My ex-boyfriend and I had the most fascinating obsession with the game of golf. In the golf world, where Tiger Woods was the darkest guy on the greens, my ex and I served as an entirely new introduction to the “urban experience.” My ex, the 6’6” guy, tattooed from head to toe, and me, the mulatto-looking girl with thick thighs making appropriate women’s golf wear look inappropriate were an anomaly.
The sport of golf is not only steeped in tradition but deep-rooted in racism, too. Often, those blatant racist overtones rear their ugly head, and you can feel people staring at you as if they’re thinking “You shouldn’t be here.”
Lucky for them, I like to challenge the stereotypes.
Despite our skin color, the two of us fit into the country club’s classifying categories: wealth, popularity, accomplishments, education, and a damn good swing. This sport was ours, too, and we were there to claim it as our own. The golf course became our sanctuary — a safe space to be alone, competitive, and supportive. Most importantly, the golf course was the one place we felt most at peace.
If the golf course was our special place, golf tournaments were our special escape. You see, the thing about PGA golf tournaments and, well, golf courses in general, is that cell phone usage is frowned upon. When dating a popular NBA player, you long for quiet spaces and places where you can be “normal” for a moment, without interruptions, a moment without the innocent yet totally invasive “can you take a picture with me” question.
We would travel around the country finding whatever golf escape we could — an attempt to be normal in the one space we were completely out of place. I won’t forget this particular day in April when my ex came home from practice and yelled “GUESS WHAT!” from the front door. “WE’RE GOING TO THE MASTERS, BABY!” I rolled out of bed, hopping straight to my feet, and took off running to the front-entry stairwell. The NBA basketball season had come to an end, and playoffs were starting in a week. During that week, Coach gave the team one day off, and in that one day off, we would make it to day one of the 2015 Masters tournament, the biggest weekend in golf. Upon hearing the news, I immediately jumped on the horn with his marketing agent. Finding the time to go was one thing, but finding a ticket would be another. It may come as a surprise to some, but scoring a ticket to the Masters may be the second-most difficult ticket in all of sports, behind the Super Bowl.The ticket hunt took a few hours, but, per usual, CAA pulled it off.
We hopped on the first thing smoking and landed in Savannah, Georgia, around 9am. After a two-hour ride from the airport, we pulled up to Azalea Drive, an elite row of hospitality houses that reminded me of a frat row at a university. However, in this case, each house was sponsored by a bigger, better brand. The bigger the brand, the more grandiose the signage, welcome vehicle, live music, and gift bags. Each hospitality house had a place to store your phone, a bar with specialty cocktails, a featured celebrity chef, and a place to watch the tournament in some A/C.
When we were ready, a shuttle came to the house to take us to the course. Once inside the vehicle, we grabbed hands as if we were preparing for a roller coaster ride. We squeezed each other tight with excitement as we dove up Magnolia Lane. It was breathtaking. Sixty magnolia trees lined the road to the clubhouse at the end. For once, something looked better in real life than it did on TV. I would later find out that not everyone gets to experience this drive, which deepened my appreciation for it. There’s a moment at the end of Magnolia Lane when you are standing at Founder’s Circle, in front of the raised knoll with the breathtaking yellow flower beds, that you realize you will have to make some room in your mental rolodex for these memories. The Masters is often described as “Disneyland for Adults,” as many people will only make it once in their lifetime.
Upon entering the course, it’s hard not to say something about the the rolling, lush green landscape. There are blooming azaleas at every turn, incredible golf shots at every hole, the loveliest people, and unparalleled VIP service. Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters tournament hit it out of the park.
The Masters is also steeped in tradition. I didn’t see a single cell phone, men significantly outnumbered women, and everyone seemed to obey the overwhelming amount of rules: no cell phones, no cameras, no running, and no outside food, to name a few. While the golf course usually served as our special time away from the world, we wanted to talk to everyone at the Masters. The people there were like us — we shared the same obsession. We all recognized the good shots from the bad, we marveled about Jordan Speith pounding the ball off the tee, and we each cheered for our respective favorites. Our favorite was Rory. Rory is a #TeamNike guy, like my ex. The brand allegiance is real.
We walked and talked for hours, and it wasn’t until we got to the end of the famous Amen Corner (holes 11, 12, and 13) that we began to wonder how many miles we had walked so far. No iPhone meant no Steps app, but our stomachs were telling us it was time to eat. Each time our stomachs growled, the crowd roared right behind them. We could not imagine missing a piece of the action for something as frivolous as a late lunch, but we did.
Before arriving at Augusta National, I heard all about their famous pimento cheese sandwich, and while it may sound a bit underwhelming to a few, it wasn’t to me. My name is Ashley, and I’m addicted to cheese.
We walked into the concession area, and it was quite possibly the least enticing food stand I’ve ever come across. They’re so caught up in tradition that they kept concessions to a 1970’s look and prices. Welcome to Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, where pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches cost $1.50, Masters-brand potato chips, peanuts, and moon pies are $1, and beers go for $4. The low cost of the concessions belie the nature of the event, since one-day passes sell for an average of $1,000.
I unwrapped the green foil of my cheese sandwich and tossed it into the green wastebasket. Yep, you guessed it — everything at the Masters is green, including my stomach after that sandwich. The bread was stale, and the cheese was in chunks; hell, even the mayo was dry, if that’s even possible.
That sandwich, mixed with the few beers I had while walking the course, did not agree with me. I looked at the line to the area that said RESTROOMS with sheer terror; I couldn’t dare. The one thing at the Masters I was uninterested in exploring was the Porta-Potties.
Luckily for me, the sun was beginning to set on the course, and we had enough golf to keep us on a high for a bit. My ex had a way of understanding exactly what I was thinking without having to say a word. “Don’t worry, Babe. We’re going to leave soon.” Thankfully, I would not have to test my luck in a Porta-potty. Azalea Drive, here we come.
Before we left, we had to participate in one of the grandest traditions of the Masters — shopping in the pro shop. The official Masters merchandise, clothing and memorabilia, can only be purchased onsite and in person during the week of the Masters. Augusta National does not sell merchandise online, ever. So, you have to be there to buy it. We brought ridiculous things I’m sure we’ll have a need for: playing cards, shot glasses, divot repair tools, towels, Moscow Mule copper cups, and lighters. You name it, we bought it. It was all we could do to take a little piece of the Masters back with us.
On the way out, my ex turned to me and asked, “Would you ever want to come back?”
“In a heartbeat,” I responded. “But next time, can we eat before we go?The only disappointing thing about The Masters is the pimento cheese sandwiches. Augusta National Golf Club certainly lives up to all the hype.”