s Capital Blvd or any strip mall loaded street in any medium to large city.

The actual location of ANGC is similar to The Alamo.  You imagine it to be set apart from the world by acres of buffer like Disney World.  Nope, it’s a block down from Hooters and across from The Jiffy Lube.  Just an inconspicuous guardhouse and small sign with a long row of hedges on both sides.  If your name is on the list and you get past the polite man at the gate you are on Magnolia Drive aka The Stairway To Heaven.

That familiar Georgian clubhouse about 200 yards straight ahead looks “just like it’s suppose to”.  Out front is that flowerbed shaped like the US 0f A with a flagstick where Augusta would be.  …. “just like it’s suppose to be”.  

That pretty much sums up Augusta National …. “it’s just like it’s suppose to be”.  Darn few things in life merit that claim.  The Golden Gate Bridge is really orange.  The Washington Monument is cool but “I thought it would be taller”.  To me, only Mount Rushmore earns “just like it’s suppose to be” …. Mount Rushmore and Augusta National.

The first time I walked thru the public gate, thru the souvenir area and out by the main scoreboard I was blown away by the majesty and grandeur of it all.  You come out about 100 yards down #1 from the first tee.  The clubhouse is up on your left.

My favorite place to stand is under the “big live oak” behind the clubhouse next to the putting green. From that spot you can look out between #18 green and #9 green across what always reminds me of Gettysburg or Waterloo.  Majestic rolling green hills perfectly manicured …. If you listen just right you can hear bugles and muskets and see armies preparing to charge into each other from a bygone eras when in an odd way “war” had a gallantry and heroism to it.  That’s silly of course but nevertheless it’s what I always think of from that spot.

You’ve heard about the pimento cheese sandwiches in green paper (so it doesn’t look like litter for the 60 seconds it might lay on the grounds before a Johnny-on-the-spot pointy-stick guy picks it up).  You can feed a family of four at The Masters for less than a hot dog and a beer at the RBC.  Gouging spectators on concessions is not The Masters way.

You know the pristine beauty of Amen Corner.  Again, it looks just like itself.

The support staff are soooo nice.  The same volunteers man the same locations for decades.  They pass down crosswalk guard spots in wills.

The sounds of club hitting ball ricochets like a 30.06 thru the pine canyons.

The water in the creeks and ponds is on its best behavior during this week.

But my funniest part of the day is around 5:30-6:00 PM.  Manage to be back around #1 tee for “the synchronized mowers”.  The greens staff is preparing the course for the next day and a string of 10-12 riding mowers move down the 9th fairway like swimmers in an Esther Williams movie (that shows my age, huh!).  The mowers are in perfect formation like Briggs&Stratton Lippizan Stallions.  DO NOT go to The Masters without watching the synchronized mowers.

One more item about ANGC, there are not a lot of “DO NOT …..” signs everywhere.  For the same reason that The Angus Barn does not need a “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” sign.  Augusta National assumes correctly that it’s clientele simply knows how to behave.  While a naïve assumption in today’s quite uncivil world, it is nice to go somewhere that it is assumed.

Your kids’ college fund and your 401K are important I know, but if you have a chance to swap either for at least one day at Augusta National during Masters Week …. DO IT!


   So last Monday night around 7:30 PM CDT, Ol’ Roy is walking into the AlamoDome for KU vs Memphis and his cell phone rings.  The ringtone is the Halleluiah Chorus and his caller ID says “The Big Guy”.

“Yessir Coach Smith, whazzup?”

“Guess again you huckleberry.  The other “Big Guy”.

“Oops, sorry.  Yes sir, what can I do for You?”

Well, two things but its way too late for one.  Let me guess that you have not checked your voice mail since around 8:45 PM last Saturday.”

 “uhhh, no sir.  I haven’t. Me and Wanda been visiting with Scott and eating fajitas and …. ”

HUSH ….. Well the one that is a deep John Facenda / James Earl Jones sorta voice screaming ROY, YOU CHUCKLEHEAD – CALL A TIME OUT!  That one is from me.  You might have several to that effect but mine is the one with thunder in the background.”

“Yes sir. Sorry about that.  …. What else, sir?”

  Well, Roy you know how this “free will” deal works.  I give you advice but whether you follow it is totally up to you.”

 “Yes sir.  

 “Well, being all-knowing & all seeing, I can see you right now and …. Well, ya might wanna reconsider that Jayhawk sticker on your shirt there, ol’ buddy.”

 “But God you know I love my fellow man especially those nice folks in Lawrence I was with so long.  This is my way of showing them I really do luv those rock chalkers daggnabit.”

“Well Mr Daggnabit, that’s a noble thought.  It sure is …. and I love ALL you folks too even the ones in Derm …. And ya know I’ve already forgiven you for all your mistakes past, present and just about to happen.”

“Yes sir.  I do appreciate that.  I really do.

 “ Well, daggnabit, I gave “free will” to all those people back home in North Carolina watching on TV tonight too.  And, Roy, some of those folks are STILL screaming ‘CALL A TIME-OUT CHUCKLEHEAD’ …. And they liable not to be as forgivin’ for what they might see tonight as I am.” 

 “Oh I’m sure they’ll understand.  I’m their prodigal son and all and, heck fire, I’m luvable Ol’ Roy.”

  “You beat all.  You know that Roy; you stubborn cuss.  Talk at you later.  Ciao Huckleberry”

God turns to St Peter …. “Pete, better call out about 10,000 angels.  I gotta feelin’ that foolishly naive ol’ boy gonna be needin’ some serious lookin’ after for the next few months.   

  “Yes sir boss.  Consider it done.”


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