Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Masters Monolougue

Having wasted the better part of my formative years hanging around practice greens and clubhouses, you’d think I would have picked something up.

Growing up in golf, I found gainful employment at southern Wisconsin’s veritable training ground of champions, the Janesville Country Club, where I was privileged to spend far greater amounts of time turning up divots of my own than cleaning them from members’ clubs.

It didn’t take me long to figure out the thrashing sumo-lunge of my father was no swing to imitate; so thousands of balls and hundreds of callouses later, I managed to groove a consistent pass through the ball.

As I grew older, so syrupy sweet did my move become, so distinctive was the poetry I concocted with each crack of sphere and stick, that I earned myself a title around the club beyond an obligatory “hey you” in front of some menial command.

Chopper, they call me. Graceful like an angry lumberjack with a dull axe — and this is to say nothing of my putting stroke.

Yet, in spite of my best efforts to overcome a combination of bad pedigree, four sovereign limbs and hands soft like titanium, I never fought a nemesis on the golf course quite so formidable as my own brain.

I remember vividly an exchange I had with myself on fifth green of my local municipal a few years ago. It was spring, a damp and dreary day, I was in high school, out on the track with my teammates. Tryouts were probably going on; but our rambling gangsome was far more interested in the $10 skins game we had going than jockeying for positions on varsity.

I started out with a par on the first and a birdie on the second. My seven iron molested the pin for a tap-in birdie on the par 3 third. I hit the par 5 fourth in two for an easy chirper, and stuck my approach on the fifth to eight feet for a shot at going four under. The following went through my head, pretty much verbatim, as I stood over the putt:

Eric the competitor: Ok, nothing complicated. Go left edge and stroke it clean.

Eric the realist: You’re not this good, ya know.

Eric the pessimist: Come to think of it, you never were all that good at much anything. By the way, your shirt doesn’t match your pants today and you left your headlights on.

Eric the daydreamer: If you make this, you’ll be four under. Par out on this nine, that’s 32. Double it, 64. You don’t shoot 64. Guys who play in college for free don’t shoot 64. Guys who you watch on TV shoot 64, and when they do it, they win. When they win, they make oodles of money. They play golf every day, hang around palatial clubhouses smoking huge cigars before getting in their fast cars to drive home and get laid by beautiful women. Then they get up the next morning and do it again. If that’s what you want, then you have to make this putt.

Eric the realist: I don’t care if you go shoot 59 on Sunday in the Masters, you’re not getting laid anytime soon.

Eric the pessimist: Freddy Couples missed this same putt a couple years back to lose the Masters.

Eric the realist: I don’t care if he’s your hero, you’re not Fred Couples. Plus, you haven’t seen greens that fast since you last putted on the kitchen floor, and you haven’t seen that many people since the last time you were in Camp Randall.

Eric the daydreamer: No joke you’re not Fred Couples, his wife’s a looker. And he probably still got some, even after he choked.

Eric’s playing companions: “Hurry the hell up!”

So, I shook my head, squared up, and hit it. Miss or make, you decide; but this leads me to the subject of the Masters.

Everybody out there who doesn’t know a Pinnacle from a Titleist harps about how golf is just too darn slow. I grant that it is — painfully at times. Players only spend about fifteen seconds a round actually executing the shots.

But the beauty and the entertainment in golf is found in all the other moments, the ones you can really only get in golf, — the way the players stride, the way they address the ball — the moments you can see and hear those conversations going on inside.

There are tougher courses, bigger purses and stronger fields than Augusta almost any other week of the year on the PGA Tour. But no matter how much money or hype you pump into a sporting event, dollar signs still can’t shake an ego quite like history can.

You don’t get a lump in your throat driving down Magnolia Lane because the trees are pruned with such artistic grandeur — even the Greater Milwaukee Open can work magic with a garden.

The Masters is the Masters because of Augusta National, which I think I’m more familiar with after my annual broadcast vegetation ritual than I am some of the patches of scruff I hack up back home.

Years ago, a CBS executive was said to have approached the late Augusta National chairman Clifford Roberts, who ruled the tournament as the czars ruled Russia, about adjusting tee times to better fit expanded TV coverage.

Roberts replied with a note: “Gentlemen, we will be sure to mail you a copy of our tee times, and you are more than welcome to have your cameras present.”

Although I’m convinced you have to have had one of those conversations with yourself in the local Dirt Pines Net Bestball Championship to even mildly appreciate just how fast a train can derail around Amen Corner, even if you haven’t, the spectacle is still worth a look.

The flowers are breathtaking, the grass looks like velvet, and if my man Freddy gets in contention again, they just might show his wife.

As for the crystal ball, I’m about as sure Tiger will repeat as you’re sure about whether or not I missed that eight footer.

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