Two miles south of Augusta National Golf Club, in a neighborhood
called The Hill, 12 black men stood outside a bar last Saturday
night beneath a sign that said NO WETTING ON BUILDING. They were
all professional caddies, and the bar's facade bore a likeness
of Burnt Biscuit Bennett, who two years ago caddied for Tiger
Woods at the Masters, the same tournament that Woods had seized
by the green lapels on Saturday afternoon.
"Am I excited?" said a 47-year-old named Jap, nursing a Bud
tallboy and marveling at the stupidity of such a question. "If
golf was all black and one white guy was doing this, wouldn't
you be? Hell, yes, I'm excited."
"Tomorrow will be special," said 42-year-old Barry Barnes, an
Augusta caddie since 1971. "I'll be home to watch Tiger get the
green coat. Everyone you see out here tonight, they'll be inside
watching Tiger tomorrow."
"It's the same way everyone used to go inside and listen to Joe
Louis on the radio," added a man with a salt-and-pepper beard.
As it happened, some Augustans gathered out-of-doors on Sunday
afternoon, on the front porch of a tidy white house on The Hill.
"This is history," said James Reid, 59, as Tiger was teeing off
on his ancient 14-inch TV, "so we might as well watch it on a
Black and white: The subject came up frequently on Sunday.
Derrick Dent, a 37-year-old caddie at Augusta National and the
nephew of Senior tour player Jim Dent, stood outside the O.K.
Pantry, trying to place Woods's imminent victory in perspective.
"The Augusta Chronicle ran a column last week saying it was
ludicrous for Nike to say that Tiger can't play some courses
because of the color of his skin," said Dent. "Well, let me tell
you, there's a course in Augusta called Green Meadows--maybe
Tiger Woods can play it, but Derrick Dent can't. And it is
because of the color of my skin. There's no actual rule, it's
just unwritten: You don't go there."
"I don't think they'll ever accept us regular black folks in the
country clubs," said Scoby Bentley, 52, once a caddie at
Augusta, now a caddie on the Nike tour. "Maybe Michael Jordan
and Tiger Woods. I would encourage them to form black country
Meanwhile, black (and white and Asian) golfers were teeing off
on Sunday at the Augusta Golf Course, a.k.a. the Cabbage Patch,
a muni abutting an airfield. At the Patch on Sunday, a dapper
56-year-old black gentleman named J.B. Tutt sat at a Formica
table and talked wearily of race and golf and growing up in
Augusta. "When I was younger, I'd stand at the tee and say I was
Jack Nicklaus," said Tutt. "I never cared what color Lee Trevino
was. I loved Doug Sanders because I loved the way he dressed. I
think golf people look at Tiger as a great talent who happens to
have a dark complexion."
Dent agreed. He stopped by the house on The Hill to watch Woods
on that black-and-white Philco and said, "With Tiger, I'm not
motivated by the color of his skin, but by the magnitude of his
The statement echoed Martin Luther King Jr., a fact that wasn't
lost on Reid. "Dr. King said you don't judge a man by the color
of his skin but by the content of his character," he said as, on
the screen, Woods worked his way around Amen Corner. "We all got
to go in that hole someday. Nobody gets out of this life alive.
And when that time comes, do you really think God cares what
color you are?"
No, but the trouble with eternal rewards is, you have to wait an
eternity to get them. On Sunday in Augusta, some residents of
The Hill were paid a modest advance on theirs--one that can
never be taken away. "That's destiny," Dent said softly,
watching Woods swing away on the Philco. "That is God's work.
Ain't nothing you can do about that."
COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER For Reid (left) and Billy Hunt, the excitement over Tiger evoked memories of Joe Louis in his prime. [James Reid and Billy Hunt watching Tiger Woods on television]