The Masters is a time warp. It’s a bastion of the good old days and the good old boys. It’s tradition—tradition that has resisted all but a few changes for as long as Augusta has been around.
That’s the appeal for many of us. Sure, it’s the first major of the year, which is exciting if Tiger Woods is playing well. More than that, it’s just the Masters. Say those words and you get some kind of nostalgic response from anyone who’s ever watched a round of golf.
It’s the course, seemingly unchanged, pristinely cut. It’s not an especially difficult course—compared to the British Open and the U.S. Open—but it’s always the same.
It’s the same azaleas blooming on the same branch, in the same bush, every year.
It’s Jim Nantz’s nasally, pretentious whisper.
It’s CBS’s guitar-and-piano, hotel-lobby music.
It’s the concession prices. Three dollars for a beer!
It’s the—let’s be honest—ugly-ass green jacket.
All of those things come to make Augusta and the Masters what they are.
The best moment for my generation—and maybe any generation—came when someone rubbed up against and scratched at that tradition: Tiger winning by 12 strokes in ’97. A 21-year-old black man—ah!—playing in Augusta. Not just playing, but dominating, making it look like the game was invented for him—and no one else.
But what made that moment so great was that there was some kind of tradition for Tiger to overcome. He didn’t knock anything down, though. He made his way past the invisible fences, lines, and glass ceilings, making Augusta his own. The tradition still remained.
“The Masters: a tradition unlike any other,” says CBS. But it’s a tradition that extends back and through some dark moments in our country’s history. The Masters didn’t have a black competitor until 1975. Augusta didn’t admit a black member until 1990. Women still can’t be members.
Any tradition that goes as far back as the Masters will pull some of that past ugliness into the present.
After play wrapped up yesterday, Tara Sullivan of the Bergen Record—along with a huddle of male reporters—tried to enter into the men’s locker room to interview the now-collapsed Rory McIlrory, but was told she couldn’t enter because she was a woman. It was a mistake that tournaments officials apologized for, but it happened. Sullivan wrote:
Augusta National does not allow women members, so perhaps security personnel could be confusing club policy with Masters policy. But women journalists have every right to be allowed wherever their male colleagues go, a right already determined by law.
It was an ugly end to one of the best final rounds of golf we’ll ever see. We love the parts of The Masters that it’s OK to love, but we can’t just ignore the rest.
—Photo AP/Dave Martin