Originally created 04/07/01

Stogies stand out on course



Curly Greenebaum, a retired lawyer from Charleston, S.C., in town for the Masters Tournament this week, no longer smokes a cigar and drivesat the same time.

But driving a golf ball and puffing is another matter entirely, he said, sucking slowly on a thick brown Mayorga as he lounged in a golf chair on the ninth fairway of the Augusta National Golf Club on Friday.

"On the course, it relaxes me," Greenebaum said. "But when I smoke in my Porsche, I go too fast."

Whatever the reason, almost anywhere you turn at the Augusta National, the pungent smell of specially cured tobacco hangs in the air, with players and spectators alike having a good puff.

"At any golf tournament you go to, there are a lot of guys smoking cigars," said Clement Stevens, a Masters spectator and cigar connoisseur from Boise, Idaho. "It's pretty much the only place you can smoke anymore without offending anyone."

Stevens prefers to puff Cuban cigars, which are illegal in the United States, but he is able to get them through a friend who frequently travels out of the country.

"They're forbidden, but that's part of the mystique," he said.

Top-shelf cigars, such as Cubans, are tightly wrapped and can take as long as two hours to smoke. Smokers say the ideal way to smoke a cigar is at a rate of no more than one puff per minute, which keeps the cigar from burning too hot. Leaving a long ash on the butt is recommended, as well, to maximize flavor.

Darren Clarke was maximizing the flavor and the makings of a good round as he lit up just after teeing off at the eighth fairway, puffing almost all the way through the back nine Friday.

"It's just a habit I've gotten into, I guess," Clarke said, after finishing the day with a 5-under-par 67. During play, he either handed his stogie to his caddy or dropped it on the ground between strokes, picking it up afterward.

Clarke said he isn't loyal to any particular brand. He started smoking cigars when he quit cigarettes.

"I smoke whichever kind my friends here give me," he said, including the one he smoked Friday, which was a gift.

Many of the men lighting up say smoking cigars is a sort of side benefit to hitting the greens.

"It keeps the smell away from my wife," said spectator and cigar smoker Bob VanDeroef of Basking Ridge, N.J., in jest.

Lots of men take advantage of the opportunity to light up, particularly at the Masters, said Crystal Stewart, a saleswoman at Marcella's Fine Cigars & Tobaccos.

Sales at the Washington Road business more than triple during the week of the tournament, she said.

The most popular items are boxes of 20 to 25 high-priced cigars, mainly Monte Cristos, which sell for $300 a box, and Macanudos, which sell for about $150 a box.

"They're real well-known, and a lot of people that smoke them during the Masters don't smoke them normally," Stewart said. "They want to smoke something they've heard of before."

No female cigar smokers were to be found Friday, but there were plenty of mildly disapproving wives, including Cheryl Baugh of Orangeburg, S.C.

"As long as he's outside, I'm OK," she said.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.