Every April golf fans everywhere start to get giddy and excited for the Master’s tournament. Chills run down your back when you see those first few commercials on ESPN with the azaleas and dogwood trees in bloom and the tall Georgia pines towering over Amen Corner. It is the first major of the PGA’s season; it marks the beginning of spring and reminds the rest of us amateur golfers that it is time to brush the dust off the clubs in the garage. For the participants of the tournament it gives them a chance to start their year off on a great foot, it gives the armatures in the field a chance to prove that they have to game to hang with the big guns on tour. Everyone in that field is playing for a chance to slip into a customized green jacket on Sunday night and become a member of the most exclusive clubs in the world. Some might say that it is too exclusive.
Augusta National has always been scrutinized for being behind the times when it comes to gender and racial equality along with many other things. Augusta invited Ron Townsend to become its first Black member in 1990 and the first two female members of the club are Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore. They weren’t invited until 2012. Still today the rules on the grounds of Augusta are very strict during the Masters Tournament. For example there is a strict no running policy and a no electronics policy that spectators and media members alike must abide by. You also need to watch your mouth around this tight upper lip traditionalist change resistant micro society within the club and Gary McCord, a very colorful commentator for CBS, learned this the hard way after he was politely asked to not return to Augusta after saying that the greens look like they have been “bikini waxed” and the mounds around the course look like “body bags”.
In today’s need to know everything society dominated by social media Augusta is somewhat of a hidden gem, literally. The club remains extremely private not much is known about the inner workings of it but they do understand how to use the Master’s Tournament as a great business adventure. In the latest issue of Golf Digest they estimated that the club makes hundreds millions of dollars off of ticket sales, television and licensed goods. That type of revenue along with membership dues which cost between 10 and 30,000 dollars annually makes Augusta one of the richest clubs in the world. The club has also slowly been buying up property immediately surrounding the area of the golf course. There has been no official word on what they plan to do with it but many speculate that they intend to use it simply as a buffer zone to keep the rest of the world out of Augusta.
Augusta is obviously one of the most upper class conservative clubs you’ll find anywhere and my golf coach the other day brought up a very interesting question to us, a group of middle to upper middle class liberal arts college student, “why do you guys like the Master’s?” The answer I thought was simple, because it’s the best golf tournament held for the best golfers at one of the best courses and was created by arguably the best golfer of all time.
But the answer I realized is not so simple. Why do we like the Master’s why do we support a club that didn’t let women in until less than two years ago? Why do we support a club that only let a black man in 20 years ago? Why do we support a club that kicks a TV commentator out for exercising his right to free speech? If you take a Marxist approach by, using Guilianotti’s Sport a Critical Sociology article, to the Master’s Augusta is the bourgeois has all the power, they have the product and only use the Master’s tournament to make money.
So why have we, the proletariat, not started to protest Augusta yet? Will we ever? I don’t know if we will and that question might not ever get answered but is interesting to see how traditions of sport can still stand in today’s society as is the case with Augusta. It will be interesting to see how Augusta National Golf Club and The Master’s tournament will be viewed in the years to come and weather it will be still so heavily supported of will people open their eyes and see that Augusta needs to catch up with the times.