North America |
Spring's Rite of Passage
There is magic in the air in the Southlands in the springtime. This isn’t just a Southerner missing his home (I hail from Georgia), waxing on and on about how nice it is down there.
Other people notice the transformation of winter to spring that’s particular to this region, songs have been written by non-Southerners about the waking of the land, the smell of the earth, the magnolias and pines breathing out after a long hold from November through March.
In April, something happens, almost overnight—you go to bed and it is winter, you awake and the flowers are in bloom! (Admittedly, this is no accident, at Augusta National they dry ice the plants to make sure they bloom the week of the Masters.)
One event, perfectly timed to take place in the midst of this grand awakening, captures this experience perfectly: the Masters.
I know people who are fans neither of the PGA tour nor golf in general, but absolutely love the Masters. It has its own cachet, it carries itself, and while it is certainly about golf, it is also so much more than that.
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There is a deliberate shutting off of the world, a suspension of disbelief. It’s as if they collected everything worth being nostalgic about from the 1950s and decided “no more.” Prices are set and will not change, there are no cell phones, there are no cameras, no sponsors, no electric score boards. Pimento cheese sandwiches still only cost $1.50. You are not allowed to run; to do so is uncouth.
It is almost a living embodiment of all the times my grandparents used to say, “It was better in my day.” I’m sure their day had its own set of ups and downs, but at Augusta National, that Cathedral of golf and monument to the best of Americana, I feel it.
I grew up an hour west of Augusta in a place called Madison, Georgia. Known as the town General Sherman did not burn on his march to the sea, it was a quaint, Norman Rockwell sort of place to grow up. The winters were mild, the summers hot, a place you can play golf almost year-round, leaving only a few weeks in the winter for a break to breathe before the season opened up again.
My father was steeped in golf – his father was a scratch golfer and a member at Winged Foot – and we were taught from early on how to strike the ball, to walk the course rather than drive it, and to use this game as a venue to experience nature as well as ourselves.
It is a game that happens both outside and within, the course providing the perfect analogy for the mind. We played golf, and we watched the Masters, and we thought of the event less as a sporting competition, and more like something associated with church or ritual. It was more like a rite of passage that ushered in spring. After the Masters, we could once again wear white, wear shorts and run barefoot through the fields.
From my perch in chilly Toronto, when I think of the Masters I feel the warm spring air of Georgia, smell magnolias blooming, see the blues skies above and perfect shadows forming on the bark of old growth pines.
In short, I remember the Masters just as I should—with great nostalgia.