The way Augusta National runs is something I can only compare to one other organization in the world: the Catholic Church. In both cases, decisions are made behind closed doors by men in colorful outfits who generally don't much care what the world at large thinks. And based on our current world, I don't think that's a bad thing.
What guides both groups is a Higher Power. The Church has God, Augusta National has Bobby Jones. Thirty-eight years after Jones' death, he is still the club's President. "In Perpetuity," they add.
But as I was reminded of today, you don't have to be a member of Augusta National to feel this passionately about the place.
This afternoon, I received a text from my buddy Lane. If you remember, Lane was one of the two fellas I stayed with last April when I was following Tiger. Lane is born and raised in Augusta, a golf nut, and a self-described "good ol' boy." Even though he lives within a mile of the National, he hasn't been there since 1997. But if you even casually mention the club, he'll beam like he's the course superintendant.
Well, Lane was back at the Masters today for the first time in 12 years. When he returned from the course, he sent me a text message. He gave Furyk a pep talk, he exchanged a "Go Dawgs" with Ryjui Imada (a UGA alum), and he complimented Phil on his drive on #7. As a Tiger fan, this was hard for Lane, but he knows full well the level of decorum expected from Masters patrons.
My favorite part of Lane's story was not what he saw inside the ropes but what he did outside them. He walked to Founder's Circle (pictured above), bowed his head, and prayed. First, he thanked Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts for creating Augusta National, and then he thanked God for allowing him the opportunity to come back again. Makes me wonder why the heck I didn't try to find Lane a cheap ticket so he could join me last year. Oh yes, because the cheapest tickets I could find were $1,000 a day.
That's okay, Lane's hoping that he'll be back again on Saturday, God willing of course. And then there's Sunday, a day that both the Catholic Church and Augusta National members agree is the most sacred day of the year.