Saturday, April 17, 2010


Tiger’s return to golf via The Masters is now old news and came down just about how most folks predicted. Despite all the controversy, it turned out to be just another day at the office for the most dominant force in the game of golf. This was yet another celebrity misstep and a much anticipated and predictable recovery – real or imagined. The Tiger Woods story again includes all of us and how we have reacted – embraced or rejected – Tiger and all the attendant hullabaloo. Predictably, some of us get failing grades, even if we forgive and try and stay above the fray. Maybe that includes me for involving the Might of Right in this whole messy deal. Methinks there just had to be some higher truth or lesson to be learned here. I looked and looked and looked

When Tiger first stepped onto the practice green there was tension and an anticipation – of what? – nobody really knew. Friends reflected that there might be some heckling and a not so friendly welcome. After living in Georgia and understanding the hallowed and majestic pine-lined fairways of Augusta, I knew those behaviors wouldn’t be tolerated. You pays your money but you have better well behave or get tossed on your keester and n’er allowed to return again. Security had to have been at an all time high. This, then, was the perfect venue for Tiger to return to the game.

There are expectations of congenial and extraordinarily polite behaviors at the Masters unlike any other event in sports and that includes players, caddies, staff, the media and members of the gallery. This is a very courteous and well mannered place where Georgia sourwood honey fairly oozes from most pores. That is until Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne decided to ceremoniously unload on Tiger, one day before the Masters and almost five months after the revelations of Tiger’s celebrated infidelities. This was a cheap grandstanding stunt that couldn’t go unnoticed. If Grandpa Payne the chairman of the Masters Morality Police had delivered his missal in time and tune with the events (even in private) then it probably would have meant more. While I don’t disagree with the message I do question the timing and venue. The self righteous Payne ended up stuttering and defending the fictitious chastity and double standards of Augusta.

The hypocrisy of Payne’s mean spirited tirade is most evident when you consider that the Augusta National Golf Club is a time capsule and bastion of masculinity – a men’s only refuge for the weary bifurcated rich. That policy (which is their right) has gotten Augusta National in trouble with many enlightened folks who understand that such discriminatory practices are now out of step in the 21st century. Indeed, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) made it a requirement for all PGA Tournament hosts (including Augusta National) to prove that they did not discriminate on the basis of race or gender. They still don’t have a female member and we understand that the number of their Black members can be counted on one hand. They didn’t have an African American member until 1990. Can they do that? Absolutely, but as a voluntary member of a greater body that enforces these higher standards of behavior, they remain out of compliance.

David Dow the distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center who founded the
Texas Innocence Network, put it all down for me when he commented, “Augusta has the right to discriminate, and opponents of gender discrimination have the right, if not the moral duty, not to associate with any company, including a commercial broadcaster, that abets in this discrimination.”

That’s why even as keenly interested as I was, I did not watch the Masters Golf Tournament. And, yes, I did find a higher truth in the reprehensible behaviors of Billy Payne. It’s once again a wink and a nod accompanied by the sound of crisp new dollar bills being transferred from one pocket to another.


Ned Buxton

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