The day a gate crasher with a .38 revolver took hostages at Augusta National
When you think of the history of Augusta National, you likely think of Bobby Jones, and Gene Sarazen, and Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Maybe, if you're really steeped in the history, you think of figures like Cliff Roberts or Dwight Eisenhower, and if your mind is bending towards the controversial, perhaps names like Martha Burk. The man you probably don't think of is Charlie Harris.
In 1983, Harris' connection to Augusta National was as minimal as a hometown. He had been fired that summer from a local paper mill, his father had just passed, and he was estranged from his wife and three kids. Those circumstances exacerbated a drinking problem for which he'd already been hospitalized, and when he drove down Washington Road one October morning and discovered from an acquaintance in the police force that Ronald Reagan was in town to visit Augusta National and play golf, the seed of an idea was born. A brawler by nature, Harris had never been afraid of conflict, and the straw that broke the camel's back came when he got home and heard on the radio that U.S. Steels was laying off thousands of American workers.
Something in Harris snapped at that moment, and he decided that he was going to talk to the president he had supported so fervently in his election campaign three years earlier. In service of this goal, he had two weapons: A blue Dodge pick-up, which he rammed into Gate 3 at Augusta National to gain access to a place that would never have him, and a .38 revolver, which he used to take seven hostage and negotiate a conversation with the president of the United States, who was then playing the 16th hole.
Dave Kindred visited Harris many years later for Golf Digest, and the story of his afternoon stand-off at Augusta remains one of the strangest, most fascinating chapters in the lore of that storied club. On this week's Local Knowledge podcast, we explore that fateful day in October, from Harris to the hostages to Reagan himself, and dig into the anatomy of one of golf's wildest forgotten stories.
And through it all, we examine the biggest, most puzzling question: Why don't more people know about this?
You can listen to the podcast here: