News & ToursNovember 6, 2014

Augusta National's beefed up security recalls the tale of the club's most famous break-in

Getting into the field at Augusta National for the Masters has always been difficult. Getting onto the famed course's grounds just got tougher.

The Augusta Chronicle reports the club has increased security at its Magnolia Lane entrance by adding bollards, which are short posts used to control traffic. The five posts can be retracted by security guards and are the latest step in the club enhancing its perimeter protection in recent years.

blog-augusta-national-security-1106.jpg

Photo: Todd Bennett/The Augusta Chronicle

In October, a woman drove through that entrance and her husband got out of the car and started taking pictures. The couple was banned from club grounds.

Related: Augusta National's unwritten rules

Of course, that incident pales in comparison to what happened on October 22, 1983. That day, a man named Charlie Harris broke onto the grounds, took seven people hostage and demanded to talk to President Ronald Reagan, who was on the course.

Dave Kindred wrote about Harris in the April 2000 issue of Golf Digest. Upset by having recently lost his father, his job at a paper mill and hearing news that U.S. Steel was making big layoffs, Harris wanted to express his concerns with Reagan.

"I never had any idea of shooting the president," Harris told Kindred. "If I'd wanted to kill him, I'd have driven up to him and done it. I just wanted to talk to him. I was protesting our government giving our jobs to foreign people."

Exact accounts of what happened that day differ between Harris and his hostages, but we know the ordeal lasted two hours and ended with Harris surrendering. At one point, Reagan called the golf shop, but Harris believe he was listening to a tape. When Harris learned Reagan had been driven off in a motorcade of machine-gun wielding secret service agents, Harris realized his face-to-face meeting wouldn't be happening. Harris put his gun down, gave himself up and wound up spending five years in state prison for false imprisonment.

Related: Little-known facts about the Masters

When Kindred caught up with Harris nearly two decades later, he was a changed man. "People like me can get transformed, but not by prison life," said the then-Sunday School superintendent. "It's when the Lord gets you by the ears."

Harris got onto Augusta National's grounds by smashing through a gate with his pickup truck. The club's new security measures should help curtail a similar break-in. However, one might wonder what took so long?

Follow @AlexMyers3