Georgia Is Facing a Political Onslaught. At the Masters, It’s Business as Usual.


AUGUSTA, Ga. — Georgia and its new elections legislation are caught up in a political riptide.

But there’s scant proof of that on and round the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, the place the state’s most cherished sporting occasion, the Masters Tournament, is underway. There are not any protests alongside Washington Road. There are solely restricted calls in Georgia, even amongst the legislation’s fiercest critics, to upend a springtime ritual at a membership that stands on what was as soon as an indigo plantation and didn’t admit a Black member till 1990.

Indeed, even after Major League Baseball selected to maneuver its All-Star Game from Georgia to protest the legislation that restricts entry to voting, there was little doubt that the Masters would go on as deliberate this week — a reflection of golf’s Republican lean, but additionally of Augusta National’s honed willingness to defy strain and, crucially, the actuality that the mighty, mystique-filled model of the Masters hinges on one course, and one course alone.

“When you think about the Masters golf tournament, the first major of the year, the Augusta National Golf Club, to suggest that it ‘doesn’t happen’ in Augusta really speaks to people’s lack of knowledge about the Augusta National and, more importantly, the Masters,” mentioned Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. of Augusta, a former Democratic legislator in the state and an avowed opponent of the new elections legislation.

Tournament play will start on Thursday, lower than one week after baseball’s announcement about the All-Star Game, an exhibition that may now be performed in Denver and, in contrast to the Masters, is staged in a totally different metropolis annually. But Augusta National continues to be dealing with scrutiny from effectively exterior its gates, not least as a result of its membership consists of executives whose present and former corporations have come underneath strain to sentence the machinations in Atlanta, the state capital.

But last autumn, with the country engaged in a sustained debate about some of the very racial inequities that had endured at Augusta National over its history, Ridley said that the club and three corporate partners had pledged $10 million for a pair of underserved Augusta neighborhoods that have grappled with generational poverty and neglect.

On Thursday, Lee Elder, who in 1975 became the first Black golfer to play the Masters, will join the traditional honorary starters Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to hit the 2021 tournament’s ceremonial tee shots. To many people, Augusta National’s ultimate decisions were welcome but tardy, a familiar criticism for a club where opaqueness and caution are among the norms.

This time, golf has given Ridley some cover. The sport has expressed measured anger — and suggested it had no desire, or willingness, to boycott Georgia.

The PGA Tour, which does not control the Masters, said over the weekend that it would not move the Tour Championship, which is scheduled to be played in Atlanta, because of the economic and charitable repercussions the decision would have on nearby impoverished areas. It added, though, that the choice “to stage an event in a particular market should not be construed as indifference to the current conversation around voting rights” and that it was “a critical national priority to listen to the concerns about voter suppression — especially from communities of color that have been marginalized in the past.”

The P.G.A. of America, which is planning to hold the Women’s P.G.A. Championship in suburban Atlanta in June, said it was “monitoring developments.”

“We believe elections should be accessible, fair and secure, and support broad voter participation,” it added.

And almost none of the sport’s top players have made open demands for any other approach, a contrast to the tactics of the Major League Baseball Players Association, which had made its reservations about the All-Star Game public.

In a letter on Monday, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, asked Rob Manfred, the M.L.B. commissioner, whether he would surrender his Augusta National membership. A league spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, but Rubio opined that he was “under no illusion” that Manfred would quit because that would “require a personal sacrifice, as opposed to the woke corporate virtue signaling of moving the All-Star Game.”

Davis, Augusta’s mayor, praised baseball’s move but said he was not worried about the tournament, which local officials believe is responsible for at least $50 million in economic impact, when the Masters is running at normal capacity. He argued that people in the city would challenge and protest the new law but also be deeply protective of their most renowned athletic tradition.

“This is our sports team,” he said. “We don’t have the Falcons, the Cowboys, or the Baltimore Ravens. But what we do we have, every year, same time, is the Masters golf tournament.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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