The Masters in Augusta.
According to a recent poll taken by Calm, which bills itself as “the #1 app for meditation and sleep,” if you are plagued with insomnia, the best cure is to watch golf.
Calm’s pollsters handed a bunch of folks a list of 10 popular sports and asked them to pick the “dullest, most sleep-inducing one to watch.” Golf won. Big.
Not that I’m surprised.
Watching golf reminds me of what Oscar Wilde observed about foxhunting, “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.”
This attitude toward golf, golfing, and golfers left me ignorant of the game and unprepared for an opportunity that came my way when I was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Georgia. One bright spring day, a student from Augusta who was failing my class offered me two tickets to the Masters – shamelessly trying to influence his grade. Since I knew nothing of the Masters and had no desire to drive a couple of hundred miles to see men knock a little white ball into a hole, I turned him down. Later I learned, to my dismay, that I could have sold the tickets and covered my tuition for the next year.
This did nothing to change my opinion of golf, but it did imprint the Masters on my mind so that every spring I turn on the TV to catch a glimpse of the azaleas and the manicured greens. Then I remember this is golf, and I change the channel to something exciting, like “Storage Wars.”
So, you can imagine how little attention I was planning to pay when a few years ago the Masters became the center of a rip-roaring controversy that contained in it all the elements of a good old-fashioned Southern culture clash.
Here’s how it unfolded.
The National Council of Women’s Organization discovered that the Augusta National Golf Club, the organization that hosts the Masters, did not admit women to membership. A woman could play as a guest, but not on her own. Outraged at this, the chairwoman of NCWO asked for the policy to be changed. “Hootie” Johnson (gotta love the name), chairman of the Club, said “no.”
Not one to take “no” for an answer, the chairwoman sent letters to CEOs of major corporations that sponsor the tournament asking them to drop their sponsorship or face a boycott from NCWO members. Hootie responded, “Let ‘em. The Masters will go on anyway.”
The NCWO, unable to move Hootie, tried to get CBS to cancel the broadcast. CBS, knowing FOX or ESPN II or maybe the History Channel would move quickly to fill the breach, politely declined.
Finding the controversy as boring as the game itself, a local wit suggested that the protestors should ignore Hootie and visit Hooters, which was just down the block. The NCWO, I am told, was not amused.
The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why women would want to hang around with a bunch of men who, according to golf historian Herbert Warren, “stand under the great trees at Augusta National Golf Club on fine spring days” and talk about golf.
Meanwhile the men of the Augusta National membership committee did what men have historically done when women want something – they caved in. Women joined the club.
But I missed it.
I was taking a nap.
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.