The Masters: Stuffing the suggestion box
By Jim Litke
AUGUSTA, Ga ó One thing you never expected to see at the Masters: suggestion boxes.
Yet there they were Thursday, plunked down alongside three holes, 10 electronic kiosks at each site, inviting patrons to submit recommendations on how to improve the tournament and golf in general. The initiative is titled “Share Your Ideas: Golf Goes Worldwide” and it’s a way for the green jackets at Augusta National to give something back to the game that gives them an excuse to dress up like used car salesmen a full six months ahead of Halloween.
For those who can’t drop by, feel free to stop in at www.masters.org and drop them a note. Currently, there are about two dozen postings on the site ó most practical so far: Make the hole bigger ó but it’s only taking suggestions in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean for the time being.
Personally, I’d like to see Portuguese added, so those fun-loving Brazilians could pass along recommendations for dressing in the heat, and Italian, so we could get into a serious discussion about broadening the menu. In the spirit of sharing, here’s another half-dozen suggestions:
1. Make me a memberOK, I don’t have the initiation fee laying around and truth be told, even the monthly food tab might be out of reach. But if the membership is looking for a way to skew the age demographic, median income and bedtime hour back in the direction of the general population, I’m their man. Besides, I’m lousy at poker, a rummy at gin and what club wouldn’t welcome another pigeon?
2. Leave the Stone Age behind and invite a woman to join.
For those members who don’t like recommendation No. 1, how about my wife?
And if not her, how about Louise Suggs? Seriously folks, the woman is in the Hall of Fame, she has 58 major wins and she was part of a foursome at East Lake Golf Club in 1948 when Augusta co-founder Bobby Jones played his last round of golf. Chairman Billy Payne is the first chief executive at the club with no direct ties to Jones and what better way to restore that link? Suggs was parked outside the backdoor of the clubhouse Thursday, contentedly watching the competitors come and go.
But even at age 84, Suggs looked like she could have popped up out of her chair, grabbed her clubs and contended for the annual club championship in a heartbeat.
3. Golf cart races down Magnolia Lane.
There’s no pool at Augusta National, no tennis or bocce courts, no skeet shooting or even a croquet set. Man cannot compete at golf alone and as driveways go, this one is overwhelming and underutilized.
The canopy of shade formed by rows of grand old trees, the Masters logo made up of flowers on a circular patch of lawn just in front of the clubhouse, the azalea bushes framing the entrance ó who wouldn’t want to roll down the lane behind the wheel of a gas-belching, smoke-spewing, low-ridin’ cart and pull up to the front door first and casually toss the key to a valet?
Speaking of spicing things up …
4. Make John Daly chairman of the food committee.
Everybody who comes to the Masters raves about the reasonable prices for the pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches ($1.50) and beer ($2) and can’t imagine how the food service could be any better. The chairman knows how: Make it healthier. Until he lost his playing privileges, Daly walked down the fairways at Augusta smoking and downing Diet cokes.
“I believe nicotine plus caffeine equals protein,” he said.
5. Make Wednesday’s par-3 contest the equivalent of an NCAA tournament play-in game.
Just because the pointy heads at the NCAA came up with it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. Plenty of the guys who play in the par-3 contest now are has-beens or never-weres. Guarantee the winner a spot in Tiger Woods’ group when the tournament begins in earnest and watch how quickly the smiles on a few of those faces turn into grimaces.
6. Bring back the long-drive contest.
Players used to compete in annual driving and iron play skills challenges. They teed off just beyond the back of the clubhouse and out onto a large expanse of lawn between the 8th and 18th fairways that is used during the tournament as a walkway for spectators. The advent of the par-3 contest in 1960 replaced the skills challenge.
Yet Daly used to draw huge crowds to the practice range to see if he could hit over the screens and out onto Washington Road, since the net at the back was 250 yards away and 100 feet tall. But even long-drive contests get repetitious sometimes. To create a little extra excitement, stage the long drive during the tournament and then watch the spectators run ó right for the kiosks to stuff the suggestion boxes with some real ideas.