By Dom Cioffi
I spent this past weekend in relative silence. This wasn’t because I was on a meditation retreat or happened to be alone. No, I barely spoke this weekend because the final two rounds of The Masters golf tournament were on, and when The Masters is on, I’m generally transfixed.
The Masters is one of my favorite sports pastimes and one of the few events in the calendar year where I am glued to my television. I will watch around-the-clock coverage, whether it’s the actual tournament or the talking heads who analyze every last aspect of the tournament.
The event features the greatest golfers in the world playing the greatest golf course in the world. The 18-hole track is one of the most intense tests in sports, not only for the level of skill required to traverse the fairways and greens, but also for the immense pressure that builds as the tournament progresses.
I first watched The Masters while on spring break during my sophomore year of college. The campus was empty that week because everyone had traveled home or hit a southern location for a week of partying. For whatever reason, I opted to stay put.
I remember enjoying the solitude of an empty dorm and virtually barren campus. I slept in, I read magazines, I played basketball, and more than likely ordered pizza every night.
I was just getting interested in golf at the time so I probably turned on The Masters less because of what it was and more out of curiosity of watching guys effectively hit golf balls.
This was 1986, and any golf historian will tell you that the ‘86 Masters was one of the most memorable tournaments ever played. Jack Nicklaus, at 46 years old, was at the end of his career. But the Golden Bear shot a final round 65 to win his sixth green jacket and his 18th major – two feats that have never been matched, not even by Tiger Woods.
I watched the whole tournament, from Thursday through Sunday, and by Sunday afternoon I was hooked. Jack Nicklaus and Augusta National Country Club captivated me. From that point on, golf became my obsession.
I’ve since spent countless hours honing my game to the point where I’m a fairly solid player. Like most amateurs, I have my on and off days (more off than on probably), but the allure of hitting that tiny white ball has never left me.
As I watched The Masters this past weekend, I keyed in on the crowds gathered around the 12th tee box. The 12th hole is part of Amen Corner, a string of three holes that have been notorious for derailing golfers over the decades.
Grandstands packed to capacity wrap around the back of the tee box, with an overflow of other patrons lining both edges. Hundreds of fans stand within a few feet of the golfer as he contemplates this short, 155-yard par-three that has a precarious bank on the front edge that slides down into a small creek.
The back side of the green is lined with tall pines, a multitude of azalea bushes, and the most pristinely manicured grounds you’ve ever seen. It is easily one of the most picturesque golf holes ever created.
This setting creates a natural amphitheater, which heightens the pressure for those that must execute a golf swing in front of 1,000 spectators (and millions more via television).
As the golfer prepares to swing, the crowds fall dead quiet. I’ve been at golf tournaments when crowds grow silent prior to a golfer’s swing, and it’s a very unnatural phenomenon. To have that many people packed into a small space while being pin-drop quiet is very strange. But at Augusta, on this hole, with all the pressure involved – I can’t even imagine holding a club, much less swinging effectively at a target.
I often think how nervous I get when someone is mowing their lawn outside one of the houses that line the fairways of my country club. The guy may not even notice me, but I get worked up at the thought that he might watch me swing. It baffles me how the pros perform with the world watching, especially with the accompanying silence.
Silence also played a big role in this week’s film, “A Quiet Place,” starring real-life husband and wife duo, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt.
Set in a not-to-distant future where sightless extraterrestrials with acute hearing have overrun earth, a lone family tries to navigate day-to-day life without making any noise, for fear it will lead to death.
I was wholly impressed with this film. The storyline was intriguing and the character portrayals were packed with emotion. But the real strength was the level of tension created. Check this one out if you love a good thriller that has a touch of science fiction tossed in. Just be ready to watch from the edge of your seat.
A reticent “A-” for “A Quiet Place.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]