Lifelet: The Masters Lifts My Spirits Again

I am a terrible golfer.  I am a subscriber to the philosophy of “golf is a good walk spoiled.”

Yet, I love to watch golf in person at the great golf courses.  Augusta National and The Masters Tournament are my all time favorite venue.

Since we lost our family tickets to the Masters with the deaths of my wife’s parents, we are relegated to watching the Masters Tournament on TV.  We eat our homemade pimento cheese sandwiches and have a beer or two.  We pretend we are walking with 50,000 of our closest “patron’ friends.

I love naming the exact tee, or fairway or green before the announcers tell us where the players are.  The course is in my bones and I can feel and see every inch of this ode to nature.

We saw Tiger win there in 2002.  We saw Phil Mickelson win twice.  We saw Arnold Palmer play his last round at Augusta.

Phil Wins his First Major

NOTE:  In the photo above, I am between sitting and jumping as I celebrate Phil’s winning putt in 2004 on the first row of the 18th green.

We have a house full of Masters clothing and memorabilia.

And this year Tiger Woods won again for his fifth Masters victory and his 15th major tournament win.  Thank you Tiger for reminding us how amazing is your golf prowess and how beautiful the azaleas and majestic pines of Augusta National are.

As the rains came down during one of the rounds this weekend, I was reminded of the amazing technology to keep the greens and fairways dry.  On Saturday on one of our visits to Augusta the skies opened and the rain came down in buckets.  Yet, over the sound of the pouring rain I heard what sounded like jet engines cranking up.  It turns out that Augusta National installed a sub-air system to take any extra water out of the greens and fairways.  When the rains stopped, the golfers came back out and there was no water on the greens.  However, the spectator areas were awash in an inch of mud.

Amazing golfers, the beauty of manicured nature, technology, and inexpensive sandwiches and beer.  What a great way to spend four days.

I needed a dose of the Masters, Augusta National, and a triumphant Tiger Woods.  I recently finished a political book about golf.  It was as depressing as Tiger Woods was triumphant.

Rick Reilly, one of my favorite Sports Illustrated authors, just released a book, Commander in Cheat.  I didn’t expect a political tome, but maybe I should have, given that the topic was Trump.

Rick had me hooked with the line “the world of professional golf is slightly more Republican than a Cabela’s grand opening.”

Throughout the book Reilly exhibits his life long love of the game of golf.  Contrasted with his love of golf is the offense that he takes at Trump destroying the great game with his cheating and lying about his accomplishments.  Here a few quotes from the book:

“Somebody should write that the way Trump cheats at golf, lies about his courses, and stiffs his golf contractors isn’t that far from how he cheats on his wives, lies about his misdeeds, and stiffs the world on agreements America has already made on everything from Iran to climate change. “Golf is like bicycle shorts,” I once wrote. “It reveals a lot about a man.” You could write a book about what Trump’s golf reveals about him. Here it is.

Reilly, Rick. Commander in Cheat (p. 12). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.

Golf + Trump is an odd couple, because in golf the most revered thing is not winning but honor. Jack Nicklaus may be the game’s greatest winner, but The King will always be Arnold Palmer, for the way he showed kindness to princes and plumbers alike. Bobby Jones was so taken with the idea of honor that he refused to turn pro, despite winning seven majors. Wasn’t gentlemanly.

Every day, in every tournament, in every state, players report violations on themselves that nobody else saw. Hale Irwin once missed the playoff at the 1983 British Open by one shot because he says he whiffed a one-inch putt on the final day. Nobody saw it but Irwin. In golf, that’s enough.

Reilly, Rick. Commander in Cheat (p. 28). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.

Remember, Ricky, golf is a gentleman’s sport. —JACK REILLY

“WHEN JAPAN SURRENDERED AT the end of World War II, my Army lieutenant dad was assigned to duty in Tokyo. He’d heard that Emperor Hirohito played golf. So he went to the Imperial Palace and knocked on the guard house door. When they asked what he wanted, he said, “Well, I wondered if the emperor might like to play golf with me this afternoon.” That’s how it’s always been in my family. Golf solves everything. Our very bones are made of balata. The whole family golfs—nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, nearly every single one of us. I can remember, when I was six years old, my mom, dad, and brother being on the pages of the sports section because they all were playing in the same tournament. I have an aunt who still wins her flight and she’s 91. We have a giant nine-hole family tournament every year—The Reilly Roundup—and everybody wears a yellow shirt, just like the one we buried my dad in.

So when a man like President Donald Trump pees all over the game I love, lies about it, cheats at it, and literally drives tire tracks all over it, it digs a divot in my soul and makes me want to march into the Oval Office, grab him by that long red tie, and yell, “Stop it!”

You can think Trump has made America great again. You can think Trump has made America hate again. But there’s one thing I know: He’s made golf terrible again.”

Reilly, Rick. Commander in Cheat (pp. 237-238). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.

Sunday at Augusta came to a close with an epic Tiger Woods win and a temporary escape from the “Commander in Cheat.”  The New York Times took several articles to try and put into words Tiger’s Hero’s Journey:

“It was a monumental triumph for Woods, a come-from-behind victory for a player who had had so much go wrong on the course and off after his personal life began to come apart on Thanksgiving night in 2009.

As such, it was only fitting that after he walked off the 18th hole on Sunday, his one-stroke victory secure, his path to the official scoring office was gridlocked with well-wishers, including many of the golfers he vanquished over four grueling days at Augusta National Golf Club.

Woods triumphed in almost stoic fashion, playing with shrewdness and determination over the final stretch of holes while the other players who were grouped with him on the leaderboard took turns succumbing to the pressure of trying to win the Masters.”

Thank you Tiger!

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