No sport is more adherent to the rules than golf, and no sporting event more devoted to decorum than the Masters Tournament.
The beautiful result is a timeless, breezy, nostalgic feel at Augusta National Golf Club that is incomparable. The gentility seems to swirl from the azaleas.
To create that world, though, the club must set rules and enforce them, while expecting state and local laws to also be followed.
Sadly enough, such fervent
fidelity to order stands out today – when rules and laws are so often dimly viewed and poorly observed. It arrives with a shock and a jolt, then, when someone actually enforces rules and expects us to abide by laws.
There appears to have been more of a concussion than usual outside of the tournament gates this year, as about three dozen folks were rocked by their
arrest for allegedly buying, selling or simply trying to arrange the transfer of Masters tickets.
The situation has become acute because consolidation of entrance gates onto Berckmans Road means a more concentrated collection of patrons for scalpers to harangue. In addition, warnings and citations have proved ineffective.
What Masters guests need to understand – and what the tournament regulars already realize – is the length to which Augusta National will go to protect its visitors, and the fact that this umbrella of protection follows patrons in and out of the gates at Augusta National. They have a right to be unmolested by ticket seekers and scalpers, who have become increasingly aggressive over the years. And, by Georgia law, that right extends 2,700 feet beyond the club grounds, actually starting at the parking lots.
Not to mention the fact that the tickets clearly, if finely, remind the bearer that they are not to be bought and sold by anyone other than the club.
That agreement with the club, as well as the law, ought to be respected, particularly at a venue as venerated as the Masters.
Having said that, we have great sympathy for most of those arrested. They weren’t accused of scalping, but of disorderly conduct – plain folks who inadvertently ran afoul of the law while either naïvely seeking a sip from the sporting world’s holy grail or innocently thinking they could share it with someone else. Their arrests were no doubt traumatic for them and their companions.
That trauma may also have been aggravated by the clumsy handling of their cases by the local Solicitor General’s office – which initially suggested it might dismiss all the cases, then made an abrupt U-turn to say all the cases would be tried.
This is no small matter, particularly for out-of-town visitors, whose return trip to Augusta for a hearing would entail significant costs and upheaval. They at least deserve some coherence out of authorities.
They, and other Masters fans, also deserve more notice regarding the state’s scalping laws and the 2,700-foot buffer zone. We would urge those involved to work together to map out a plan for better signage cautioning visitors about the laws and their strict enforcement.
Yes, we know that ignorance of the law is no excuse – legally. But this episode involves more than even the iron-clad rules and laws being enforced. It should also involve old-fashioned courtesy.
That, too, is something Augusta and the Masters should be proud to promote.