The Masters Golf Tourney
The three-story Colonial facade of the “clubhouse” sits amidst manicured, emerald lawns and colorful floral shrubbery. It appears as an apparition, a gleaming white, ante-bellum plantation house transported from somewhere in Southern Georgia. The mood in the air is festive as the crowd swirls in and around the stately edifice. There is an expectant air of anticipation for the coming duel in the noonday sun.
An eclectic array of vendors hawk engraved sports equipment, colorful clothing and just good old-fashioned hot dogs on a roll. The crowd is a study in the proper clothing usually associated with an event like this. There are no Hawaiian or “muscle” shirts evident here. It is a carefully arranged portrait in bright pastels, signature sports wear and designer sunglasses.
Around the raised oval mound of the “first tee” a large crowd of spectators is gathered to watch up close the intricate gyrations involved in “hitting a tee shot.”
Golf is a marriage of metal, mind and motion perhaps unique in all of sport. It is a learned skill that requires the use of an array of forged, high-tech shafts of iron, titanium and graphite, to propel a minutely engineered, surlyn-covered spheroid in gradually ascending parabolas. Each lofted arc parallels those of the shells of heavy mortars, vectoring in on a pre- selected target.
As the player stands upon the elevated tee, the targeted small patch of the “green” looks very small and far away, some 530 yards in the distance. The rule makers have determined that five propulsions of the spheroid are acceptable to achieve “par for the course,” on this particular expanse of tree-lined fairway.
The player’s expression is almost grim, a mixture of concentration and determination. The large crowd, close around him, registers in his cerebral cortex on a subliminal level. The distraction is subsumed by the absolute attention needed to accomplish the coming launch of the waiting spheroid. It sits there inert, alone and small on top of a 3” wooden peg. A slight breeze ruffles the player’s hair and he momentarily ponders the yawing, lateral effect upon the planned trajectory of the ball.
First, there is that graceful dance of address. It is a positioning of club and feet and arms that shifts the body uneasily until the stance feels comfortable enough to begin. The wand of choice is a “driver” with a face loft of nine degrees. The impact of the club should propel the ball in a shallow and ascending arc to a desired apogee. The club has an enormous oversized head. It is constructed of space aged titanium alloys for better contact with the ball.
The waiting crowd is shushed to a hushed silence by marshalls, holding paddles with “silence please” written on them. The song of a whipper-will can be heard in the background and the quiet is eerie for so large a gathering of people. The combatant begins the lithe corkscrew backswing that raises the wand over and behind his/her head. It is followed by the rhythmic unwinding of human form, and the metallic ping of impact, of club with ball. The collision propels the dimpled projectile, like a rifle shot, down and over the green expanse of narrow, tree-lined fairway. As the arc of flight decays, the ball lands almost gently and rolls to rest within a few feet of the anticipated target, over 320 yards from its point of impact. The gallery lining the fairways loudly shouts its admiring approval. “you da man,” “ you da man!” It is the new century and staid applause is passe’ in golf.
The sophisticated compilation of acceleration and distance vectors, exacerbated by air turbulence and drag coefficient are rapidly calculated for the desired impetus needed to lift and carry the ball the remaining 210 yards to the small oval of manicured green space far off in the distance.
The proper club that is required to achieve this next in the series of complex equations, a number four iron, is handed to the player by his faithful assistant. The caddy totes 14 of these high-tech wands in a large leather carrying case. The crowd watches quietly, a study in mass concentration, as the metal shaft of the club flashes in the sunlight to the timed precision of a metronome. “Swish,” “crack” and the spheroid is airborne again, homing in on the far-away island of green, with the precision of a solid propulsion rocket utilizing a nosecone-based, GPS guidance system.
The spheroid arcs high in the noonday sun, rocketing safely over the gaping maws of several planned obstacles, filled with sand. With a soft “thud” and a measured roll, the ball comes to a stop within feet of the center of the green, near a striped metal pole with a triangular pennant at its apex.
The crowd surrounding the green erupts in a wave of excited sound and motion. They are properly impressed at the skill involved in this graceful marriage of high technology and practiced, physiological motor coordination. They clap with enthusiasm as the contestants stroll up the fairway and approach the green. They watch fascinated as the players walks around the green, surveying the line of attack leading to the pole and the small opening in the grass beneath.
Another blunter faced club, called a “putter,” is chosen to overcome the impediment of manicured grass, as it acts upon the propelled spherical object in a straight line. The player holds the wand outstretched, vertical to the seemingly flat surface of the green. He is trying to determine the degrees from perpendicularity of the slope between the ball and the small chasm a few short yards away. The decision arrived at, the player looks down the barrel of the putter and readies for the calculated collision of metal and surlyn-covered spheroid.
The putter swishes back and forth, a precise and uniform distance, with the measured rhythm of a metronome. In the process, it strikes the small white spheroid, propelling it forward on the green, glassy surface. The ball rolls confidently, flowing with the grain of the closely cropped grass, towards the seemingly shrinking hole some few, yet long feet away. The crowd begins to cheer the ball on, mentally willing the ball along its intended path.
As it nears the waiting aperture, the balls slows its forward motion, as if seemingly deciding on its own how far it wishes to continue. It makes a final complete revolution, teetering on the very edge of the small circular chasm. The collective crowd holds it breath in silence. Then, almost as if a small wind had pushed the spheroid, it rolls that last millimeter forward and drops loudly into the cup for a treasured “eagle,” two strokes below par. The waiting throng of spectators lets out a roar of approbation amidst the relieved expressions and grateful smiles of the player and his caddy.
The contestants stride confidently from the green, smiling at the approving crowd. They move on to the next of 17 successively similar contests that will pit metal, mind and motion against the vagaries of wind, fatigue, failing nerve and winsome fate.
Who says this is all a game?
Joseph Xavier Martin