The Loop

A storm damages Augusta National overnight

April 05, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Behind the clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Club is a massive live oak that's probably older than the state of Georgia. If you look closely, it's evident the gnarled, twisted limbs are held up by cables and propped in place by cleverly hidden rods. Like a lot of those who have been coming to the Masters since 1934, the old fellow needs some help standing up.

But given the attention to detail for which the folks around here are noted, it would come as no surprise if, in some unseen location, an exact replica of that tree is growing in anticipation of the day it topples, the replacement ready to slide in before anyone knows the original are gone. That scenario is not as fanciful as it might seem.

Augusta National is a place where, when they add new trees to the Masters course, we are not talking saplings here, but rather full-grown pines that look as if they have been there forever. The state-of-the-art practice facility that was opened last year, for example, looks as if it has been there since Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie first laid out the course. It was with that fastidiousness that work crews set to their task in the wee hours of Tuesday, as soon as a brutal wind storm had passed, to clean up the damage before anyone from the outside public - or media - got a glimpse of it.

Arriving at Augusta National shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday, there were trees down in the parking lot. Entering the gates - only the media and others working on site were allowed on the property at that time - you were serenaded by the sound of power saws working as downed trees on the golf course were being removed. The normal 8 a.m. opening to the public was delayed and eventually pushed back to 8:45.

In the media food room was the odd sight of a dozen or so of the best photographers in the world sitting and drinking coffee, unable to go onto the course to shoot the damage. Those are the kind of images the folks at Augusta National Golf Club do not like the public to see. This is a place where even the garbage is green - all sandwich wrappers and every cup - and nary a cigarette butt can be found on the ground. This is a place where workers pick through the azalea bushes to remove dead leaves.

Thus it was that Tuesday's practice rounds were delayed while Augusta National Golf Club was restored to pristine condition. And know this: By the time the public gets on the course there will be little evident of the overnight storms. And by the time the tournament begins on Thursday those storms will not have even happened. That's how they get things done around here -- efficiently.

Somewhere out there is a parallel universe in which a mirror image of Augusta National Golf Club exists -- what Kramer on Seinfeld might call their own Bizarro World. And there is no doubt the green jackets who run this place have access to that universe. Yes, there was storm damage to Augusta National last night. And no, we will never know about it. The course will be all fixed, wrapped and green and perfectly presented to the public -- just as it always is.

--Ron Sirak