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A tradition that shouldn’t change at Augusta

Posted: April 17, 2012 10:32 a.m.
Updated: April 18, 2012 5:00 a.m.

What happened to all the camo shirts and beer helmets at the Masters this year? A guy named Bubba just won the thing, right?

But this Bubba is different than your usual Bubba. While he does own the original General Lee car from the “Dukes of Hazard,” this Bubba actually doesn’t even hunt, fish, smoke or drink.

And this was a particularly weepy Bubba as he held (and wore) perhaps the most coveted trophy in his sport -- a brightly colored jacket emblazoned with a large green and yellow logo.

For some, that’s probably all that it really is: just a coat some guy puts on after winning a golf tournament.

But when you truly soak in all the ins and outs of Augusta, the mystique of the tournament really comes into focus.

One week a year, the golf world converges on this city of about 200,000 that sits along the Savannah River.

For the other 51 weeks in the year, life goes on as normal. You go to Wal-Mart. You go to the movies. Maybe you catch a minor league hockey game at James Brown Arena … and yes, it’s named after that James Brown.

I was born in Augusta (well, at least in a hospital there) and lived the next 18 years of my life across the river in neighboring North Augusta before I went off to college.

During that nearly two-decade span, it became clear that other than those seven days in April, Augusta just isn’t the most exciting place in the wide world of sports.

Just think of other cities. New York, for example, has every major sport covered as far as local teams. Same goes for places like Boston; Chicago; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C.

Even closer to home, cities like Atlanta and Charlotte have multiple pro teams, NASCAR racetracks and giant Hall of Fame complexes.

Augusta has none of those.   

But don’t get me wrong, it’s nowhere close to being Small Town, U.S.A. It has what those cities will never have -- the Masters.

And for most of the people who work there and attend each year, that golf tournament is head and shoulders above the rest.

Consequently, it’s considered among the toughest tickets to get in all of sports.    

Luckily, my dad, brother and I were able to head back to the Masters last year after a long drought of not receiving tickets.  

As I walked in, a flood of memories rushed back to me. I was hit with all the sights, sounds, touches and tastes that you can’t get sitting on the couch watching the tournament on TV.

Lining the entrance way at Augusta are dozens of colorful national flags that always catch my eye. Each one represents the home country of a competitor in the tournament.

It never dawned on me as a kid that all of these golfers, some growing up right here in the South and others coming from as far away as London, Berlin and Tokyo, at one time dreamed of becoming a Masters champion.

So if you have the privilege to go there, keep that in mind. There are certainly legitimate reasons to disagree on issues like club membership, but try to honor the traditions on the course.

I’m sure some University of Georgia fans watching on the back nine were itching at the chance to pull out big Bulldog flags and play the school’s fight song on their cell phones as they saw Watson, an alumnus of UGA, work his way toward a major championship.   

But they knew it was Augusta, not Sanford Stadium where the Dawgs play football and definitely not some run-of-the-mill golf tournament.  

And most certainly they understood that the spectators and the golfers there vying for the green jacket were taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.   

After all, it’s no wonder a guy name Bubba just couldn’t hold back those tears as the sun went down on yet another memorable moment at Augusta.    

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