A badgeless Masters: 'They just wanna drink'

Scott Halleran

Not everyone has a badge at the Masters, but that can be part of the fun.

Golf scalpers don't look right. The universal uniform of all scalpers never changes anywhere else but Augusta: athletic shorts, track pants, a t-shirt, some form of mojo around the neck, a baseball cap, and the sad, nervous look of a man sitting on a bomb. There is a camp chair sitting somewhere within twenty feet of them, and a sign in their hand reading "NEED TICKETS." He wants tickets, but does not need them, but no one said the middle-aged hustler that is every scalper on the planet understands the fine tuning of proper verbiage.

A scalper cannot sell within 270 feet of Augusta National. You cannot really do anything 270 feet away from Augusta National, a warped pear-shaped fortress of bamboo and wisteria-draped fencing cordoned off from the rest of the town. The main entrance barely allows a peek inside; the side gates are blind angles toward security gates and more green fencing. A fat uniformed redneck sits at every gate. He could not catch you if you charged through the gate badgeless, but when the person who can finally does, you will have made a fat man run, and thus made a fat man trained in close-quarters violence very, very angry.

Augusta National's manners are impeccable, but like most courtesies there is a polite undercurrent of please fuck off before we release the hounds flowing beneath it. Augusta National, to the outsider, is an inscrutable block of greenery cordoned off from the rest of the world and surrounded by worker bees scrubbing the perimeter clean of unsanitary intrusions of the jorted hoi-polloi.

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The best note here is referring to a bag's dimensions "in a natural state." Please do not breed Prada handbags crossed with Goliath frogs and expect to tote this unnatural creature into Augusta National, or expect to tote any other unnatural creature you created in your laboratory into the tradition unlike any other.

Do not try to bring in your gun: your concealed carry permit works in church in the state of Georgia, but not in Augusta National.

The buffer zone has a purpose. Without it, the junket tents, corporate spreads, private events, and array of Jaguars spread out on the grass along the sidewalk would flow right up to the main gate, and not instead sit just along Washington Road, where a megachurch is trolling the living daylights out of the litigious and militant attorneys for Augusta National 24/7.

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The apostrophe is everything. They, like everything else in Augusta, were closed on Sunday for the Masters. A trio of pissed-off British golf fans stood on the corner, ticketless and asking for badges. I asked them if the market was good or bad. The one who looked like fat Ricky Gervais said, "You're the journalist, you tell me." I would have told him I hoped he died cold and alone and listening to horrendous dubstep remixes, but that would be redundant. He is British; this is precisely how he is going to die.

A grown man with a Sunday Masters badge and golf standard time gear passed us wearing a brand new pair of Vibrams. Someone wore Vibrams on Augusta National. I like this man a lot, because he clearly does not care what the living or dead think of him, ever, for any reason.

The Super Bowl crowd and the Masters crowd aren't that much different.

If you do not have a ticket, you have a few options. You can try to snag a badge. This will require thousands of dollars, patience, and blatant luck since most of the people at the Masters have to give those badges back to their employers, sponsors, or to their junket lords back at the white tents pitched in the parking lot of the CVS just across from the green walls of Augusta National. There are people who go out of their way to enter the lottery, but a solid chunk of the people fist-pumping and yelling "WAR EAGLE" after tee shots got their tickets from a company. The Super Bowl crowd and the Masters crowd aren't that much different: lanyarded corporate effluvia drunk on beer and patronage, set loose for the weekend wifeless and aimless in a hazard-free amusement park of park-n-ride shuttles and (for them, at least) free hotel rooms gouged from the budgets of someone else higher up the corporate food chain.

For all that wifeless -- and aside from young women in sundresses under thirty, it is almost entirely male -- time on their hands, the crowd at Augusta does little wives at home would mind. They hand over their phones to confounded African cabbies from Atlanta, drunk, sunburnt men in Izod hoping a Liberian man they have never met before will get them to their hotel. This Liberian man will never get them to their hotel; they are still circling Augusta right now, texting their wives that it will just be a few more hours, and asking the cabbie to pull over so they can get more beer.

The other option is watching the tournament at Hooters. The waitress at Hooters is from out of town, too. Hooters brought in people from as far away as Arkansas to work the weekend. Tents are slapped up in no particular order around the building, tents still empty as the rain drifts in and starts soaking Adam Scott, squinting in the rain on a flatscreen over my head. The employees huddle by the POS system out of the wind because they are Hooters waitresses, and wearing stupid and impractical clothing for their job.

"These guys don't get much time away from their wives. They just wanna drink."

She sits down and starts talking. No, these aren't the biggest assholes in the world. They tip well, and they don't, and like most people there is literally no telling how well they are going to tip. They do not break things, or cover the room with toilet paper like Alabama fans. They do not tip badly; they do not tip well. Like everyone else at Augusta, a fog of docility covers everything, and the lofty aspirations of some of the most privileged people in the world on a Masters Sunday barely crest the lip of a pint of Bud Light.

"These guys don't get much time away from their wives," says the waitress at Hooters. "They just wanna drink."

On the way out I stop by the bathroom. A picture of a beaming and much younger Tiger Woods hangs on the wall. His face is unlined, his shoulders devoid of the massive traps he built through years of weightlifting. The heads of three Hooters waitresses surround him in the frame. For the first time on the day of wandering around Augusta I feel a real emotion: pure, unadulterated sadness at how happy he looked, there, in the moment of making terrible decision after terrible decision, and at how happy bad living, good golf, and a plate full of spicy garlic wings made him.

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