When Phil Mickelson won his third green jacket yesterday the 2010 Masters Tournament was entered into the history books. Once again the Garden City of Augusta had enjoyed the world spotlight for a few days.
When I visited South Africa in 1991 most folks there did not really know Atlanta and many didn't have a clue about Georgia. Most could not distinguish between the city and the state.
There were two exceptions.
Everyone knew Jimmy Carter so we could help make that association with Georgia. The second readily recognized entity in Georgia was the Masters. The night before leaving for Johannesburg and Cape Town I received the news that I would be appointed to the Aldersgate United Methodist Church. While on the trip to South Africa every time I mentioned that my family and I would be moving to Augusta people would respond, "Ah, the Masters!" Indeed the prestigious tournament has placed the city on the map.
I am not a golfer but I have enjoyed watching the Masters each April for many years. It is wonderful on television but being present on the grounds of the Augusta National Golf Course is almost indescribable. I don't really know much about the game but let me share some insights from this year's visit to the Masters.
The food is good and cheap. Lunch (2 sandwiches, 2 ice creams, 2 soft drinks, and a candy bar) for my wife and me cost $10. I wish the Braves, Hawks, and other entertainment venues would follow their example. It is not necessary to take advantage of folks and charge a fortune for the food. Quality at affordable prices should be the goal.
You can always smell cigars--even out of doors. Thankfully smoking was prohibited in the stands.
The gallery was very polite and courteous. This was refreshing in a time when civility is often missing in public places.
Before every player teed off to start the round they spent time on the putting green. It reminded me that the basics must never be neglected. That is true in all of life.
Many of the best professional golfers are young (relatively speaking). Thank God for talented and disciplined young men and women in sports and all professions ... and for those who are leaders in the church. Pray for more.
The game (or tournament or any task) is not over until it's over. Stay with it to the end. Don't quit. No matter how you start, it is important to finish well.
The ball does not always bounce the way we would like. Sand traps and water hazards are part of the game of golf and of life. Champions are those who keep giving their best and play through them.
Pleasant, friendly, helpful people make a big difference. Every volunteer and paid staff person that I encountered added to the experience. Businesses and churches could learn a lot from them.
The Augusta National is an incredibly beautiful place. It is an excellent combination of divine creativity and human ingenuity. The beauty God creates is not limited to things in nature. God will also make something beautiful of our lives if we will allow it.
Tradition at the Masters and the Augusta National is what makes this such a special and memorable experience. Tradition is important and can be very good.
You can learn from every experience in life, can't you? Thank you Lord.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," April 12, 2010. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]