We love The Masters, don’t we? It’s a part of Americana, a focal point on the sports calendar like the Kentucky Derby and Nathan’s hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July.
Who can resist the sight of a freshly bloomed azalea or living vicariously with those who knock a drive off Eisenhower tree. Church pews should line the pristine fairways of Amen Corner.
Wouldn’t you just love to dip a toe in Raes Creek. And an iced tea with Jim Nance channeling Bobby Jones in Butler Cabin would be so nice on a balmy spring afternoon.
Come on, let’s face it, men were meant to wear green jackets. They go so well with khakis.
And stuffed shirts.
Yes, these Masters poobahs can be a little pretentious at times. But they mean well. Hey, you may not know this, unless you’ve been in the gallery at The Masters the last few years, but like many mothers and fathers seeking order at the dinner table, no cell phones are allowed during the tournament. You can’t tweet, call an Uber, make a reservation, send an email.
And when we say not allowed, we just don’t mean putting it on silent and taking it out to check texts or line up a nice shot of Tigers Woods at the tee box. We mean NOT ALLOWED on the premises, like your pet or African Americans until 1990 or women until 2012 at the Augusta National Golf Club.
“I think that’s something that does set us apart.” Augusta National Chairman Fred S. Ridley said before the 2019 tournament began “I think our patrons appreciate our cell phone policy. I know that we have now become an outlier, if not the only outlier in golf, as well, at allowing cell phones.”
Those who preside over this event have the right to run it the way they want. The caddies wear white overalls. It’s part of the protocol and tradition. And there are many golf fans who look forward to the event just to bask in its demonstrated civility for a few days.
Yet, this is an extraordinary rule, one steadfastly refusing to conform just because the world lives its life differently. To The Masters, a cellphone is like a bullhorn, an annoyance waiting for its opportunity to disrupt the peace.
“But I think it’s part of the ambiance of the Masters,” Ridley said. “I read Rory’s interview yesterday, Rory McIlroy, and he made some very insightful comments about that. He said it was really nice to be out there on the golf course and not seeing everyone with ‑‑ looking down at their hand with their cell phone.”
The Masters is very serious about this. If a gallery guard sees a cellphone on the course, the owner is banned from the event for life. No exceptions. No parole. Lifetime badges are recalled. No exceptions. No excuses.
“It’s nice, isn’t it?” Woods said.
The Masters does this because The Masters can. Its rules and regulations are designed to separate it from everyone else. The event does not suffer fools very well. It doesn’t want you peering at your phone instead of watching the action, or taking pictures instead of making mental notes.
“As people have learned what is acceptable and not acceptable on the golf course with cell phones, you know, it’s very simple,” Woods said. “We don’t mind you taking pictures. We don’t mind you videoing it while we’re playing. Just please put it on silent. It took a number of years for most people to figure that out, but now it’s not really that bad.”
Phones are allowed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Masters week when The Par 3 tournament and practice rounds are held. So the rule is not as unreasonable as it potentially could be.
“I don’t believe that’s a policy that anyone should expect is going to change in the near future, if ever,” Ridley said. “I can’t speak for future chairmen, but speaking for myself, I think we got that right.”
You are allowed to bring cameras earlier in the week, as well. But omce Thursday morning rolled around, those were a no-no as well.
“This event is so different and is so unique,” Woods said. “It’s pure golf. It’s just player and caddie out there playing. … You see some of the greatest golf you’ve ever seen here.”
And you can phone that in, but remember, only in a rhetorical sense.