The Masters Golf Tournament
The Masters Golf Tournament
The two-story gabled façade, with a shaded porte-couche of the "clubhouse, sits amidst sculpted, emerald lawns and colorful floral land scaping. It appears as an apparition, a windowed and airy gathering place transported from somewhere in the western mountains. The mood in the air is festive as the crowd swirls in and around the comfortable and inviting clubhouse. The Masters Golf tournament has brought thousands of spectators to this manicured, emerald oasis of lush gardens and grass at Augusta, Georgia. 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 rectangular 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 new age metal, mind and motion perhaps unique in all of sport. It is a learned skill, which 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 heavy mortars, vectoring in on a pre- selected and pre-sited target.
The announcer introduces each player with a summary of major tournaments and championships won. Television has made these sultans of swing into household names whom everyone recognizes and cheers for.
As the player stands upon the elevated surface of tee number one (Tea Olive), the targeted small patch of the "green” looks very small and far away, some 445 yards in the distance. The rule makers have determined that four propulsions of the spheroid are acceptable to achieve "par for the course,” on this particular expanse of tree lined, emerald fairway.
The player's expression, on the tee, 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 inch wooden peg. A slight breeze ruffles the player's hair and he momentarily ponders the yawing, lateral effect of the wind upon the planned trajectory of the ball.
First, there is that graceful dance of the address. It is a positioning of club, feet and arms that shifts the body uneasily until the stance feels comfortable enough for the player to begin. The wand of choice is a "driver, ” with a face loft of 8 degrees from the horizontal. The impact of the club upon the ball should propel the ball up and outward, in a shallow and ascending arc, to a desired apogee along the arc of its flight. 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 very still silence, by marshal’s holding paddles with "silence please” written upon them. The delightful and melodious song of a whippoorwill can be heard in the background. The quiet is almost eerie for so large a gathering of people. The combatant begins the lithe corkscrew backswing that raises the wand over and behind his 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 passé' 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 125 yards to the small, oval of manicured green space far off in the distance. The fairway veers slightly to the right, adding another factor to the player’s computations
The proper club required to achieve this next in the series of complex equations, a pitching wedge, 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 emerald island, 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 forbidding trenches, filled with sand. With a soft "thud” and a measured roll, the ball comes to a stop within a few feet of the center of the green. It lies still near a small hole with a metal pole stuck in its center. It has a triangular pennant affixed to the apex of the “stick”.
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 walk around the green, surveying the line of attack leading to the pole and the small opening in the grass beneath it.
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’s, glassy surface. The ball rolls confidently, flowing with the grain of the closely cropped grass, towards the seemingly shrinking hole some few 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 ball 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 much-welcomed “birdie.” 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, and failing nerve.
Who says this is all a game?
Joseph Xavier Martin