They are well-connected, or they wouldn't have tickets. They are easy on the eye, in crisp spring outfits of predominantly red, white and blue. They are unresentful about being prohibited from running and they are duly responsive to green litter bags marked PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. They constitute what is often referred to as "one of the most orderly crowds in the world."
They are just about nice enough, then, for the grounds: a landscape impeccable as to greens, lush and rolling as to fairways, white as to bunkers, blue as to ponds and resplendent as to red dogwood, white dogwood, azalea, juniper, redbud, Nandina and holly.
The crowd sips cool drinks on the clubhouse veranda or flows around the sward. Seeing, being seen. Emitting rich, mellow "Ahs" for good shots and lower, softer "Awwwwwws" for missed putts. Clapping some, too. And pulling for, say, Oosterhuis to birdie Flowering Crabapple, which is the official name of the 4th hole.
That is the general atmosphere of Augusta National Golf Club during Masters Week. Lovely. But where are hijinks? Where is mystery? Where is funk? Who picks up the cigarette butts? Where can a person go to get tattooed?
The answers to these questions lie—in some cases—beyond the soft-focus scene at the course. But not beyond Augusta, an east Georgia town of 60,000 whose main-street monument to the Confederacy Says, NO NATION ROSE SO WHITE AND FAIR, NONE FELL SO PURE OF GRIME, and one of whose smaller newspapers, The Mirror, in a front-page headline during Masters Week last year proclaimed:
WOMAN CUTS 3, TRIES TO CUT 2 OTHERS, ATTEMPTS TO CUT NITE CLUB MANAGER, IS SHOT.
No doubt the Masters is Augusta's most illustrious feature, and it affects the lives of a great many people in town. But as one resident declares, "Somebody tried to tell me that nobody would live here if it weren't for the Masters. That's not true. There's the nitrogen plant, Fort Gordon and the Medical College of Georgia, with all those doctors and things." Furthermore, there are country music shows, live wrestling, Elizabeth Taylor's gynecologist, the John U. Strother Old Folks Home, a barbershop advertising STYLISH HAIRCUTS/FLAT TOPS, and the Woodlawn Baptist Church, whose marquee last April read on one side, TODAY LET THE MASTER MASTER YOU and on the other side, IF YOU'RE TEED OFF, PUTT IN HERE. In 1972 it read, WHEN CHRIST AROSE GOD PLACED THE MASTERS JACKET ON HIM.
Another local religious operation with a tie-in to the Masters is a one-man effort run by W. A. Ethridge. He is a short, elderly, serene-seeming man who lives in and evangelizes out of a red panel truck that has PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD, JOHN 3:16, REV. 20:15 and JESUS SAVES THE LOST written on it. Augusta is Ethridge's home base, but he gets around.
"I've been in 48 state capitals and handed out six million Gospel tracts since 1960," he said one afternoon last Masters Week after driving back and forth outside Augusta National for a while, playing Gospel music loudly on his tape deck. "I never picked up a ball. I never hit one. But you look at all this money that's put back of golf. And that's for flesh entertainment. Now, how much more for spiritual entertainment?"
Around Ethridge's neck is a small medallion that says MISSIONARY. "But still and all," he says, "any kind of clean entertainment is spiritual. Anything that precious souls get joy out of. It all fits in a pattern—long as it's clean. Precious souls see that other things need comforting as well as the deep spiritual. Everybody knows we're living in peerless times, but thanks for golf to comfort the precious souls. There's precious souls that follow golf all over the world—your mind opens when you travel."