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So, I blew off work on Tuesday. I work for myself, so I didn’t have to get anyone’s permission or face any consequences. Of course, I still had to clear it with the boss at home because I was going out of town. She luckily saw the "I’m going to jump out of a high window if I don’t get a break" look on my face and obliged.
I hopped in the car real early and drove 2 hours to pick up my father and we then drove another hour to go to the Masters Golf Tourney in Augusta, GA. It was a nice cool day – maybe 50 degrees – still shorts weather for a guy from Chicago. My father wore what all 60+ white men wear to a golf tournament: 1 pair tan slacks, 9 shirts in layers, 1 pair comfortable shoes, 1 hat with college logo on it (Clemson), and 1 pair black calf high socks that he bought 20 years ago when he had to wear them with his suit to work.
Tuesday is a practice day for all the golfers, and so we were there to watch most of the good pro golfers in the world…practice golf. Probably 25,000 people were there to, I repeat, watch golfers….practice golf. If this sounds absurd to you, you are correct.
Augusta National is a pretty surreal place during the Masters for several reasons. Let’s count them off:
1. This event is Disneyland for old white men. There’s a "village" where you can buy all of your Masters apparel. There are egg salad sandwiches. Cigars. Bathrooms. It’s the whitest and mannest place I have ever been to.
I had a really good insight while standing in line for the bathroom. I was standing there with 400 of my new best friends in a line that was 400 friends and 20 minutes long, when I suddenly realized that the Women’s bathroom next door was….freaking empty. Every once in a while some female would go skipping into the bathroom with this wild grin on her face, and then come skipping back out a few minutes later. I defy you to name one single public event you’ve been to in your entire life where the womens bathroom had no line and the men hopped on one foot for 20 minutes.
2. Professional golfers look like wieners in person. For most of us, seeing a celebrity in the flesh is a larger than life experience. Spotting a professional athlete, for example, usually means staring up at some 6’5" genetic freak of nature who can’t possibly be from the same gene pool as you (remember me, Brian Urlacher? I was the 350 pound man standing next to you in Chicago screaming like a little girl).
But when Phil Mickelson or Ernie Ells or Gary Player walks by, they’re just normal looking guys in funny looking pants. And they kinda look like you do when you’re at work. They are generally positive, but they’ve got some tasks to complete and a deadline to hit. In fact - they are at work!
There was this weird moment that I experienced when me and my father and a bazillion other old white men were gathered around the putting green, watching maybe 10 pro golfers, 10 pro golfers putting coaches, and 10 pro golfers caddies…..practice putting. It struck me that the only thing keeping these golfers from literally being animals on display in a zoo was a tail.
3. Augusta National is a stunningly beautiful place. Even with 25,000 people crawling all over the course, the trees and the bushes and the water and the sand and the grass are literally world class. On a single hole, you can see dozens of different colored flowers blooming from a variety of bushes and trees. Say what you want about golf courses – even the tree huggers would like it there. It’s a perfect coexistence of man and nature.
4. I am really fat and out of shape. They haven’t invented slope-showing elevation-changing television yet, but when they do, you will be shocked to see that there probably isn’t a single 10 foot by 10 foot flat piece of ground on the entire course. Everything is sloping up, down, sideways, and backwards at horrific angles. Golfers would hit out of sand traps that were taller than they were so they couldn’t see where the shot went. They would tee off straight into the side of a hill, or off the top of a mountain down into a valley.
And the greens – forget it. They were full scale replicas of a miniature golf course. Ridiculous hills and valleys and impossible slopes. We watched golfers hit a ball 40 feet away from a hole to the right, only to see the ball make a 90 degree turn to the left and roll to within a foot of the hole. These guys are good.
If I had to play this course and walk it, I would need 1) a caddy 2) a team of medical professionals 3) knee braces 4) an oxygen tank, and 5) 8 hours to complete the round.
So, what did my day off at the Masters teach me about business?
It taught me that life can’t always be about business. Sometimes you have to stop and smell the old white men.