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Roberts Rules
Steve Eubanks
April 21, 1997
At Augusta National, the vote of one unyielding man was all that really counted
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April 21, 1997

Roberts Rules

At Augusta National, the vote of one unyielding man was all that really counted

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In the late 1940s Jones struck up a relationship with course architect Robert Trent Jones (no relation). Bob and Trent revamped Augusta's 16th hole—lengthening it, moving the green, moving the tee and adding the pond. Roberts hated everything about the renovations. His problem had nothing to do with golf, it had to do with control. Cliff wasn't involved, ergo it was a bad idea.

Roberts grew stronger as the disease that would eventually claim Jones's life worsened. The membership began to take on a more Robertsonian look as Cliff did his best to stack the club with people he deemed worthy—not Bob's old friends or the sons of existing members, but CEOs, movers and shakers and men Roberts liked to be around. Jones sardonically expressed his attitude toward these changes in a note to Cliff regarding a list of prospective new members: "About all I can say is that you appear to have picked a group of individuals who are thoroughly solvent and should be able to pay their dues."

Perhaps the crudest example of Roberts's manipulative skills came at the expense of MacPhail. Jones had always been part of the posttournament green jacket ceremony. Even after he became so weak that he could no longer stand and could barely hang onto his cigarette holder, CBS remained content with his presence. It was touching, nostalgic and perfect TV. On the other hand, it had become increasingly obvious that while the public wanted to catch its annual glimpse of Jones the man, viewers were being subjected to a shadow of the great champion whose enduringly boyish countenance had given way to the pained look of a sick man out of sorts with the world around him.

Roberts thought it unseemly to have Jones's withered physical condition broadcast to the entire country. Therefore he told his old friend that CBS (specifically MacPhail) had decided that Bob should not continue to be part of the presentation. Hurt to the point of tears, Jones confronted MacPhail. As he had done every year with Roberts, MacPhail listened, only this time he didn't smile. Instead he turned away. MacPhail let Jones go to his grave thinking CBS was responsible for his ousting. The truth, MacPhail knew, would have been far too painful.

Roberts was less circumspect when dealing with minorities. According to Hannigan, "[Roberts] thought that blacks should be cared for decently, so long as it was understood they were servants or entertainers.... This confidant of the president of the U.S. thought there would be trouble in both the U.S. and England wherever people of color converged in large numbers." Hannigan is quick to point out, however, that Roberts's innate suspicions weren't confined merely to people of color. "He regarded shortened Italian names as evidence of sinister behavior." The best example of Roberts's pejorative view of blacks is his version of the story of Augusta National employee Claude Tillman and the way in which Tillman came to work at the club:

[Claude] came to us shortly after the death of our member Tom Barrett, of Augusta....

[Before Barrett's death I had] developed a very strong liking for Claude, Tom's faithful helper....

The little black fellow couldn't read or write, but he was able to drive a car, mind the children, keep the yard clean, mix drinks, relieve the cook when necessary, shave and dress Tom in the morning, and give him a rubdown if Tom had a morning-after feeling.

Tom Barrett's war injuries were credited with bringing on a fatal illness, and during that time he told me that he wanted me to have Claude. He apparently made a stipulation to that effect, because Tom's widow, Louise, placed a Christmas wreath around Claude's neck, tied a card to it bearing my name, and sent Claude to me. After conferring with Bowman [Milligan, the club's steward, who is also black], I passed along my gift to the club by placing Claude in charge of the kitchen. After arrival in Augusta from New York some six weeks later, the following conversation took place between Claude and me:

"Claude, how are you doing in the kitchen?"

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