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Thursday, April 5, 2001
Let's be honest about The Masters
By Jim Murray
Special to

Editor's note: This column originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on April 9, 1982.

No one quite knows how the Masters golf tournament became a "major." The little world of golf looked up one morning and there it was on the doorstep marked, "Important. Refridgerate After Opening. Store With the British Open, the American Open and PGA. Keep Out of Reach of Children."

I suspect the golf historian, Herbert Warren Wind, had as much to do with it as anybody. The presence of the incomparable Bobby Jones as inventor, founder and resident dreamer of the tournament, which was otherwise stuck away in a little hillbilly corner of Tobacco road in North Georgia, didn't hurt.

Herb and Jones grew up in an era when amateur golf was king. Gentlemen didn't play the game for money, and the Masters was conceived as a showcase for amateurs, with only a smattering of the most socially acceptable pros invited to play.

Nevertheless, an amateur never won it and, I dare say, never will, a fact of some annoyance to Master Jones, the only amateur in history to ever beat the pros at their own game.

That amateur influence thus declined. Jones finally concluded, regretfully, that none of those weekend players the stock brokers from Long Island, dentists from Cucamonga, auto salesmen from San Francisco were going to be able to match shots with the flower of the American golf tour. So he began to invite tour winners.

They had sort of wanted to keep the Masters as a kind of inside party in Golf. You know, one of those parties the big rich keep from the view of the masses. But, it became part of locker room lore and first-tee mystique, and the media came sniffing around, positive it was missing something as indeed it was. It was a pure golf party. No Hollywood hoopla. No pro-am. It was like a Skull and Bones dinner at Yale.

TV was beguiled. It yearned to get its cameras into those secret places. The Masters finally let them all in. But on the Masters' terms. It didn't need hype. Its millionaires no more needed their pictures in the papers then the Mafia dons. They preferred running the tournament as they ran the country: in the dark.

Nothing whets media appetites like being told they are not wanted. They eagerly accepted the Masters' conditions, and relinquished control over the show to a large extent. Any other event, and they might have insisted it be played at night, that timeouts be arranged for commercials, rules modified, the sort of things they did to football, baseball and boxing. But when they threatened to withdraw their cameras from the Masters unless proprieters relented, the Masters said, "Good!"

They said the tournament would not outlast Bobby Jones. It did. They said it wouldn't outlast Cliff Roberts, the crusty New York financier, confidant of presidents, who blew his brains out on the 13th green one night three years ago, but it did.

The Masters, somewhat reluctantly, has become a fixture on the American sports scene. Augusta has grown from a one-hotel, one-restaurant, one Confederate-statue town to a metropolis for a week. It belongs to the ages now. Also to Channel 2.

But, it remains one part of the Whimsy it has had since the day Jones founded it in 1934. A former nursery, the 365-acre course is studded with exotic shrubs brought to it for centuries from all corners of the world. So, Jones named his holes after them. The first hole, for example, is the Tea Olive hole. The second, is the Pink Dogwood. The third one is the Flowering Peach. And so on.

This, it seems to some of us, is like nicknaming Dracula, "Cuddles." The Little Red Riding Hoods who wander onto it with a golf stick should know that under that sleeping cap is not grandma but a full-grown and hungry wolf.

Accordingly, a friend and fellow hacker, Dynamite Page and I have decided to rename Augusta National's hell holes after a more appropriate set of guideposts--movie titles. Hole No. 1 is no longer the Tea Olive, it's the I Wake Up Screaming hole. Hole No. 2 is not Pink Dogwood, it's the Kiss the Blood Off My Hands.

Hole 3, Flowering Peach on the card, is the Chainsaw Massacre hole. Hole 4 is Murder, My Sweet. Hole 5 is Each Dawn I Die. Hole 6 is Circle of Deceit or Ring of Fear. Holes 7 through 12 are Five Graves to Cairo and/or Rocky Horror Show. Hole 13 is Wuthering Heights, and 14 is The Curse of the Cat People. Hole 15 is Magnificent Obsession. Hole 16 is The House of Frankenstein. Hole 17 is Death in the Afternoon. And 18 is The Creature From the Black Lagoon, or, more properly, The Creature That Ate Tom Weiskopf. It seems much more fitting somehow to label it this way rather than to have somebody done in by a flowering crabapple plant or a yellow jasmine bush.

This column originally appeared in The Los Angeles Times. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Jim Murray, the long-time sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, won the Pultizer Prize for commentary in 1990. He died Aug. 16, 1998. Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
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