I still love the Masters, in spite of everything

John Craven

Scottie Scheffler crosses the Hogan Bridge at No. 12 - Image by Masters media

John Craven

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Of all the golf tournaments played around the world, the Masters is the one that flies in the face of everything I think the game of golf should be… and yet still I love it.

Shame on me but I can ignore the tournament’s dark history, its inaccessibility, its exclusivity, its ownership of language and refusal to be comparable to anywhere else… Why? Because try as I might, I can’t shake my love for the golf course at Augusta National.

It all comes back to the memories the place evokes; its mythical turf a time capsule to my childhood. Rushing home from half seven mass on a Sunday night after lighting a candle for Harrington’s cause; waiting for Miley and Biddy’s bickering to end and the coverage to finally begin on the BBC.

The uplifting electronic theme tune for golf on the Beeb summoned chills. The bunny ear antennas on our tv stretching into space. Searching for the bright lights of America. Transporting us from the misery of Glenroe to the majesty of Augusta.

Dad has a hot whiskey in hand telling me that even before colour television, the place radiated shades of black and white he never thought possible. And then he’d whisht for there was the voice of golf himself, Peter Alliss, the cheeky charmer narrating the goings on of a familiar stage as if it was happening in our very front room.

The picture cuts to his sidekick, Ken, on the course racing two balls against each other down a slippery linoleum covered emerald carpet. I’m doing the same on the old lino in the kitchen that’s running about 8 on the Stimp.

Whispers of legend whistle over Ken’s tall shoulders as the story unfolds between the pines. Prayers around Amen Corner. Birdies chirping. Eagles landing. Fledglings falling from the sky for a fatal drink from Rae’s Creek… I knew I should’ve put the 10p in the church box to pay for Padraig’s candle.

All the while everything is building to a crescendo on 18; its narrow chute through the trees lined with so many people that uniting club-face and ball is unthinkable. Unfathomable. Absolutely terrifying. I’m jittery just watching it. Jealous of anyone who could find the tiered green in two with such a weight of history bearing down – a champion worthy of the garment.

It’s all so thrilling. So captivating. So utterly mesmerising… until they drag the winner into the Butler Cabin for a Green Jacket ceremony that feels more like a hostage video.

Ah yes, the tradition unlike any other, marketed unlike any other. Pushed down our throats like pre-Christmas cheer post-Halloween. Maybe it’s just me but the Masters pre-amble seems to rev up that bit earlier each year, and by the time Thursday rolls around for the ceremonial first hit, I’m completely spent.

And I’m sorry to sound so negative, I really am. I even considered not writing this piece at all. To keep schtum and roll with the relentless positivity of Augusta’s cheerleaders, pop an azalea on my breast pocket and bow to the green jacketed rulers of the land…

But then I heard Brandel Chamblee speak to camera and describe Augusta to be “as beautiful and awe inspiring as the inside of an Italian church”, and while some revelled in the romance of the eulogy, I thought to myself, what a load of shite!

I just can’t take it any more. The incessant fawning. The reaching for superlatives. The retched hyperbole. Grown adults crawling over each other on twitter to sniff the azaleas’ farts, as if outside the confines of its boundary fence that protects sanctity from salaciousness, there isn’t an army of beer swigging sinners on Washington Road lined up at Hooters hoping to catch a glimpse of John Daly’s voluptuous breasts.

I get it. Augusta is a special place. Its grass grows greener. Its water runs clearer. The birds don’t simply sing from the magnolias, they chirp to the tune of Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. And the fans are not golf fans at all, they’re patron saints, free from the shackles of mobile phones, fully immersed in the power of now whether they want to be or not.

And the thing is, Augusta may well be all that – could you imagine that I’ve never been invited to check the place out for myself!

My issue is that I find myself at that point of revery in spite of being constantly told. When it comes to these commentators, to borrow a line from John Belushi playing Jake Blues, ‘I don’t want to listen to no jive-ass preacher talking to me about Heaven and Hell’. The more I hear them wax lyrical about this cathedral in the pines. This hallowed turf of Augusta. This Bethlehem of golf beats, the more I lose my faith in the first Major of the year.

Thankfully though, come Thursday afternoon, the talking stops, the clouds part and the golfing gods appear before my eyes so I can see the truth for myself. And year after year, those four tournament days are enough to make me a believer again.

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One response to “I still love the Masters, in spite of everything”

  1. Ger Coakley avatar
    Ger Coakley

    Well said.The non stop fawning takes away from it.Still great TV though

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