Clifford Roberts, the co-founder of the Augusta National club and of the Masters tournament that is played there every year, once famously said: “As long as I’m alive, golfers will be white and the caddies will be black.” While race isn’t quite the proverbial elephant in the room in “First Sunday in April: The Masters” — an anthology of golf-scribe reportage and golf-pro memoir — it quietly permeates the book.
Only a few pieces directly address the issue of color at the Augusta National Club, the Masters tournament and/or the sport of golf itself. However, like a sand trap lurking alongside a pristine fairway, there are subtle, unspoken allusions to race sprinkled throughout “First Sunday.” And how could such references not be a part of this book? It wasn’t until 1975 that the tournament’s first black participant, Lee Elder, teed off; the club accepted its first black member in 1990. In his inaugural Masters seven years later, Tiger Woods won the tournament. Or rather, he annihilated the competition, turning in a performance not seen before or since.
In becoming the youngest Masters champion and its first African-American winner, Mr. Woods that year also broke tournament records for widest margin of victory (12 strokes) and lowest winning score, shooting a 270 in four rounds. Bearing witness to Mr. Woods’ de facto coronation that day was Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly, who observed the young golfer and his caddy walking off the 18th hole, arm-in-triumphant-arm: “You couldn’t help but notice that Chairman Roberts’ Rule of Golf Order had been turned happily upside down — the golfer was black and the caddy was white.”
The review of this book at the WSJ has it right. A yawner with some inaccuracies. I’ve yet to read a good book on golf, or about people who play golf. My wife picked this up for me, so I read it. If I didn’t collect books about Golf it wouldn’t be worth the paper it is written on, but I do collect golf books so it will go nicely on the shelf of not recommended’s.
Hang in there, The Masters arrives shortly.