Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Weekend in Augusta

I spent last weekend in Augusta, Georgia at the Master’s golf tournament, the grateful beneficiary of a good friend’s generosity. We both checked this off our “Bucket List.” Unfortunately, now we’re hooked. Following are a few of my observations.

* The columnist George Will once said that professional sports serve the common good by showing us excellence. I have watched professional golfers on television, but seeing them play in person, displaying their skill and capability against a very challenging course, is awesome. The winner, Trevor Immelman, was a scratch golfer in South Africa by age twelve and has spent the subsequent sixteen years dedicating himself to being a world class player. It shows, and that is inspiring. I may not ever be world-class at anything, but watching these men play made me want to pursue excellence in other areas of my life. That’s a great feeling.

* When I used to watch the Masters on television, I would roll my eyes at the almost religious vocabulary the commentators used to describe Augusta National Country Club: “sacred,” “hallowed,” etc. I can understand it a little better now. The grounds are spectacularly well kept, beautiful, majestic, and laden with history. Moreover, the tournament is run with extraordinary precision, with an army of workers taking care of every last detail to ensure that “spectator guests” and “player guests” have a superb experience. I was expecting to be gouged at the concession stands, just like at other professional sporting events. But Augusta National sold all food and drink items for $2.50 or less each. The message I inferred was, “We know you paid an arm and a leg for your tickets; we’re not going to take advantage of you.” It was a nice touch of southern hospitality.

* People crowded into the merchandise stores and bought large numbers of trademarked Masters golf shirts, balls, hats, umbrellas, etc. The man in line in front of me paid for his purchase by counting out twenty $100 bills. I guess he got his economic stimulus check before I did.

* Just outside the main gates, a church occupied a former shopping center. These folks decided the best ministry they could offer to Masters patrons was to station two people with billboards on the corner with the message, “The Bible says you will go to hell unless you repent” and condemning “homosexuals,” “porn freaks” and “Mormons,” among others. The two men preached with similar charm to the crowds streaming by. It was like something out of a television sitcom, the worst kind of caricature. I walked up to one of the men and said, “I’m a Christian minister, and what you’re doing isn’t working.” He proceeded to bellow to the crowd, “Here’s a Christian minister who says God’s word isn’t true, who has a religion but has not been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, who is errant and vile,” etc. I was so intrigued by this that I made a point of looking up the word “vile,” which means “morally despicable or abhorrent, contemptible.” Yep, that’s the word that comes to mind.

Imagine the difference if this church had situated a group of folks outside each entrance handing out chapstick and saying, “It’s a beautiful day. Have a great experience. We know you’re away from home. Let us know if we can help you in any way. Jesus loves you and so do we.”

Clearly, I’ve got work to do in Augusta and will need to make this an annual mission trip. With plenty of chapstick.


Post a Comment

<< Home