The 2015 Masters, Augusta: Broke Degeneracy and Bobby’s 19th Hole
Spring is upon us; the most verdant time of year, and it’s not just your lawn that is thriving. Just after the Super Bowl, the sports fan’s calendar begins to thicken, crowding with all nature of springtime entertainment. The regal Super Bowl descends into frenetic March Madness, and from that the Boys of Summer emerge. Soon after the first pitch is tossed out, we begin our lengthy journey through the labyrinthine NBA playoffs. But nestled snugly (some might say smugly) amidst all of this is the four-day weekend that captivates nearly everyone.
All of the hyperbole and the predictions (and the notable withdrawals) give way to pomp and bluster, and that pomp and bluster eventually give way to the sheer beauty, the pressure, and the competitiveness of The Masters. The world’s finest ball strikers converge on a beautiful golf club between the cities of Atlanta and Columbia in the great state of Georgia for four days to decide who will walk away with arguably golf’s most coveted championship and inarguably golf’s most desirable piece of men’s evening wear. And though today Augusta National Golf Club has a well-earned reputation as the best of the best in the rigorously critiqued world of golf, a bastion of Southern decorum and aristocracy (and some would argue, outright misogyny and snobbery), it wasn’t always that way.
In fact, Augusta has some some seldom-spoke-of-but- altogether-true skeletons in it’s 81-year old closet.
Skeletons that BLS and the BLS Legion are intimately familiar with; financial irresponsibility and impropriety, poor money management, misallocation of funds…broke ass behavior. Coupled with the financial shitstorm the club endured upon establishment, there was also a considerable degree of wagering everywhere at the club. No matter what the judge says, gambling was legal at Augusta, sir. Partner irresponsible spending and degenerate gambling with the fact that Prohibition was repealed in 1933, ‘coincidentally’ the year that Augusta was founded, which meant plentiful liquor was a-flowin’?
Sounds like sun-drenched, drunk, golfy-gambly BLS Nirvana.
Truthfully, fiscal mismanagement was so rampant at Augusta in the beginning that the club nearly flopped. I mean, they opened the spot in ’33. Uh, there was a Depression on, guys. No wonder the first winner never got his purse. In fact, originally, the club was supposed to have a large, full-service hotel, and 30 rental homes available for members’ use. Didn’t happen. Even in ’46, the champ didn’t get his trophy on time. Poor Herman Keiser had to wait; the club’s payments for trophy silver were in arrears. Broke as a joke.
Degenerate wagering was more than a pastime at Augusta National; it nearly changed the course of the game, no pun intended. Upon offering his input into course design, golf (and gambling?) legend and club founder Bobby Jones wanted a 19th hole installed, a nice little Par 3 right at the end on the walk towards the clubhouse. You see, Bobby wanted the suckers to have a ‘chance’ at a ‘get your cash back, double-or-nothing hole’ upon conclusion of the standard 18. By number 19 I imagine everyone might have been a little sauced up, and Bobby, no slouch with the sticks himself, probably figured he could get some of the cash he blew on Augusta back
So later in the week, when you are watching the nearly religious procession of patrons and members along the 18th fairway, when the hushed tones of the announcers become reminiscent of church whispers and the hyperbole surrounding the event becomes so galactic you’d think the broadcast was airing on Mars, remember this: The stronghold of conservative values and Southern etiquette that is Augusta National Golf Club was founded by guys just like you and me. Guys who wanted a pretty place to binge-drink and recklessly gamble their way through a nice round of golf.
Welcome to Augusta.
Welcome to The Masters.