Strong Sauce: A Love Affair With Augusta

Monday, April 14, 2014 - by Michael Lawson

I am uncomfortable writing this, and therefore, this effort will be shorter than most. Confessionals and personal perspectives are best left to the gossip columns and entertainment sections. The problem is that it is impossible to write what is needed here without sharing a piece of me with it. My love affair with the Augusta National Golf Course began at an early age, and continues today. It signifies something personal and profound, and is pregnant with virtues and values that are timeless…honor, grace, and healing.

The 2014 edition of The Masters Golf Tournament, the greatest sporting event on the planet, just wrapped up with Bubba Watson winning for a second time in three years, establishing him as one of the premier American golfers of his generation. The course was fast and unyielding, and showed a full teethed and ferocious beauty that it is uniquely Augustinian. Yet, most of the commentary from this weekend centered on what and who was missing. Tiger Woods didn’t play because of injury, many of the big names of the sport missed the Friday cut, and watched the weekend from a couch just like I did…well, not just like I did...but you get the picture. The usual Sunday drama on the “back nine” was mainly absent due to the incredibly difficult conditions, and barring a catastrophic meltdown by Mr. Watson, the whole thing was decided by Hole 13. So, why a column on the Tiger-less and drama-less golf tourney? Because love affairs deserve words.

It had been well over a decade since last I visited this cornucopia of earthly life and vegetation, when I walked through the gates at “Augusta” last Wednesday. A college buddy had tickets and had asked me to go. After a brief hesitation, I agreed, and four of us trekked down to golf’s cathedral to watch the best players in the world practice in the hopes of taming this fickle temptress of a course yet again. The look and feel of it had not changed after all that time. The grass was the softest I could ever feel, and the patrons were as polite and earnest with expectation as anyone anywhere. We stood in awe of the way these guys can hit a golf ball. The balance, force, dexterity, and grace it takes to move that tiny golf ball left and right…up and down…forwards and backwards at will, and the imagination required to manage a minefield of tragic disaster waiting at every turn commanded a quiet reverence. We laughed, we pointed in amazement, and we cheered. It was an amazing day. One that brought back memories.

My parents divorced when I was seven years old. I am the oldest of four boys, so you can imagine how difficult all of that might have been for us. Around the age of 16, I, and my brothers, moved to live with my father. My relationship with Dad at the time was strained, as there was plenty of blame to be dished out by a teenage boy with lots of anger. Golf became a catalyst for healing between us, as we spent countless days playing, talking, and breathing the game. It was something we could share. It was something we could talk about. It was a new start. During this time we began a short lived tradition of going to the practice rounds of The Masters. My first memories of this hallowed ground carved into existence by the great Bobby Jones was the sheer beauty and magnitude of the thing. There were colors and smells I had never seen or smelled before. All of a sudden, I knew what the color green was supposed to look like. It was the closest thing to the Garden of Eden that I had ever experienced. The memories of those trips helped solidy and crystalize all the things Dad had taught me about the game of golf. It is a game of honor. One does not wait to get caught transgressing the rules. A true golfer will offer the truth openly, even if it hurts his or her chances of winning, and that still rings true. In fact, an example of this happened this year. Brandt Snedeker was in contention, and alerted a rules official standing by that his ball had moved, that he had accidentally caused it to move, and that he saw it move. The rules official accessed a two stroke penalty, and Snedeker faded away from contention shortly thereafter. He lost the tournament, but he won and kept his honor. This, among other things, is what “Augusta” represents. A beauty that transcends the azaleas and dogwoods…a beauty that speaks to who you are when no one is looking…and when the whole world is watching.

There is so much wrapped up in that week at The Augusta National for The Masters…the forceful practice of guys trying to win a tournament that will change their lives, their caddies’ lives, and their families’ lives…the Par 3 mini-tournament where the players literally have their kids out there with them dressed out as little caddies and the whole thing feels like a family reunion…the conversations with people from all over the world who recognize this place for what it is…just like you, and for the same reasons. There’s just so much to say and love about it. But for me…it represents joy and healing. Until recently, I had not spoken to the aforementioned buddy who invited me to this year’s Masters in over a decade. We had a falling out, and I was sure that our friendship was over, and frankly, was comfortable with it. But late that afternoon, we both apologized, and I feel that a small broken piece of me has healed. It’s amazing what a few hours at “Augusta” will do. Maybe next year I can go with Lonnie Smith and forgive him for not rounding 3rd in the 1991 World Series.

 

W. Michael Lawson is an alumnus of Lee University and University of Richmond. Mr. Lawson currently hosts a weekly radio show “The Strong Sauce Hour” and Co-hosts a daily sports show “The Sports Drive” on 101.3 FM/1570 AM. You can follow him on twitter @thestrongsauce.


Lady Flames Fall To West Alabama 78-71

  West Alabama used clutch free throws down the stretch to hold off the Lee Lady Flames and claim a 78-71 victory on Thursday evening from Walker Arena. Erin Walsh led the comeback attempt for the Lady Flames and finished with a game-high 28 points on 8 of 20 shooting from the field. The sophomore guard canned three treys and was a perfect 9 of 9 from the charity stripe. ... (click for more)

NFL Veteran Joe Ehrmann To Speak In Chattanooga

The National Center for Development of Boys in partnership with McCallie School will host renowned speaker and 10-year NFL veteran Joe Ehrmann to speak on the difficulties faced by today’s boys and how teachers, coaches and mentors can help their students and players make good decisions in what can be a confusing time of life. His presentation — titled “Masculinity 2.0: Confronting ... (click for more)

County School Board Considers "Best Practices Audit" On Compliance With Board Policies

The County School Board is considering carrying out a "Best Practices Audit" to determine if board policies are filtering down to the school level. Board member Greg Martin said members of the Superintendent's Student Leadership Council told him that only a fraction of students are familiar with board policies on bullying and other topics. Steve Highlander, another board member, ... (click for more)

Several Central City Schools Overcrowded, School Board Is Told

All the county school overcrowding is not out in the fast-growing East Brainerd and Ooltewah sections, school board members were told Thursday. Several central city schools are far above capacity. East Lake Elementary - with 655 students and a capacity of 493 students - is at 133 percent occupancy. Calvin Donaldson, Orchard Knob Elementary and East Side Elementary also are ... (click for more)

Innocent Until Proven Guilty, Even Athletes

From reading Randy Smith's column on the lawsuit against UT it is pretty evident that he never took a legal course in his life. I was under the impression that in this country one was innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It appears this no longer applies to athletes(particularly black athletes) in the U.S. in 2016. I have always said that if I am picked for jury duty ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Warmth For Cold Days

I come across all sorts of warm things every day and as we burrow out of sub-freezing temperatures for a day or two, shaking off ice and snow, allow me to share a few things for a change that may take the bite out of the winter wind. This is what helps me. * * * Judy Bellenfant, who has been a soul mate ever since we shared jokes in high school classrooms, sends along this ... (click for more)