Adhering to traditional standards, Masters is a timeless work of art

April 14, 1996|By John Steadman

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Continuing to stand as an unabashed beacon of steeped tradition while guarding its nobility with sentinel-like diligence, The Masters golf tournament enjoys ongoing world-renowned acceptability. Yes, the magic formula is simply that; nothing complicated or in any way public-relations contrived.

The Masters refuses to lose its inherent individuality as it remains the epitome of civility and understated elegance. What it stands for in its consideration of the public can't be applauded enough. Envied by the competition, it should be a lesson for emulation.

First and foremost, this is by close to unanimous acclimation the finest sports event in the world. Unchallenged. Incomparable. The Masters is indeed a classic presentation that comes close to being flawless in its demeanor, putting it far ahead of whatever it is that's stymied, to use an old golf expression, in second place.

The rules of conduct, by players and the gallery, plus the passion-fed commitment of the host Augusta National Golf Club in insisting to uphold its policies, makes any visit to the grounds an unforgettable experience. Even if you hate golf, there's a problem trying to find fault with how the Masters conducts itself.

This is an era, unfortunately, where the emphasis in society, generally speaking, is to trample on any semblance of manners and what used to be understood as basic politeness. The Masters preserves those now-fading qualities by merely being what it is.

No, it will not submit, or bend, to what other sports are doing. The individual spectator is accommodated as a guest deserves to be treated. Visitors are respected, never abused.

nTC The Masters services the media by not being patronizing or condescending. It merely gives it the chance to cover the tournament in an ideal environment with appropriate working conditions. But it's never going to allow the reactions of the sportswriters or broadcasters to change how it goes about running its business.

It's only an individual impression, but there's a distinct feeling that the leaders of Augusta National Club wouldn't much care if all the reporters decided to stay home. Meanwhile, they extend excellent facilities in a huge theater-in-the-round press box, but there's no attempt to ingratiate themselves by dealing in suave public-relations maneuvers.

You won't see an advertising blimp floating overhead, because Augusta National simply doesn't want it there. Yes, it even rules the skies. No corporate tents either, because then it would resemble a county fair. Not even hot dogs or hamburgers are for sale, because it doesn't want the aroma of cooking food to permeate the surroundings.

If the television announcers from CBS use language the Masters officials believe to be inaccurate or in bad taste, then they're gone. The Masters has standards it upholds and is not about to surrender control of those principles.

The spectators, though, are truly the beneficiaries. Nothing is allowed to detract, such as rowdiness or what they deem inappropriate conduct, from enjoying the show, which is why a trip to the Masters is considered a coveted prize. Tickets have all been spoken for, the supply exhausted for decades. Since 1978 there hasn't even been a waiting list. The backlog is too massive to contemplate, so management decided not to backlog any more names and addresses.

Del Ritchie, a businessman who lives in Sherwood Forest, Md., says the Masters' mystique is unrivaled. "Don't look for flaws, because you won't find any," he says. "This is as perfect as it gets."

Everything is done for the comfort of the fans. The Masters has 107 acres of free parking bordering the course. A badge for all four days of play is $100, half the price of what the Super Bowl costs. Pairing sheets are distributed without a charge. Check stands also are available, with all services gratis.

Food and refreshments are affordable, offering no comparison to the price-gouging going on in baseball parks, football stadiums and basketball arenas. Take a look at what's offered:

Candy bars, potato chips, crackers, gum, coffee, milk, 50 cents; soft drinks, lemonade, ice cream bar, antacid tablets, 75 cents; egg salad sandwich, pimento sandwich, $1; ham sandwich, bottled water, $1.25; turkey sandwich, ham-and-cheese sandwich, barbecue sandwich (pre-cooked), domestic beer, $1.50; aspirin, $1.75; imported beer, $2; club sandwich, chicken breast sandwich, $2.50.

Members of the Augusta National Club are so affluent that they don't need to worry about their next paycheck. They number around 300, admission is by invitation only and the initiation fee is said to be $35,000, with no monthly dues, and an annual assessment of $2,200 -- far below other exclusive clubs.

The aesthetics of Augusta National, founded by the legendary Bobby Jones and a Wall Street broker, Clifford Roberts, are colored in green and white. Even paper drinking cups are green, and if you enter the gate carrying a convenience-store cup of beverage, you are politely asked to transfer it to an official Masters cup, which is readily available.

No cameras, telescopes, radios or portable telephones are permitted. If you carry a fold-up chair, the top must be made of canvas because then you won't be tempted to stand on it and thereby obscure the vision of others.

"The Masters is a monument to everything great in golf," says Jack Nicklaus. Gary Player adds, "If there's a golf course in heaven, it has to be a copy of the Masters. I'd like to be the pro there."

What the Masters represents is taking the beauty of God's masterful hand and buffing the gifts of nature to the acme of perfection.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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