GolfConversations: Mr. Roberts, thank you for agreeing to meet me here at the Hooters just down the road from the Augusta National Golf Club.
Clifford Roberts: My pleasure.
GC: But why couldn’t we have met at the National?
CR: You’re not going to believe this but it’s “All you can eat wings night at Hooters.” Plus, I’ve got a coupon for a free sweet tea.
GC: Just one coupon?
CR: Just one. I should have told you to clip a coupon from the newspaper. I’ll tell you what: if you don’t ask me any nosey questions about the club, I’ll treat you to the soft drink of your choice. And that’s a small soft drink.
GC: I must say, it’s difficult to hear you; they’ve got some crowd here.
CR: Don’t say “crowd.”
GC: Excuse me?
CR: Don’t say “crowd.” They’re “patrons.” Call them “patrons.”
GC: What if I don’t want to call them “patrons”? After all, this isn’t your club, this is Hooters. I can call these people whatever I want, can’t I?
CR: I swear on Gene Sarazen’s four-wood that if you don’t call them “patrons,” I will have a hissy fit right here, Mister! First, I’ll start by holding my breath.
GC: Ok, ok, they’re “patrons.” Take it easy.
CR: That’s better. Now, proceed with your questions. Wait a second. [calls out to the waitress] Miss, bring me a sweet tea. And make that separate checks, ok? Yes, you were saying?
GC: Right. Uh, about Augusta National … approximately how many members do you have?
CR: Don’t say “member.”
GC: Why not?
CR: Don’t say “why not?”
GC: Why not?
CR: What did I just tell you??? Hold on, I have to go to the rest room. And you’ll notice that I didn’t say anything vulgar like “I have to do No. 1.” I live by the Augusta National standards of propriety wherever I go. [Mr. Roberts gets up from the table; several minutes later he returns holding a chicken wing.]
CR: Gosh, these wings are good! Got a free one from the bartender. Hmmm, maybe I can get a receipt for it and expense it. Ok, continue with your questions.
GC: I noticed during the Masters telecast, when they’d show a graphic of a player’s hole-by-hole score for the day, they’d identify each nine holes as the “first nine” and the “second nine.” But everyone in golf calls them the “front nine” and the “back nine.” Why do you call each side the “first nine” and the “second nine”?
CR: It’s tradition.
GC: But why? “Front nine,” “first nine,” what’s the difference?
CR: I have to apologize to you. I misspoke. Before departing a few moments ago for the waste receiving facility, I said something about not using the vulgar term “No. 1.” That was wrong of me. What I should have said was “pee-pee.”
GC: Apology accepted. But what about this “front nine/first nine” nonsense?
CR: Say “front nine/first nine” one more time and I’ll have your name removed from the Masters badge waiting list!
GC: a) I’m not on the list. b) You guys closed that list over thirty years ago.
CR: Is that right? [pause] Well, I’ll call your cable company and have them cut the signal to your house during Masters week.
GC: I don’t have cable. I have a satellite dish.
CR: Then I’ll have one of our defense industry memb… I mean, private golf club belongers, launch a missile and blow up every satellite orbiting the earth.
GC: You can do that?
CR: “I can make the grey sky blue/I can make it rain whenever I want it to/Oh, I can build a castle from a single grain of sand/I can make a ship sail on dry land/But my life is incomplete and I’m so blue/’Cause ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh can’t get next to you … can’t get next to you, babe, I can’t get next to you…”
It’s The Temptations!!! Hey, loosen up a little — I’m just having some fun with you! Miss, another sweet tea. Boy! I wish we could get some of these honeys to work at the National. All we got is a bunch of old Negroes serving peach cobbler.
GC: So why don’t you hire young women with breast implants who wear tight tee shirts?
CR: You know, that’s the first intelligent question you’ve asked.
GC: What other Augusta National secrets can’t you reveal?
CR: Hmmm, let’s see … well, there’s the Club handshake, of course. Can’t talk about that. But I will say this: if you’ve seen Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton do their Raccoon Lodge secret handshake on The Honeymooners, you’ll get a general idea of what ours is like.
GC: Anything else you don’t want to talk about?
CR: Well, there’s the “Shrink Contest” where all the private golf club belongers walk naked into Ike’s Pond during President’s Day Weekend. Whoever comes out of the water with the smallest wiener gets a year’s supply of pimento cheese sandwiches.
GC: Who won last year’s contest?
CR: The CEO of the Eberhard Faber pencil company. We called him “Pencil D… uh, I can’t say the word. It’s dirty.
GC: Like “fan”?
CR: Not that dirty … but dirty.
GC: Why are some of your rules so arbitrary?
CR: That’s how Mussolini did it. And the trains in Italy ran on time.
GC: But you’re running a golf club, not a railroad.
CR: Not true. I have a Lionel choo-choo set in my cabin. Want to come back to the club and see it? I’ll be the engineer and you can be the conductor! Whooo-whoooooo!
GC: What Bobby Jones saw in you — besides money — I have no idea.
CR: Damnation! I dripped bleu cheese dressing on my green jacket! Now I’ve got to take it to an undisclosed dry cleaner in an undisclosed state. You don’t have any Resolve to spray on this blazer, do you? I’d hate for this stain to set.
GC: Get some club soda from the bartender.
CR: And pay $1.75 for something that costs 2 cents? Forget it!
GC: Do you object to people referring to you as a “benevolent dictator”?
CR: Oh, gosh … no. “Sieg heil,” my friend.
GC: What do you think of the present economic situation in the US?
GC: It pains me to say that we are not the great country we once were. To think there was a time when you could write off your entire golf club membership and all those other — heh, heh — T&E expenses. Those were the glory days. You tell that to kids today and they can’t believe it.
GC: Bobby Jones was a down-to-earth fellow who swore, drank, and smoked cigarettes. So why have you guys tried to make him into some sort of god?
CR: You can’t say “god.” Say “gargantuan deity.”
GC: Is it true that you’re going to turn the Crow’s Nest into an air traffic control center for your members’ private jets?
CR: Don’t say “member.” And don’t say “traffic.” It reminds me of “crowd” … kind of. Say “patrons.”
GC: There are rumors that Old Tom Morris is the Chairman of your Greens Committee.
CR: How the hell did you find that out??? I mean … uh, no comment.
GC: At the 1967 Masters, you accused Gay Brewer of having a “sissy” name. True or false?
CR: Now that is offensive! How dare you say “Masters”? You can’t say “Masters.” Call it the “April golf tournament with all the pretty-colored shrubs.”
GC: Uh, boy. Any truth to the rumor that next year you’re going to offer fans – excuse me, patrons – valet parking?
CR: That would entail parking attendants running back and forth between the patrons and their cars … I mean, horseless carriages. Running is not permitted at the “April golf tournament with all the pretty-colored shrubs.” But nice catch on the “fans” boo-boo. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
GC: It’s bad enough that you’ve got the TV broadcasters cowed with that “patrons” stuff; now I see the golf writers are doing it, too. What is this, America or North Korea? The people who go to golf tournaments are fans. Just like baseball and football and basketball have fans, golf has fans, too. It’s not a dirty word. It’s not vulgar. It’s not coarse or common or in bad taste. Why can’t you use the word “fans”?
CR: You dare to question me? Do you know who I am? I’m Moe Greene! I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!
At this point, Mr. Roberts grew apoplectic and produced a Bobby Jones brand, telescoping hybrid club that he had hidden in his green jacket. He teed up a chicken wing on a celery stalk, screamed “Fore, please!”and push-sliced the wing over the bartender’s head. Moments later, Pinkerton guards arrived and escorted Mr. Roberts from Hooters back down Washington Road to the Augusta National Golf Club. An implanted Hooters waitress chased after them, waving an unpaid check in her hand.