Azaleas, tranquility and a total asshat

I’m back from my Masters trip with the DogDoc. Sorry I didn’t give more timely updates, but posting from my Treo wasn’t easy since cellphones and PDAs are strictly verboten at Augusta National. First of all, I want to thank the Nashville Knucklehead for giving up his ticket this year so I could go for the first time.

I am not nearly poetic enough to express the beauty and majesty of the Masters course, but I will give my impressions. The trip was grueling and exhilerating at the same time. We figured out that we spent about 30 hours on the road over 4 days, and by the end my Tahoe reeked of spilled beer, beef jerky, Copenhagen dip cups and feet. I’d do it again tomorrow if my liver and circadian rhythms could handle it. It’s a company truck, so I’ll have to do a little work on that before I take any clients out anytime soon…

We stayed in a house on Lake Hartwell on the Georgia/South Carolina line about 2 1/2 hours from Augusta. Accomodations any closer are tough to come by, and since I was a guest there was no arguing with the transportation plans. Just shut up and drive. Even if one of the conditions of the ticket involved driving an extra couple of hours in the wrong direction to a Waffle House near Athens to pick up and give a ride to and spend the day with one of the most inbred, ignorant asshats I’ve ever met. More on him later.

Our foursome pulled into Augusta National at about 10:30 on Friday. I’ve been to Augusta on business several times and was never overly impressed by the town. It’s a dirty, run-down city with strip mall after strip mall. I sensed a real tension among the citizens over racial and socioeconomic differences. I’d drive around the border of the golf club, but never saw inside the tall walls. You’d never guess what was behind those fences from the street outside.

From being regaled by past stories from the Knucklehead and the DogDoc, I was well prepared for the Masters experience. It sounds a little weird, but I was surprised by the fact that everything was exactly like they had described. They had told me about how small the whole layout is and that you can walk from one end to the other in 15 minutes. I was prepared for the elevation changes that the television just can’t reveal. I knew about how polite and knowledgeable the crowd would be, and that the greatest lunch in the world may just be a cup of beer and a pimento cheese sandwich ($3.50 total!) from the snackbar along the #1 fairway. I had watched the tournament on TV for years, so I expected that the azaleas and dogwoods to be as colorful and beautiful as they were.

Even with all that preparation, I was competely overwhelmed by the place as I walked in the gates and onto the course. The explosion of colors and people and cheers had my head spinning as we walked the whole course before lunch. Two of my buddies had a combined total of over 40 Masters trips between them so they were excellent guides. Unfortunately, the other guy had been to the tourney for the first time the day before and blathered on like the expert he wasn’t. Since we had to give him a ride back to Athens, we couldn’t distance ourselves from him as we would have liked to. The $2.00 Budweisers started to add up for him and he couldn’t pass a beer tent without buying two more. When he called John Daly a “big fat f*ck” from 15 feet away in the middle of his backswing, I thought we were all gonna get kicked out, our badges (which had been passed down for 50 years) confiscated and our sorry butts dumped in the middle of Washington Avenue by goons wearing green jackets. Luckily, as his buzz increased, he actually got quieter and ended up spending the last two hours on the course wandering around in small circles in front of the bleachers at Amen Corner, wondering where we had gone. Apparently he forgot that he was sitting with us there when he got up to get one or six more beers. As long as we could keep him in sight, we figured it was safer to maintain some distance.

We sat in those bleachers and watched about eight threesomes come through and play #11 and #12. The golf was exciting and the shot making superb, but I was actually spending most of the time taking mental snapshots of my surroundings to call up on bad days in the future when I need something good to concentrate on. The view looked like this:

Picture used with absolutely no permission, but if you wanna buy it, go here. There, that ought to cover me.

The efficiency with which the staff handled the crowd and the decorum with which the crowd handled itself was amazing. (Asshat excluded.) Considering the number of badges that go to friends of a friend or biz-pig executives or just any old yahoo who buys them on eBay, you’d expect folks to be less respectful and more ignorant. But the Masters is self-policing. It makes you want to behave. It makes you want to quietly applaud good shots and roar for great shots, even if you really don’t like the person hitting them. Unless of course it’s Curtis Strange, but that’s a long-standing personal grudge on my part.

I had a friend in college who said she her father taught her that the word “awesome” should be reserved for God and the USC football team, but I would add another. The patrons at Augusta National are full of awe. (But wouldn’t that make them “awful?” But I digress.) It is a place where everyone participating from members, to officials to players to caddies to spectators treats every moment as if it is special. I can’t think of many other places or events like that, but I wish there were. And I’d crawl through hell wearing kerosene underwear for another chance to go back!

We spent the long ride back to the Waffle House listening to Asshat’s opinions on why Tiger is such a great golfer, (his Mom instilled a real sense of excellence in her boy, Eldrick) why Phil Mickelson will never win another major, (he actually consults his caddie for advice on reading putts) and the fact that all of his children are bastards because he doesn’t believe in abortion except for the second time his second wife got pregnant after he already realized he was a crappy husband and father so that one was OK. Nice call on Phil, too, by the way.

In an attempt to drown him out I turned the car stereo up loud and played an old album by an unsigned local band. He then proceeded to sing (howl) along with songs he didn’t know and had never heard before. It was like bad predictive typing on your cell phone when you’re text messaging. He would try to guess the next word of the lyric and garble along with where he thought the melody was going. It was truly excruciating.

Then the coup de grace. We had driven to the Waffle House from a different direction and we didn’t know exactly how to get there from Augusta. And Budweiser Boy had forgotten where we met us.

“Don’t you live near here?”

“Yeah, but I don’t remember good. I think if you keep heading this way down the road, the Waffle House should be exactly behind us.”

“So we should turn around then?”

“Only if you want to go to the Waffle House.”

“Dude, you can’t imagine how much we want to get to that freakin’ Waffle House!”

So we finally found the place and slowed down long enough to roll him out the door of the truck. We returned to the course on Saturday, but between rain delays and missed meetings with people we were supposed to exchange the badges with, it was a total goat fornication. But the worst day at the Masters beats the hell out of the best day almost anywhere else.

When the lightning horn sounded ending our day prematurely, I stood in the rain and watched literally thousands of multi-colored umbrellas streaming across the course in a polite orderly fashion to head for shelter. No one was pushing. The crowd parted to allow people heading in the other direction to exits on other parts of the course. If you tried that in any other gathering of 40,000 wet sports fans, it would be like feeding a catheter into a pissed off lion. The dance of the undulating wave of spinning umbrellas was really quite beautiful. As I sipped on my beer, I noticed the rain was filling the cup as fast as I could drink it. It was a little watery, but hell it was a Miller Lite to start with. “A never emptying cup. This truly is a magical place.”

And it is.


3 Responses to Azaleas, tranquility and a total asshat

  1. Kat Coble says:

    It’s not good to skim a blogpost.

    Because when you do, you read this:

    The explosion of colors and people

    but your brain sees this:

    The explosion of colored people

    and you think to yourself “hmmmm. Maybe the Augusta National course is really doing its part to drive home the racial tensions in the area.”

    Seriously, though, I envy you the trip. Aside from the drunk Asshat, it sounds splendid.

  2. bridgett says:

    Asshat is one of my favorite new words. If golf was half as interesting to me as what literate fans write about golf, it would be a marvelous game. (Others have said that to me about baseball, but I know in my heart what God was doing on the seventh day…)

  3. ceeelcee says:

    “Asshat” is one of my favorite new discoveries, too. Unfortunately, I gave up swearing for Lent, so I can’t say it out loud until Sunday. But I figure typing doesn’t count, so I’ve gotten some good release through blogging this last month. Asshat! Asshat! Asshat!

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