Monday, December 02, 2002

Guest Post

The Guns of Augusta

By Rick Reilly
Sports Illustrated

Now that the fire is out, the riot has been quelled, the paramedics are gone, the jails are locked down and the National Guard is in control, I have to say that the 2003 Masters was an absolute Hootie. Wouldn't you?

And it all started so innocently.

Martha Burk wrote a little letter asking Augusta National to get a female member. Club president Hootie Johnson answered by saying, basically, "When Hell gets a bobsled team." Feminist groups promised to picket the Masters. The New York Times demanded that Tiger Woods boycott the event. And Jesse Jackson said he'd be there for the women.

For their cause, I mean.

So the tournament started, and for the first time in history, there were throngs of protesters outside the gates of storied Magnolia Lane. There were two main groups: Martha's Mothers, who carried signs saying things like welcome to the ms.sters, and Hotties for Hootie, who were led by Anna Nicole Smith because, as one said, "she's so great with the octogenarians."

Then Ben Wright showed up and said that women couldn't fit into the members' green jackets because "their boobs get in the way." Gloria Steinem hit him over the head with a Big Bertha, and you had yourself a good old-fashioned throwdown.

That convinced CNN to set up a makeshift studio at the new Piggly Wiggly across the street, with Wolf Blitzer at the desk. They called the show Insane at the Lane and started broadcasting nonstop. Next thing you knew, everybody who had a bone to pick with Augusta showed up at the gates.

There were picket signs saying that Augusta was unfair to Asians, Native Americans, Eskimos, North Dakotans, South Dakotans, New Mexicans, Mexicans, gays, poor people and Donald Trump (none of whom are members). Banned CBS analyst Gary McCord was there holding an augusta unfair to me sign.

Jesse Jackson was there, chanting, "We don't want surplus cheese! We just want women's tees!" And Newt Gingrich was walking around handing out newt's for the coots! bumper stickers. All the billionaire CEOs who are members of the club had to sneak past the press by pretending they were pimento-cheese-sandwich deliverymen.

Then Phil Mickelson had a plane fly overhead pulling a sign that read, tiger out of augusta now! And NOW was there with T-shirts that read, a woman's place is at the (practice) range. Then Kenny G showed up, but the fur people mistook his hair for a coonskin cap and hurled a bucket of blood at him. Some of the blood got in the eyes of the old Pinkerton guard manning the gate, and while he was temporarily blinded, Winona Ryder lifted the old guy's keys and let everybody in.

That's when it started getting nuts.

Burk and her adjutants occupied Ike's Cabin -- which the other side sarcastically renamed Dyke's Cabin -- and Hootie and the members holed up in the men's grill, firing black-eyed peas at anybody who wasn't wearing one of their the only iron a woman should hold is a steam iron! T-shirts.

In the middle of all this, the players were trying to win the tournament, which wasn't easy with Johnnie Cochran running all over the place yelling, "How come the balls are white? Where are the balls of color?" and Pat Buchanan holding a prayer vigil at Amen Corner, and PETA down at Rae's Creek trying to save the fish swimming in the green-dyed ponds.

I still can't figure out why Hans Blix and his U.N. inspectors were there.

People kept having to explain to Jimmy Carter that there were no hostages to free. They finally had to get an ambulance for CBS anchor Jim Nantz. Hootie had decided to televise this Masters without any ads, to take the heat off his sponsors; the E.R. guy said no TV announcer could handle the stress of going that long without re-moussing.

But the most frustrated person at Augusta was Tiger Woods, who was trying to become the first man in history to win three straight Masters. He led by 35 shots at one point, despite having to constantly step over and around Dusty Baker's kid, who kept running along the fairways trying to pick up Tiger's ball and bring it back to him.

Hootie finally canceled the whole damn tournament Sunday afternoon, mostly on account of Richard Gere's Tibetan monks meditating in the bunkers, the pile of burning bras on the 18th green (which somebody tried to put out with Andy Rooney) and the desecration of the membership log by Burk, who wrote herself and 50 of her friends in as members.

Tiger had only a four-footer left on 18 when Hootie shut it down. Tiger didn't take the news well. It was the first time anyone had seen a guy come for the green jacket and get taken away in a straitjacket instead.

Still, I think Hillary will make a terrific membership chairwoman, don't you?