Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Masters: An Unspeakable Grace

I've said it before and I'll say it again: words have power. Though actions speak louder than words, words speak volumes. 
"I love you." 
"I hate you." 
"It's over."
Those are words that do not fall on deaf ears. And I will never forget the first time I encountered a set of words—powerful ones—that confused me.

I was teaching ethics, we were studying Life Issues and the writings of Pope John Paul II, a saint who wrote extensively on the sanctity of human life. He wrote of the Culture of Death, and referred to abortion as "an unspeakable crime." I wasn't sure what he meant. In due time, I came to understand that some acts are so grievous, so heinous that we don't speak about them—we can't. The emotion they evoke is too tragic. The reality is so painful that we cannot ever speak of them. To describe an act as "unspeakable" gave new insight unto its power. Wow. And yet, an experience I've had this past week has led me to yet another understanding. 

I leave tomorrow for Augusta, Georgia to attend the Masters Golf tournament. People keep asking me about it and...I don't know what to say. I can't even begin to speak about it. I don't know how to...I don't want to. For me, it's something different. I consider it an unspeakable... grace.

Most people refer to it as a "bucket list" activity, but even that sells it short. I'm trying to put it into another context, but I don't know what...or how. This notion of the unspeakable has helped.

I've been to many golf tournaments, including three majors (US Open: 2006 Winged Foot, 2010 Pebble Beach and 2012 Olympic Club). Attending a golf tourney in person isn't the same as watching it on television. Reclined on one's couch, the viewer can see every shot as well as multiple golfers in the field. There isn't much lag time as the camera flies over one hole to the next. The low lull of the announcers offers a sweet accompaniment. I think watching golf, specifically The Masters, is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, I think it's my favorite sporting event. But in person, your vision is limited to where you stand beside the tee box or around the green. How this will transpire at the 80th Masters? I know not. 

The sheer beauty of Augusta National, a former nursery awaits.  The vibrant greens, the pristine white of the bunkers, the neon of the azaleas—it's surreal. I know I'm biased—I love golf—but to me, it's heaven on earth. One one hand I know what I'm in for: Amen Corner, Magnolia Lane, the white jump suits each caddy must wear, the yellow flag, the green jacket, the roar of the crowds and the tears that I have never failed to shed when the winner is crowned. And on the other hand, I can't put words to what will be.

I can share fun trivia (see below) and tell you what I know about the culture of the event: food and drink is incredibly low priced, fans place a leave a 3-legged stool beside a green of their choice and can leave it there all day—occupied or not. But ask me how I'm feeling about attending with seven friends, and I can't. It's unspeakable...a true grace....I'm so grateful.

Let this posting be an invitation to consider the unspeakable graces in your own life. I can name a few, but I'll let them go unsaid.

Facts and Trivia (Thank you Malia!)
•  The Masters is the most viewed golf tournament in the world, broadcast in more than 200 countries. 
•  Face value of a four-day badge at the Masters is a paltry $250.  Unfortunately only a small number are available via lottery;  most tickets are provided to members, corporate sponsors and players.  Secondary ticket market prices can be in the high four figures. 
•  Jack Nicklaus is the oldest player to win a Masters Tournament, at 46 years, 2 months and 23 days in 1986. 
•  Tiger Woods is the youngest player to win, at 21 years, 3 months and 14 days in 1997. 
•  Gary Player was the first non-American to win the tournament (1961). 
•  Gary Player (1959-1982) holds the record for:  most appearances, 52;  and number of consecutive cuts made, 23. 
•  Nick Price and Greg Norman share the course record of 63, with their rounds coming in 1986 and 1996 respectively. 
•  In 2013, Guan Tianlang became the youngest player ever to compete in the Masters, at age 14 years, 168 days;  the following day, he became the youngest ever to make the cut. 
•  The highest/worst winning score of 289 (+1) has occurred three times:  Sam Snead (1954), Jack Burke, Jr. (1956) and Zach Johnson (2007).  
•  No amateur has ever won the Masters. 
•  Mark O'Meara played in 15 Masters before he won in 1998. The average number of attempts before a victory is six. 
•  Fuzzy Zoeller is the only player to win the tournament during his first trip to Augusta (1979). 
•  Lee Elder (1974) became the first African American to play in the Masters. 
•  Only three players have ever won back-to-back titles:  Jack Nicklaus, 1965-1966;  Nick Faldo, 1989-1990;  and Tiger Woods, 2001-2002. 
•  Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are the only living pro golfers who are Augusta National members. 
•  Avid golfer Dwight Eisenhower is the only US president to have been a club member.  
•  Amen Corner refers to holes No. 11, 12 and 13. In 1958 it was named by Herbert Warren Wind, a Sports Illustrated writer who noted: "Before playing them, pray." 
•  Rae's Creek was named after John Rae.  It runs in front of the 12th green, has a tributary at the #13 tee and passes by the back of the green on #11. 
•  There are three dedicated bridges at Augusta National: the Sarazen Bridge at hole #15, to honor Gene Sarazen's double eagle there during the 1935 Masters;  the Hogan Bridge at the #12 green, to honor Ben Hogan's then record score of 274 in 1953;  and the Nelson Bridge at the #13 tee, to honor Byron Nelson's performance on holes 12 and 13 when he won the 1937 Masters. 
•  The course's bunkers are not filled with sand, but rather a waste product from mining aluminum.  This produces bright quartz, which is why the sand traps at the Masters are so sparkly white.  
•  The ten cabins located on the grounds provide lodging for members and their guests.  One is named Eisenhower Cabin because the Club built it for President and Mrs. Eisenhower to use during their frequent visits to Augusta National. 
•  In May, on the last day before closing for the summer, Augusta National's caddies play the course for free.
Photo Credits
Jordan Green Jacket
Masters flag

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