Even if you do not play golf, I’ll bet you’ve heard of the Masters Golf Tournament, which is going on right now in Augusta, Georgia through Sunday. You may not even care what the outcome is or who is participating, but when you learn of some of the strange goings-on there over the years, I think you will be interested in the rest of the story.
In 1934, Bobby Jones who was responsible for starting the Masters Tournament, asked the United States Golf Association (USGA) to host the U.S. Open Golf Tournament at Augusta National, the course he and Clifford Roberts had cofounded. The USGA declined that offer and it made Jones angry. So he and Roberts (who committed suicide on the course in 1977) decided to have their own event, which became the Masters. It is not a championship of anything, like the PGA or U.S. Open championships, but it has become one of the four major golf tournaments on the pro golf tour.
It’s one of the most unusual events in sports because it’s all about tradition and is defined by a set of odd rules and customs that just don’t exist outside of Augusta National. First, there are very reasonable food prices at the tournaments. Most places know they have a captive audience and they gouge you for the food, but not at Augusta. Soft drinks are $2 and sandwiches are $1.50. No tipping is allowed.
Cell phones are prohibited at all times and cameras are not permitted during the tournament. This is also the case at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio.
Only four minutes of television commercials per hour are allowed during the broadcast, and no blimps are used overhead. Until 1983, players had to use local caddies provided by Augusta. Can you imagine how strange it is when you depend on your caddy and work together so closely, then you have to work with some stranger for four days? All has changed now and players are allowed to use their own caddies, but the caddies have to wear the Augusta uniform, which is a green hat and a white jumpsuit. I’ll bet it’s uncomfortably hot on some days.
Fans are called patrons and they are allowed to bring collapsible chairs to sit on, but they may not have armrests. I would assume this is to allow chairs to get closer together and allow more in one space.
Here’s a crazy thing – there is a house located in the middle of the Augusta National parking lot because the owners refuse to sell it. The family has reportedly turned down millions over many years.
Also, you can’t apply to become a member at Augusta National. You must be nominated by a current member and no new initiations are accepted unless someone quits or dies. The total membership is around 300.
Here is the craziest one of all for me – the course is closed in the summer to keep it in its best shape. So from the end of May until October you cannot play golf on this course. Are you kidding me? This is really crazy, but everyone goes along with it.
Now we come to one of the most famous happenings at the Masters. Pro golfer Roberto DeVicenzo was preparing for an 18-hole playoff in 1968 because he was tied with Bob Goalby. Then he got the news that he had signed an incorrect scorecard, which had him with a one stroke higher score than he actually shot (he birdied the 17th hole, but a par was recorded on the card). The rule was, once a player signs a scorecard, it must stand. Consequently, the two were no longer tied. The error gave Goalby the victory, and DeVicenzo second place. Interestingly, if DeVicenzo had signed a scorecard with a lower score than he actually shot, he would have been disqualified.
Now the Masters has new procedures for players to check their cards in privacy in a separate building. At that time, DeVicenzo was standing at a picnic table looking the card over as members of the press came to talk to him. It was a distraction that cost DeVicenzo the chance to win. Oh yes, it was also his 45th birthday!
(Melanie Behrens – email@example.com)
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