Saturday, April 14, 2007

Amen Corner and ....

"Some emotions cannot be endured with a golf club in your hand" - a quote from Bobby Jones regarding his temper and club-throwing. I know what he meant because as we were approaching the Amen Corner, (hole 11, 12 and 13) the emotions bubbling up inside me could only be endured with tears, as no words were good enough to justify what I felt.

I feel embarassed by my reaction, but, it was like entering heaven and saying, " I made it, I am saved after all." Almost like a religious experience. And I am not alone in thinking that because the next day when we met with some touring pros from Asia, a guy named Chua expressed the same feelings and observation without me even telling him about my own experience. In 1958, Herbert Warren Wind, a journalist with Sports Illustrated coined the word Amen Corner in search of a perfect name for the location where the critical action was taking place that year. A poetic moment in golf and all a journalist could do is borrow an old jazz recording title "Shouting from Amen Corner" to describe it.

In the early 80's, while still in Manila, my friend NJ and his friend JC would fondly banter about "green jacket, amen corner and tee time." I knew what tee time meant, but did not relate green jacket and amen corner to golf. Augusta,I presumed was another racehorse.

So you can imagine, when 25 years later, my pumas walked the grounds of Augusta, surveyed Amen Corner and the men in green jackets. "When you see men in green jackets, it means they are members of this club." NJ relayed the trivia to me almost in a whisper. And NJ is not one to waste saliva on things that he himself is not impressed with.I noticed a few more "green men" strategically scattered along the course and I watched them almost with a reverential awe.

Those men walked around in that jacket like how the Pope strut in his mitre. That jacket sure did something because there's this man who was square,round and not tall--we would easily call him fat and ugly, were it not for the reverence of the jacket. But watch my lips on this, I will not bend a knee for that Gucci spectacled, Prada footed man in the Vatican regardless how many Roman numerals are added after his name. But I will with both knees for those men in green jacket. Square or round.

I did not appreciate the trees we had in our yard when we lived in a house, because spring means raking in dead leaves and tons of them. I like trees as long as I don't have to clean up after them. And walking around the course were young men in yellow overalls and green cap-you would think they were caddies badly needing attention, but their backs says "Litter". Yes, they were cleaning up after the people..... and the trees. Arranging pine needles.

The most abundant tree at the course is the pine and around 1600 azaleas of about 30 varieties landscaped hole number 13 from tee to green. Each of the holes are adorned with a plant after which it was named . It could not be more appropriate because the course used to be the site for Fruitland Nurseries. Since the course was built and formally opened in 1933, an estimated 80,000 more plants of 350 varieties have been added. I was awestruck at the landscape I did not even notice the Tiger approaching the 11th tee. And just as he was a spit away from me, my camera battery died on me. I cried again.

On my flight back to Dallas I read in the paper about some woman protesting about Augustas' exclusionary policy against women. I understand there are merits to this so-called feminists' movement. But all I am asking is, are we ready to see men waltzing into the womens restrooms and let them use the sink as a urinal, while we are powdering our high noses next to them? Equal opportunity ---I think I am going to cry again.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Masters

To say I had the best time in Augusta is only half the story. I don't remember why or how I fell in love with golf. As a young girl, part of my house chore was to take our carabao to pasture. It is important that the carabao eats well because it supports the family by plowing the field. I would be perched on its back feeling tall with the wind blowing in my face as it took me to a greener pasture, the Cebu Country Club. We lived next to the only golf course in the island and I would take my carabao there because the grass next to the fairways were always green and abundant. Most days, when I found stray golf balls, (mostly from the Japanese golfers) I would collect them and take them home for my brother to break open and pry out the small bouncing rubber ball inside. We had no use for the golf balls as we didn't have any friends who played golf-we had no rich friends. But we could play with the bouncing little rubber ball.
Fast forward to a few years later, I got a job, moved to Manila and acquired an American boyfriend to boot. Besides drinking, he loved to scuba dive but talks and breath golf most of the time when he was not talking about a "racehorse." Translation : good looking women.
One afternoon he took me to this country club called Wack-Wack, to claim his prize; a thermos bottle. My first time inside a country club so I tried to act like how people act in a country club. Like I'm used to it. It did not feel right --feeling tall even without the carabao?

Twenty five years later, the now ex-boyfriend, ex-golfer, took me inside the grounds of Augusta National for the 2007 Masters. I was overwhelmed with emotions I could not come up with the right words to justify what I felt. I was elated for the experience of being inside, but also, there was this tinge of emotion that was hard to discern. When he put his arm over my shoulder to point my attention to the pine needles neatly raked in to an almost decorative pile, I felt a different surge of emotion. The momentary weight of his arm on my shoulder was comfortable. I felt at home.

It was great watching the pros'- the heralded and the unheralded do the practice rounds . It was fun eavesdropping on peoples conversation too. One woman asked her husband what Tiger Woods babys' name was. He didn't remember, he said. Came to find out, Tigers wife is not even due til July. As we got to our seats at the bleachers, 2 men sat in front of us. I got hungry watching them eating eating an egg salad sandwich and pimiento cheese sandwich. But then the other guy started talking out loud about everything; from his homosexual neighbor to global warming. If they pay him 150k, he would find global warming, he assured his buddy. I did not know you are supposed to find global warming. His annoying subjects turned my hunger into anger, but in that environment I found it hard to really be angry and mean it.

Inside the Augusta National, there was much to savor. My eyes could only look at so much and my heart can only feel so much. I am just now beginning to describe them in my minds eye and gently trying to preserve the pitter- patter in my heart. Gently, least I wake up.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I flew in to Atlanta and drove to Augusta on a rent a car. This whole experience was (for lack of a better word) like a "booster shot" for me. You see, I have always wanted to go to another State outside of Texas and rent a car. To a lot of Americans, that is nothing, but to me that is something more like jumping out of the plane and operating a parachute for the first time. Driving is not the problem, I can drive in any kind of traffic and in any kind of freeways...using a map to direct me was the hurdle. Reality is what you perceive it to be, right? I perceived it to be a big problem. .. but only in my mind, because the whole experience was really a breeze. And this brings home the point that "defeat starts in the mind, of the things we worry about, less than 1% of it really happens".
Even though I booked my car through the web, I had to stop by their counter at the airport to sign some papers. The male clerk, had a wedding ring on, but acted so gay...not gay as in "happy". He kept suggesting that the car I had rented through the web which was a compact, was too small, making a gesture with his fingers like a salt pinch and squinting his eyes at the same time, describing the car as "very small to drive long distance". "GS6 is very nice, sporty" he says this with a gay smile. I don't like sporty, what else is there? He could not come up with any other model but mentions Corolla then taps his head with that gay hand gesture again and apologetically says he needs coffee to remember the other kind of cars they have. Don't under-estimate the power of suggestion; I drove out of there 90 dollars poorer. I got on the shuttle and as we drove in to the lot, I saw the different kinds of car spread across the property. I had to stop by the office to pick up my GPS. Yes, no map. Global Positioning System, that's what I should use, my boyfriend insisted. I am 2 continents away from being a techie, but my boyfriend is. At 12 years old when he was laid up in the hospital for an appendics problem, he got hold of an electronics magazine and a rush of enzymes whispered and burned in his heart the passion that God had placed in him from his mothers womb. Electronics Engineer, is not his title; that is who he is.
Out of the many choices of cars in the lot, I drove out of the lot in a silver GS6-- sporty, yes, but not "middle age crisis" sporty. I asked the exit clerk how the GPS works, she said as soon as I start driving it will start talking to me. But it kept quiet even after I turned the corner from the exit booth. I turned right and had no choice but turn left at the end, then it started talking. It directed me out of the airport complex to the main highway and out into I-20. As I was driving and wondering when the voice would come on next, I realized that driving with a GPS in a totally new environment, is like driving blind while able to see. Or doing something like a robot would. I then understand why God created us with a free will and promised that He would not violate that free will. Not knowing any other way to get to Augusta, I had to follow the voice. When I started, I did not know if I could really trust the GPS, but after the voice in that box got me out of the airport maze and put me on I-20 heading east, I started to let go and let the GPS direct me to 2799 Henry Street in Augusta. During those 2 hours drive, I was listening to the voice of my boyfriend on the cell phone while the female voice of the GPS would come on intermittently. The 2 voices comforted me immensely, but I worried that the battery of my cell and the GPS would die out on me. When I surrendered my will and my life to God 12 years ago, I did not fully trust God either. I don't always hear Gods' voice, and when I do, I still question it, if it is really Him speaking. But one thing I know; on my best day He gives me great joy, on my worst day, He walks me through it. "Turn right and stop at final destination" the female voice echoed again. I have arrived! Both batteries lasted but I know it was neither of the audible voices that got me there.