Every April, a small golf club off Washington Road in Augusta, Georgia hosts an invitational golf tournament.
It’s called the Masters, and it is the greatest event in all of sports.
On Sunday evening, loblolly pines will borrow the springtime sun’s last rays, casting shadows over a magnificent piece of land that was once a nursery and is now home to the most famous golf course in the world.
Tournament officials will don a green jacket on the player that successfully navigates his way around Augusta National over four days, surviving pressure most of us have never known, and never will, at least in an athletic arena.
The green jacket announces the man who wears it as a winner. It is distinct, unique. An unmistakable mark of accomplishment.
The Masters winner, however, isn’t alone. Far from it.
Part of what separates the Masters from other sports championships is that we, too, feel like winners, simply by taking part in its splendor.
Anyone who soaks in the Masters and its cherished brand of Southern hospitality — whether as a patron inside the gates or as a television viewer — is a winner, green jacket or not.
We win because during Masters week, we’re friends with Jim Nantz, the broadcasting legend who’s become synonymous with the tournament. We know we’re friends because he tells us so: “Hello, friends, and welcome to Augusta.”
We win because we’ve cleared the weekend schedule to enjoy the highest quality, most professional broadcast on television, all delivered by CBS, the Masters Tournament’s exclusive TV partner since 1956.
We win because that broadcast, thanks to the Tournament’s corporate partners, is brought to us with limited interruptions. And when we are interrupted, it’s thankfully not some ad featuring a wimpy millennial espousing a ridiculous, politically correct cause.
We win because this year’s tournament features more story lines than any Masters in recent memory.
Rory McIlroy is back in form and gunning for his first green jacket.
Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson has won twice this year and has plenty of momentum. (Although former champions must be rooting against him out of fear he’ll serve that generic Champions Dinner menu of grilled chicken and veggies.)
Seems like Justin Thomas wins just about every tournament he enters. Is it his time at Augusta?
Don’t look now, but some old timers named Phil and Tiger have reemerged. Can they regain their Masters form of yesteryear?
Heck, with so many story lines, Jack Nicklaus may even give it a go, to which I join Verne Lundquist in saying, “Yes, sirrr!”
While story lines come and go, traditions endure, especially at the Masters.
We don’t attend that Tuesday night Champions Dinner but darn it, if we don’t imagine what it’s like to be there. (I had the privilege of hearing Ben Crenshaw speak a few years ago on the eve of his final competitive round at Augusta. Asked about the Champions Dinner, Crenshaw paused in reflection, choked back tears and said with reverence, “It’s hard to get in that room.”)
So you can’t hit that dinner but how ‘bout a sandwich and a cold draft beer to wash it down for roughly $5? That’s a winner.
How ‘bout putting your chair down on hole 16 (“Redbud”) at 8:00 am, walking the entire course for 4 hours, and coming back to find your chair just as you left it, unoccupied?
That’s Southern cordiality at its finest, and it’s another reason why we win at the Masters.
We win at the Masters when we hear those Sunday back nine roars. We win because we know the course so well, how the putts break, where to place tee shots — or at least we think we do.
We win by laying eyes on blooming azaleas and the greenest, most pristine fairways imaginable. It snowed in the northeast earlier this week; you think the folks up there aren’t ready for Augusta, if only to watch it on TV?
We win by honoring past Masters champions and relishing in classic footage of their victories. Arnie, Jack, Freddie, and yes, Tiger and Phil.
Every April, a small golf club in Augusta, Georgia hosts an invitational golf tournament. The winner receives a green jacket.
We may not win our own green jacket, but take in this year’s Masters, and you’ll win in countless other ways.
I hope you enjoy the greatest event in all of sports!