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April 12, 2002
by Bill Hogan



The Masters. To me, the best event on the pro golf tour. And not because the golf is any better than it is at the U.S. Open or any PGA event. It's because the scenery is second to none. Even through a television camera the rolling green fairways, magnolia trees and blooming azaleas that embody Augusta National are spectacular.

Not to mention the storied green jacket, pimento cheese sandwiches wrapped in green cellophane and the immortal legend of Bobby Jones.


The Masters is a tournament immersed in tradition. The green jackets worn by the Masters winners are never to leave the premises. Caddys are required to wear white jumpsuits. And everyone at the course must display proper decorum at all times.

Golf enthusiasts that are fortunate enough to get tickets to the event (many of the limited passes are inherited) are not called spectators and they are not part of a gallery. Those in attendance are referred to as patrons.

Patrons are expected to behave in exemplary fashion throughout their visit. So, quiet please.

Colin Mongomerie can rest easy. Hecklers will not be tolerated at Augusta National on the second weekend in April. There will be no "You the man!" chants after booming drives and all applause should be kept to a minimum. Of course, these rules are not limited to Augusta in April.

In fact, these rules are pretty much the standard at any golf tournament. Golf is a gentleman's game and proper etiquette should be displayed at all times. So, quiet please.

All sporting events have rules of conduct that must be followed by the spectators in attendance. No lighting the stadium seats on fire. No tossing beer bottles on the playing field. No throwing batteries at the opposing team's left fielder. At a golf tournament, the number one rule is 'quiet, please'.

That's the rule and it should be followed. But I have to wonder how it ever came to be that complete and utter silence is necessary to successfully hit a golf ball.

A basketball player at the free throw line, with seventeen thousand hostile fans screaming disparaging remarks about his mama and waving streamers and big foam fingers, can somehow block out all the distractions and make the shot.

But if a bird chirps when a golfer is standing over a three-foot putt his knees turn to jelly?

Would anyone disagree that trying to get a bat on a 95-mile-an-hour Randy Johnson fastball requires as much concentration as chipping out of a bunker?

Picture it. Bank One Ball Park in Arizona packed to the rafters. Johnson on the mound looking for a complete game shutout. Two down in the ninth. Two strikes on the batter. The place is going nuts. Then, over the public address system, a voice rises above the crowd noise. 'Quiet, please'.

Average people can read the Wall Street Journal standing up on a crowded subway but a professional golfer is sure to slice a seven iron into the trees if someone clicks a camera while he's in his backswing.

There's nothing more depressing than to wait all year for the tour to come to town. Get tickets to the final round, pack a lunch, bring the kids and follow your favorite player around the course, then find yourself escorted off the premises because you've got a tickle in your throat. (Note to rules committee: hacking is not heckling).

The irony lies in the fact that most professional golfers would prefer a cheering crowd to the deafening silence they face when lining up the winning putt at a major championship. When you're trying to concentrate, it's a heck of a lot easier to block out continuous noise than to stand in silence waiting for a twig to snap.

I never understood why I could dive off a 10-foot board at the public pool but jumping in the water from the deck was prohibited. It made no sense that I could wear jeans to the office but not sneakers. It puzzles me to find "Keep Off the Grass" signs at a playground and big signs on fences that read "Post No Signs".

And I don't understand why a hundred years ago somebody decided that golf was best played in silence. But that's the rule.

If you're lucky enough to get a ticket to the Masters, enjoy the beautiful scenery, get yourself a couple of pimento cheese sandwiches and stop at all the historical markers placed on the bridges, trees and fountains around the course.

But for heaven sake, please be quiet.


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