A country which gets golf-minded need not worry about the honor, the integrity and the honesty of its people. DONALD ROSS
Some of you know golf has been a tad slow to embrace The YouTube. The most glaring example is in Augusta, where clips of Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen's epic shots from last year's Masters remain unfindable except in really bad bootleg form (here and here). Not surprisingly, the number of views are shockingly small.
So here's a follow up for the stakeholders, proud enforcers of rightsholders television contracts, who might still have doubts about YouTube and its ability to generate interest in the game, attention for players, and impressions for sponsors.
At Bay Hill last week we saw some amazing moments and a few of them went viral or semi viral. These aren't Gangham numbers, but you have to start somewhere. And I'm guessing Mastercard enjoyed having their brand noticed by over 3 million or so pairs of eyes. Just a guess.
The story is long but it's a fun one involving Bubba Watson, the Masters, caddie Paul Tesori, a palm tree and a $10,000 engagement ring.
Hey, that could be a pitch for The Hangover 4. Only none of the above drink. Oh well.
Steve Crawford of the Augusta Chronicle reports that a site plan has been filed with the city by Cranston Engineering Group to demolish the existing kitchen area and an adjacent building to make way for a new building.
The inevitable jokes will arrive that they need more closet space and women's bathrooms, though it sounds more like updating outdated food preparation area.
Newer readers wonder why I'm hostile toward The First Tee, which, while no doubt a fine program with fantastic tax implications for those who give to the program, too often receives all of the attention from those generously giving to "grow the game."
However, the problem for American golf's future remains the same: we may be introducing new people to the game through The First Tee, and then turning them loose to limited or unappealing options for graduating to a "big" course. Like in the case of Augusta, Georgia, where there's a well funded First Tee and now we learn, the closed muni, a.k.a. The Patch.
Susan McCord and Gracie Shepherd report the sad news of The Patch's closure Wednesday, complete with Club Car picking up its leased equipment and a hapless city government that feeds off of golf-related tax dollars refusing to turn the lease over to interested parties who requested some basic repairs.
Augusta commissioners decided not to make the repairs or comply with other requested concessions, so the Kelly group backed out.
“We had a good alternative, but they didn’t like it,” an irritated Commissioner Joe Jackson said Thursday, referring to other commission members.
In fact, someone placed a sign at the clubhouse Thursday pointing those wanting to play to three commissioners – J.R. Hatney, Bill Lockett and Alvin Mason – and suggesting they were responsible for the public golf course closing.
Jackson said those commissioners certainly didn’t help The Golf Course at Augusta LLC, the new firm headed by the Kellys.
An angry Jackson even suggested the city’s handling of the situation might warrant termination of top city personnel.
“Someone’s going home,” he said.
Quite an array of takes on the Augusta National membership change, as you'd expect, so here goes in no particular order.
John Paul Newport on why the club had to act if it was going to be taken seriously on matters related to growing the game.
Billy Payne, Augusta’s current chairman, endured an unusually hostile grilling about the issue at his annual chairman’s press conference before the tournament in April. Many of the questions focused on the club’s support for growing the game, including for golf’s First Tee program, which seeks to pass along the game and its values to boys and girls, many from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Jason Sobel offers some perspective for those not fawning over something that should have happened a while ago.
Anyone considering this decision analogous to a double eagle on the course should remember that it comes on the heels of years of triple bogeys.
Annika Sorenstam tweeted that this is a "historic day for the game of golf."
ESPN's Darren Rovell, apparently laboring under the delusion that female guests visiting Augusta National over the years were served roadkill in the servants quarters, tweeted:
Just because Augusta has now let women in doesn’t mean their job is over. They need to make women feel comfortable there.
He also penned an odd ESPN.com commentary suggesting that because the club sells a chicken biscuit for $1.50.
All you have to do is look at the Masters concession prices and you can make the argument that Augusta National tries harder than almost any other business in America not to make money.
This year, you could get cookies for $1, a cup of coffee for $1 or a muffin for $1. Really want to splurge? Go for that imported beer for $3.75.
Not bowing down to the almighty dollar created a problem for anyone who felt that excluding women was unfair. When money isn't a factor, there's little you can do.
He goes on to point out that the decision prevents them from being pressured by the money. The money he says they try hard not to make.
Thankfully Rovell did tweet this statement from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.
Masters sponsor AT&T issues statement on Augusta National letting women in: "As a sponsor of The Masters, we applaud today's historic announcement by Augusta National and warmly welcome Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National.”
AP's Seanna Adcox tells us more about Darla Moore, who has given a lot of money away in the name of charity and in making politicians look bad!
She has served on a number of corporate, medical and university boards, but she is perhaps best known in South Carolina as a philanthropist. Moore is the top donor to the University of South Carolina, pledging $75 million since 1998, when the business school was named after her. She also donated $10 million to her late father's alma mater, Clemson University.
Much of her philanthropy is done behind the scenes, as she eschews the spotlight.
Some of Golf Channel's analysis from today's Golf Central coverage:
On the membership process at Augusta National:
Golf Channel Analyst Frank Nobilo: “This is a process that would not be done just overnight. I imagine this would have taken five or six years like it does take for any other member…Augusta National doesn’t make mistakes. They might be conservative, but there are no mulligans at Augusta. And this is no exception.”
Hack: “These are two women with impeccable credentials. The Masters took their time to find the two women they wanted to represent their club.”
On the significance of this day for women in golf:
Sorenstam: “This is an organization that has been male dominated in so many ways. For them to open up, it has been such a talked about debate for so long, now we can close the chapter. We can move on. I think that they are really showing that traditions can change. The women they have invited, they are very highly respected women and business leaders. In my opinion, this is a win-win situation.”
Golf Channel Contributor John Feinstein: “It is another one of those invisible walls knocked down…There are still all-men’s clubs around the world, including the Royal and Ancient. But arguably, the most important men’s club in the world is no longer a men’s club.”
From SI's excellent impromptu roundtable on the news and what it means for the game.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I was pretty sure Billy Payne was too smart and too much of a diplomat to let this issue continue to taint the Masters, but I was beginning to wonder what was taking him so long. Now that it's done, it seems so easy, so obvious.
Hanger: Right. My first thought was, finally. Payne seemed genuinely flustered with the harsh questioning this year, and I wonder if behind closed doors that led him to push for the change. The issue was clearly not going away, so they really didn't have much of a choice.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm happy the club did the right thing so we can put all of this unpleasantness behind us.
Paul Newberry brings up the sticky issue of the R&A and its gender issues, which include visiting men-only Muirfield next year and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (different than the R&A remembrer!) and their male-only membership.
On the other side of the Atlantic, where this quirky little game actually started and the sport's oldest major championship is held every summer, they've got their own gender issues.
The next British Open will be at Muirfield, which is men only. The resistance to women is epitomized by a tale passed down through the years - who knows if it's actually true or not - that there was once a break-in at the clubhouse, but they wouldn't let the police inside because a female officer showed up to investigate.
Only one problem.
This is no laughing matter.
Scott Michaux, who has been covering this story for a long time, offers this:
Since taking over as chairman of the club in 2006, Payne has made it his personal mission to use Augusta National’s notoriety and resources to “grow the game” around the world.
But all of those growth efforts, however noble, rang a little hollow when half of the world’s population was excluded from ever having the chance of becoming a member at Augusta. Of course the odds of anyone becoming a member are slimmer than winning the Mega Millions lottery (and that would obviously help one’s chances), but infinitesimal is better than zero every day.
Augusta National inviting women members is a symbol of growth and equality, and an important one.
Lorne Rubenstein says the news "reminds us of how backward golf at the highest levels can be, and too often is."
But Augusta National today is getting attention around the world because it has admitted two women as members. The club is far and away the exception to the rule that golf is a game for everybody. Why should it be applauded because it now admits female members? It’s off-putting when reactionaries are perceived as revolutionaries. Augusta National’s admitting female members isn’t a cause for celebration. If it's a cause for anything, it’s a cause for reflection.
The fact that Augusta owes nothing to anybody is precisely what makes today's announcement such a huge moment. Clearly, financial and political pressures have never bothered the green jackets. If anything, it's only spurred them to stick to their "traditions" even more. But they knew this had to be done if the game was to thrive. The desire to do the right thing for the image of golf finally superseded the need to have the last word.
As much as golf is believed to be stuck in the 19th century, the fact is the overwhelming majority of golf courses welcome women with open arms. The overwhelming majority of manufacturers make golf clubs specifically for women. The overwhelming majority of apparel companies create gear exclusively for women. This has been the case for years, and will continue to be so for years to come.
Lester Munson wonders how Condi is going to explain this to the Stanford faculty and what would have happened if the new female members had just said no. Then again, how would we have known if she said no?
Tim Finchem issued a statement and PGATour.com posted it with the AP story along with an Awkward Family Photos-worthy shot of Commissioner Uncomfortable and Condi.
"The PGA TOUR commends Augusta National Golf Club on the news that it has invited Condolezza Rice and Darla Moore to become its first women members. At a time when women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport."
**I've obtained an exclusive image of Tim Finchem hearing the news today.
Steve Crawford follows up on the story of Clayton Price Baker, who attempted to fill a cup with bunker sand Sunday of this year's Masters, only to be arrested and charged. His case was dismissed but not before some incredible details were revealed and confirmed by his attorney.
Claridge said the incident had caused his client a great deal of embarrassment and money. In addition to losing his Masters badges, the meter was running on a private jet he had booked to fly him home while he sat in the Richmond County jail, Claridge said.
“Let me make sure I understand this, he rode a jet to Augusta to collect dirt?” asked Judge William D. Jennings III.
Claridge clarified that his client had come to see the Masters Tournament.
“So he came here to collect special dirt,” Jennings said. “Had he been successful in his attempt, what, pray tell, would he have done with it?”
Claridge explained that his client tries to collect dirt from ballparks and other sports venues he attends as sort of a hobby.
He's not alone in the sample collecting world, as reader Emile forwards this ebay link to a sale of the "actual" pine straw divot of Bubba Watson. From the seller's all-caps entry, always the sign of a healthy mind.
WE JAMMED OUR WAY INTO THE CROWD OF PEOPLE TO WATCH BUBBAS MIRACULOUS SHOT. AS SOON AS HE HIT IT, EVERYBODY STARTING CLAMORING OFF TOWARDS THE GREEN, BUT WE ALREADY KNEW THAT WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GET ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THE GREEN, SO WE DECIDED TO JUST STAY PUT AND JUST WATCH WHAT WE COULD AND LISTEN FOR THE CROWDS REACTION. AS SOON AS THE CROWD HAD LEFT, MY FRIEND WENT OVER TO WHERE BUBBA HAD JUST HIT HIS SHOT. MY FRIEND HAD A PIMENTO CHEESE SANDWICH BAG AND WENT OVER AND COLLECTED ALL THE PINE STRAW FROM AROUND THE DIVOT, AS WELL AS THE SMALL AMOUNT LEFT IN THE DIVOT, AND PUSHED TOGETHER THE LOOSE PINE STRAW IN FRONT OF THE DIVOT (MOST OF THE PINE STRAW FROM THE DIVOT FLEW FORWARD). HE PUT IT ALL IN THE PIMIENTO CHEESE SANDWICH BAG AND BROUGHT IT BACK TO MACON, GA WITH HIM. HE WAS PLANNING ON GETTING IT FRAMED WITH A PICTURE OF BUBBA, BUT JUST DECIDED HE WOULD JUST LIKE TO SELL IT, IF ANYBODY WANTED IT. SO HERE IT IS. 100% AUTHENTIC AND WEIGHS A LITTLE UNDER 2 OUNCES. I TRIED TO GIVE AS MUCH INFO AS POSSIBLE, BUT IF ANYBODY HAS ANY QUESTIONS, JUST LET ME KNOW. THANKS FOR LOOKING.
How did I miss this on my daily ebay search for Bubba Watson's pine straw divot!?
Oh the comedy of listening to Tim Finchem answer questions about the PGA Tour's double standard on for-profit country club discrimination. Namely, Augusta National's refusal to admit women is okay because they are too important, but those other measely tour events at courses that discriminated against African Americans? Eh...
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday the Masters is "too important" for the tour to take it off its official schedule, even though Augusta National has never had a female member in its 80-year history.
"We have concluded a number of times now — and we have certainly not moved off of this — that we are not going to give up the Masters as a tournament on our tour," Finchem said. "It's too important. And so at the end of the day, the membership of that club have to determine their membership. They are not doing anything illegal."
Finchem spoke at a news conference that featured The First Tee announcing a new corporate partner. The First Tee tries to attract kids of diverse backgrounds to golf.
Steve Elling summed up the irony/hypocrisy/absurdity of Finchem's stance Wednesday.
“We concluded -- we have concluded a number of times now and we have certainly not moved off of this -- that we are not going to give up the Masters as a tournament on our tour,” Finchem said Wednesday. “It's too important.”
Speaking at his annual press confab at the Players Championship, Finchem moments later welcomed two men of African-American descent to the dais to discuss the national First Tee program, which was founded in 1997 to bolster -- get this -- the number of minorities in the game.
Oh, the levels of irony, huh?
I'm pretty sure any dreams the Commish had of a cabinet appointment in the next administration (Obama or Romney!) went out the window with today's comments. Well, there's always PV for you, Commish!
Here is the full question and answer from the transcript:
Q. With Augusta National's all‑male membership again an issue at this year's Masters, how does the PGA TOUR view its discriminatory policy?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think the position of the PGA TOUR hasn't changed. We have a policy that says that when we go out and do a co‑sanctioned event, we are going to play it at a club that is as open to women members, open to minority members, etc., and we follow that policy carefully.
In the case of the Masters, we concluded‑‑ we have concluded a number of times now, and we have certainly not moved off of this; that we are not going to give up the Masters as a tournament on our tour. It's too important. And so at the end of the day, the membership of that club have to determine their membership. They are not doing anything illegal.
But we just elect to continue to recognize them as an official money event on the PGA TOUR because we think it's that important to golf, so we don't get to determining whether their policies are right or wrong, because we don't have to, because we made the conclusion that regardless of those policies, we are going to continue to play and recognize them as part of the PGA TOUR.
I know some people don't like that position, and I appreciate that and I understand their reasoning, but that's the decision we've made.
**Golf Digest's Stina Sternberg says "The commissioner's response defied second-grade logic" when he reiterated the tour policy to not visit clubs who discriminate and then suggested there was one prominent exception.
That's right, Mr. Finchem, Augusta National is not doing anything illegal. Indeed, we live in a free country. But Augusta is going directly against the anti-discrimination policy you follow so "carefully," yet you choose to look the other way because the tournament is "too important"? That reaches a level of hypocrisy that has rarely been delivered with a straight face by anyone in your position.
Randy Beard on trainer Dale Romans, who I know you all revere as the Preakness-winning trainer of the great, legendary and unforgettable Shackleford, really wants to win Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
"It's like a guy from Augusta putting on the green jacket," said Romans, referring to The Masters golf tournament. "The (Kentucky) Derby is the dream."
Based at Churchill Downs, Romans trains Dullahan, an 8-1 deep closer in a speed-heavy race who drew the five post and who so far has largely shown himself to be a synthetic specialist. Kind of like a golfer who really only plays well on Nicklaus courses.