What Idiot Would Turn Down Free Masters Tickets?
Several weeks ago, just before the Second Coming of Tiger was announced, a friend offered me free tickets to this year’s Masters.
I politely declined, citing a highly personal reason.
The personal reason was this: Last year, I took my wife to her first Masters and she made such cheeky out-loud comments about a certain full-figured star attempting to wear Euro-style clothing meant for a dude half his age and body mass — setting off viral titters of amusement among her fellow female spectators in the viewing stands — that I decided not to risk earning the wrath of the green jackets and getting the bum’s rush to the back gate.
Besides, Masters officials will have their hands full trying to make certain Tiger Woods has a pleasant time returning to the job without some leather-lung boob obsessively devoted to his wife reminding him of his erring ways.
Masters patrons, of course, are the most respectful and knowledgeable fans this side of the Atlantic, which along with a reasonably priced pimento cheese sandwich, makes attending the Masters such a special experience. Free tickets to the Masters are simply unheard of.
Like an idiot, however, I confided to several friends that I turned down free tickets to this year’s Masters. The word spread like wildfire. Next thing I knew, the National Enquirer and CNN were both hot on my heels to confirm I’d had free tickets to this year’s Masters and turned them down citing personal reasons.
“It is an established fact that no middle-age white man with a waist size of 40 inches or more and an established golf index of 10.3 or lower has ever turned down free Masters tickets. What makes you so special, sir — or, more to the point, what exactly are you hiding?” demanded the cultural affairs editor of the National Enquirer — careful to note that his paper was the first to break the news of John Edwards’ cultural affair with a campaign videographer and has subsequently been nominated for a Pulitzer. “Our ‘enquiring’ readers would like to know.”
I told him the matter was highly personal in nature and hung up the phone, even as he was shouting that there would be no safe place to hide from his reporters. He promised they would be lurking behind every flagpole and golf tee until I came clean about why I really turned down free Masters tickets. They would make Tiger and his entourage of barmaids look like conga line at the Playboy mansion
Next it was Anderson Cooper, vowing to keep them honest. I this case, unfortunately, I was them.
“Listen, Jimmy,” Cooper said, adopting his famous low-key buddy approach, “it simply doesn’t make sense that a guy like you would turn down free Masters tickets — especially with the biggest sports story of the year unfolding down there in Augusta this week. How can you possibly explain your absence? Everyone who is anyone in golf will be down there. All those blooming azaleas and cheap pimento cheese … ”
“How’d you get my cell phone number?” I asked him.
“Look, that’s not really important,” Cooper replied. “What’s important, Jimmy, is this: I can maybe get you five minutes on ‘Larry King Live’ tonight if you just give me the inside poop on why you turned down free Masters tickets this year of all years. Beyoncé and Lady Gaga are also scheduled to appear.”
Next it was the governor of South Carolina, of all people, who somehow found me. I was at Harris Teeter buying dog food for the weekend when Mark Sanford reached me on the store manager’s business line. I was horrified to hear my name spoken over the store intercom:
“Would the gentleman who has free tickets to the Masters near the Alpo display in aisle 8 please come to the manager’s office. There’s an important phone call for you regarding those tickets.”
“I’m so glad I caught you,” said the embattled governor. “Look, I know you don’t know me from Hugh Hefner’s pool cleaner, but if you’re not going to use those free tickets to the Masters, man, I’d be thrilled to take them off your hands. I need to have a word with Tiger about how he’s handling this crazy thing with all the barmaids. I mean, for Pete’s sake, he’s got a small army of mistresses chatting with reporters.
“All I’ve got is a wife flogging her tell-all memoir on ‘The View’ and a soul mate hiding out somewhere down in Argentina. On top of that, I just paid the biggest ethics fine in South Carolina history and they’re still trying to impeach me. I really need to speak with Tiger.”
I told him I was awfully sorry — the tickets were long gone. I’d turned them down for personal reasons I simply didn’t care to get into at this moment in time. He wasn’t the only one who could stonewall.
“OK,” he let out a heavy sigh of resignation. “Guess I’ll just have to go hiking instead this weekend.”
Make My Getaway
Unfortunately a small crowd of shoppers was waiting for me outside the manager’s office. They were getting a little unruly about the free Masters tickets thing. Police cars began to arrive. I saw a sign go up that read: “Free Masters Tickets. Line Forms Here.”
A most attractive middle-aged woman even took my arm and asked in a plumy voice, “Are you married?”
“Yes,” I had enough presence of mind to say. “Happily.” I didn’t have the guts, however, to tell her my wife — the woman who started this fiasco by publically remarking on Phil Mickelson’s unfortunate Masters attire — was visiting relatives out of town over Masters weekend.
She snapped her fruity-minty gum rather provocatively.
“Well, hon, here’s the deal. My husband, Herbie, dreams of going to the Masters just once before he dies. Frankly, he’s getting up there in years and could kick the bucket at any moment. If you’ll just take him with you I’m prepared to be very generous — especially after the insurance money comes in.” She checked out my sack of Alpo. “I’ll even keep your dogs.”
I thanked her, backing away. Then I turned and ran, losing several cans of Prime Select Beef Chunks before I could get safely out of the parking lot.
On Masters Monday, as Tiger was telling the world at a press conference how he’d lied to himself and to his wife and disappointed millions of his fans around the planet, my boss wandered into my office to offer a friendly morning greeting and seemed surprised to find me at my desk.
“I thought for sure you’d be down in Augusta with every other reporter in America,” he said. “I guess you know that all news worldwide has officially been suspended until after the Masters. No wars or earthquakes can happen. This thing is bigger than the release of the Apple i-Pad, I tell you, hotter than the Second Coming of Elvis.
“By the way,” he added, “I understand you might have a couple of free tickets to the Masters floating around. Always wanted to see the par three tournament — just to see if there’s anything to the curse.”
Somewhat testily, I informed him that I had no Masters tickets, free or otherwise, that this was simply an insane rumor floating around like the choking yellow pine pollen that has covered the Sandhills like a radioactive dust cloud. My life had been cursed, I admitted, ever since I said “thanks, but no thanks” to free Masters tickets. I half expected Sarah Palin to track me down next.
He nodded, clearly disappointed. “I see. Well, in that case, let’s plan to have lunch about this time next year and talk about your career. Maybe you’ll have free Masters tickets then.”
As play commenced on Thursday, I was sure the pressure was over. Tiger was back at Augusta and all was right with the world. Even nature seemed to cooperate with a big thunderstorm that washed away all the miserable pollen dust late Thursday night.
On Friday afternoon, I was feeling so much better about having turned down free Masters tickets I actually fed the dogs and went out to play golf with a couple of lovely friends from out of town. They and I were apparently the only people left in the Sandhills who weren’t at this year’s Masters. The golf course was a ghost town.
In the middle of our round, my wife phoned from somewhere in western Pennsylvania.
“I just heard Tom Watson and Freddie Couples are leading the Masters,” she crowed. “Even Phil Mickelson is at the top this year. Gosh, I wish we had gone this year. I hear he’s wearing a most flattering traditional polo.”
“Oh, well,” I said, “maybe next year.”
“You mean it?” She sounded so happy I almost hated to tell her I would personally give her the bum’s rush to the back gate if she ever again commented on a player’s unfortunate fashion taste.
“Fair enough,” she agreed to my terms. “I’ll be the perfect Masters patron.”
“Great. Now all I have to do is try to score some free tickets. It won’t be easy,” I pointed out.
“That’s right. The governor of South Carolina and a number of people from Harris Teeter asked to go before you did. The line forms here.”
Jim Dodson, The Pilot’s Sunday essayist and PineStraw magazine editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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