Disneyland is not in California. The world’s most exclusive clubhouse is not occupied by Mickey Mouse or publicly accessible. Seven years ago, I learned Disneyland is in Georgia. At the end of Magnolia Lane in Augusta is a theme park open to limited visitors for one week each April. Patrons are given rare but inexpensive badges to visit. This club has a storied history that is every bit American as the famous park in Anaheim.
Bright pink and purple azaleas form a colorful foreground. For decades, the Eisenhower Pine protruded ominously into the left side of the 17th fairway. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an Augusta National member, apparently hit the tree so many times that in 1956 he proposed the club cut it down. In 2014, the famed tree was removed after suffering extensive damage from a February ice storm. The five-star army general and 34th president of the United States, referred to endearingly as “Ike,” finally got his way 58 years later.
Tiger Woods was melting away. As we sat on the 16th tee box, we could see the players finishing on 13, teeing off on 14, coming down to the 15th green, and starting play on the 17th. It is a stunning spot to view the sport in the most impeccable setting. The 14-time major champion arrived to the tee in his dark blue sweater and white Nike hat. He lined up on the very left edge of the perfectly manicured turf with his feet behind the tee marker. Audible “Ohs” from the crowd filled the air as quickly as the swoosh sound proceeded the swing of his iron. Then, one of those “I can’t believe I’m watching this” moments happened.
Tiger turned away from the green, angrily threw his club to the ground and with his right foot kicked it fiercely across the grass. His ball, his club and his attitude simultaneously soared in different directions. In this instant, I felt sad. The commentary was that Tiger Woods had officially lost his game and his mind. I was disappointed with the example he set, on this stage, in this perfect place. I also felt compassion for the second-winningest major champion of all time. He was coming off the public unraveling of his personal life and from the perch at the top of his game. I learned that even the best are not immune from mistakes, bad days and the responsibility to set good examples in imperfect moments.
The egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches are something else. They are good enough that Augusta National keeps the recipe for the pimento cheese spread a secret. Try buying something wholesome at another major venue for $1.50. This was an easy lesson. Do not rip people off just because you can. Also, there is inherent value in realizing you have something good and sticking with it. The cost of food and drinks made this place feel less commercial, more sincere and forever timeless.
Concession prices may not have changed much over the years. It was not until 1990 when the home of the annual Master’s Tournament allowed African Americans and until 2012 when women were first invited as club members. Just a couple months after we returned home from Augusta, I heard the news that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore were invited as the first female members to the club. This historic news came on the heels of IBM appointing Virginia Rometty as the first woman to lead the multinational technology company and after the four previous CEOs were all invited members of Augusta National. Another lesson is it takes time, even a long time, to see accomplishment move ahead of circumstance. Great leaders with the freedom to make great decisions will reward merit when given enough time and opportunity. Social change often rides the slow train.
Last week was the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. More than any other event, it is expected to have the greatest impact on women’s golf. Many witnessed the sportsmanship displayed by the first champion, Jennifer Kupcho of the United States, and runner-up, María Fassi of Mexico. More impressively, these two college students were reportedly the first to score five under par on the back nine holes since Jack Nicklaus. This lesson is about rising to the occasion and setting the bar high, even while shooting for the lowest score.
When the men tee off this week, and their caddies don white coveralls and green ball caps, we should consider at least one more lesson. The word master connotes authority. It also means an artist or performer of great skill. I expect both to be on full display. The Masters is more than just a presumptuous name. It is an example of the American theme with special characters performing in Georgia.
Dustin Manwaring is a business and estate planning attorney in Pocatello and served in the Idaho Legislature from 2016-2018.