masters week

Though I am a native of South Carolina (Aiken), I grew up in Augusta, Ga., and I think of it as my hometown. I haven’t lived there in years, and even if I wanted to move back there, I know that you can’t go home again.

That is particularly true in my case, but, no, it’s not because the Statute of Limitations has yet to run out on the antics of my misspent youth. In fact, I was nearly an altar boy. (May it please the court: let the record show that I said “nearly.”)

No, I can’t go back to the old home-place because the old home-place isn’t there anymore. It was bulldozed years ago. Urban renewal was the villain.

Even more poignant (to me), the whole neighborhood, 15 inner-city square blocks known as Frog Hollow), was razed to make way for an ever-enlarging University of Georgia med school and University Hospital. Gone! The whole neighborhood!

A cousin of mine, an electrician, from that same neighborhood, different street, was wiring a circuit board on hospital grounds recently when it dawned on him that he was standing where his old bedroom used to be. He said the realization buckled his knees.

So, long story longer, I can’t go home again, no matter what.

But I do miss the old hometown from time to time, and never so keenly as at this time of year each year: Masters Week.

Rory McIlroy walks up to No. 15 green during Thursday's first round of the 2016 Masters. CHRIS TROTMAN/AUGUSTA NATIONAL
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and his caddie walk up No. 15 during Round 1 at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday April 7, 2016.

If you’ve never been to the Masters Tournament, put it high on your bucket list. But don’t just watch it on TV; go! I know of no other spectacle in all of sports that is its equal. Not baseball’s World Series. Not college basketball’s Final Four. Not professional football’s Super Bowl. Not – but you get the picture. And I’m not even an avid golfer!

The course, in spring’s full bloom, is beautiful beyond words; the drama is riveting as the suspense usually grows with each round; and if people-watching has a better venue anywhere, I’ve yet to see it.

I saw my first Masters Tournament as a lowly gallery guard while a student in high school – and when I didn’t know one end of a golf club from the other. No matter. Working, if you can call it that, on the second hole, I was free for the rest of the day after the last paring played through, and I took full advantage of the opportunity.

The great names in golf in that era included Ben Hogan and Sammy Snead, and hot on their heels was Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. In my free time, I could follow anyone I chose, and see up close some of the greatest golf ever played. I’ve been a fan ever since.

My own golf game? Sad story, that. In total frustration, I quit the game one day years ago on the third hole of a south Georgia country club course, having found golf to be radically different from other sports.

In other sports, I had displayed a bit of athleticism and found that with practice I could get better.

For reasons beyond my ken, this was not true of golf. At least, not for me. And I have heard many another person make the same lament.

But I still love the game, especially the Masters Tournament, and this is the week!

Fore!

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Image: Rory McIlroy walks up to No. 15 green during Thursday's first round of the 2016 Masters (CHRIS TROTMAN/AUGUSTA NATIONAL).
Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After a stint in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English (Class of '61). I began my (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and went to work for The Constitution in, I think, 1976. I left in Sept. '82 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award and my second (Atlanta Blues, in 2004) contended for an Edgar Award. My latest novel won no honors but might well get me nominated for a hanging. Titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in a small Georgia town. I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.com and I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.