I am too exhausted to write my regular column. I caught the social conscience bug and flew to Augusta, Georgia, to help Martha Burk fight the good fight for women's rights. (I guess in this circumstance, it's for one woman's right.)
I called Burk at the last minute after I heard a rumor that they had a block of hotel rooms reserved in Augusta, something almost as difficult to do as get passes to the tournament itself. Not surprisingly, she questioned my bona fides.
"Sure," she said, "you support fringe issues equal pay for women and childcare in the workplace, but you never took a stand on my crusade to get a Sacagawea coin without her carrying a baby. And where were you when I was getting retailers to stop selling AND1 T-shirts with the slogan, 'Your game is as ugly as your girlfriend'?"
I won her over with my plan to go under deep cover at the tournament. Not satisfied with the crummy remote location to which we protesters were relegated, I would infiltrate the grounds and bring the place down from the inside during the final round.
I rode with the other protesters on the bus. There weren't many people there, and those in attendance clearly wished they were someplace else. I was going to ask about the low turnout but the other protesters avoided me, probably because of my disguise. (Because I had no ticket, I did what Gandhi would do in this situation: dress up as an overweight hooker with a goatee and demand admission by threatening a storm of media coverage if I was denied.)
Martha gave me a dirty look, but she had bigger fish to fry. The protest site looked like a swamp, and our only company was the Klan and a group protesting against the protests. They had a TV and a cooler and Martha was sorely pressed to enforce the no-fraternization policy.
Tottering on my high heeds in the mud, I snuck in past the guard, but I could sense about a half-dozen security personnel ready to pounce on me as soon as I made a move toward the course.
As a diversionary tactic, I ducked into the souvenir tent. While they waited outside, I took as long as possible, buying everything in sight: shot glasses, towels, playing cards, a hand-tooled leather wallet, a golf shirt, sleeves of golf balls. Each item prominently featured the Augusta National logo. Stripping off the skirt and fishnets -- I took the precaution of wearing shorts beneath this outfit, stuffing more sensible shoes into the size 48EE bra -- I put on my new golf shirt and topped off the ensemble with a yellow Augusta bucket hat, unisex to signal my devotion to the cause.
Wandering by the putting green, I heard a roar on the course. Did Augusta National announce it offered Queen Noor of Jordan membership? No, it was just an eighty-foot birdie putt on the second hole by Phil Mickelson. I thought Phil, of all people, should understand the importance of women's rights, with two daughters. But I saw the Ford logo on his shirt on the Jumbotron and knew he was as bad as the rest. (Remember Ford's demeaning slogan? "Have you driven a Ford, lady.")
I broke into a run, looking for a place to protest for the afternoon, hopefully where I could get some sun.
I was chasing down Mickelson when I saw Jeff Maggert, leading the tournament, on the third hole, hitting out of a fairway bunker. Maggert is a Ping spokesman and I thought briefly about running across the fairway and pointing out Ping's anti-women ways. I know that Ping sponsors the Solheim Cup and an LPGA event, and has numerous female staff pros and gives millions to women's golf. But they pay men to promote their product at an event held at a club that has no women members. How could Maggert be so blind to this?
His bunker shot hit the lip, bounced back, and hit him in the chest, leading to a two-stroke penalty and a triple bogey. I almost felt bad for him, until I realized he could always console himself by applying for membership to Augusta National.
A little later, I heard a sound like a cannon from the eighth hole. It startled me so much I almost dropped my delicious, inexpensive egg salad sandwich. (Augusta National is the anti-Disney when it comes to pricing its food and merchandise. Disney, though, doesn't discriminate against women.) I figured that maybe Hootie Johnson called an impromptu press conference to offer memberships to Nancy Lopez and Sandra Day O'Connor, but it was only a chip-in birdie by Len Mattiace.
After that, I admit that I drifted in my protest, much like Martin Luther King, Jr., might during a long march, saving his strength. I determined the best place to protest was in the bleachers between the fifteenth and sixteenth greens. The view of both holes was awesome from there. You could acutely sense the injustice of the club not having women members. I didn't see any opportunities to advance the cause of women, but I saw some great golf.
It was after seven when I got back to the protest bus. Martha Burk was hopping mad and they waited for me only because I promised the bus driver an August National rain poncho. "Where were you?" she shrieked. "The protest ended over an hour ago."
I tried to push past her to the back of the bus. "Geez, Martha, it's like you never heard of the word, 'playoff'. Hello?"
She started poking through my Masters shopping bag. "And what is all this crap?"
I tried to give her some line about how I only bought all these items so we could burn them together, as soon as we could get some media coverage, but she wasn't buying it.
Martha didn't look so hot. Her hair was disheveled and she was covered in mud. I learned later that she fell down a slippery slope and knocked over two Klansmen who were trying to cadge a beer from the anti-protesters' tailgate party.
We rode the bus in silence toward the airport. (Martha didn't know it but, for a pint of Wild Turkey, the bus driver was going to drop me off so I could catch my flight, before starting the long ride back to D.C.)
I started to feel a little guilty. Martha Burk, I was afraid, was missing the whole point of The Masters. I wasn't about winning. It was about the chase. About Maggert rebounding from that two-stroke penalty to get back into the tournament and still not give up after making a quintuple bogey on the twelfth hole. About Mickelson playing his best, smartest final round ever in a major, but still coming up short. About Len Mattiace having the round of his life, then bogeying eighteen and losing in a playoff.
And it's about fun. Was Martha having any fun this week?
I walked to the front of the darkened bus and put my fleece Augusta National blanket across her shoulders.
"So who won?" she asked.
"Some white male," I said. Martha chuckled.
I hope she'll have me back to protest again next year.
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