Tom Sorensen

At Masters, beauty in simplicity – and blissful ban on cell phones

Amateur Gunn Yang, of South Korea, walks past the leader board during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday. At Augusta, the scoreboards are part of the simplicity, and the beauty, of a world without cell phones.
Amateur Gunn Yang, of South Korea, walks past the leader board during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday. At Augusta, the scoreboards are part of the simplicity, and the beauty, of a world without cell phones. AP

The perpetrator wears a white cap, white shirt, yellow shorts and dark sunglasses. About 10 yards from the rope that prevents fans from walking onto the 10th fairway at Augusta National Golf Club is what looks like a grassy cave. The man ducks through the opening, walks past the bright camellias and pulls out his cell phone.

He leans down, holds the phone with his left hand and, to mitigate the noise, cups his right one over his mouth.

I ask a gallery guard what he’d do if he caught somebody on the course using a cell phone. He says security would confiscate the phone and the offender’s ticket or badge and escort him or her off the premises.

The Masters is like Vatican City. While part of something greater – Georgia for the former and Rome for the latter – it is an entity unto itself. Entities unto themselves create their own rules.

I’m paraphrasing, but the philosophy behind Augusta National’s rules goes something like this: What worked then works now. So respect our rules and we’ll sell you a pimento cheese sandwich and a domestic beer for a total of $5.50.

Many of the rules attempt to prevent the excesses of modern society from creeping in. Thus, cell phones are banned. Unless you parachute onto the course, the ban is not a surprise. There are as many signs outside the golf course that note the ban as there are fans presumably making a final call on their phones.

The Masters might have the only scoreboards at a major sporting event that do not require a plug. If the scoreboards at our race tracks, stadiums and arenas are a year old, they’re outdated. They need to be bigger, the images need to move faster and the numbers need to reflect real-time statistics for the game and the rest of the league.

Near the front entrance at Augusta National is the main scoreboard. The background is white, the names are black and the golfers’ country red. Featured are nine columns of names. The first name on the first column is Bae, Sang-Moon, Korea and the last name on the last column is Yang, Gunn, Korea. When a number is changed, it is changed by hand. The numbers on every scoreboard on the golf course are changed by hand.

Yet fans linger in front of them all day long. Perhaps they simply want to know the score. Perhaps they’re mesmerized. There’s beauty in simplicity. This is as new to many of them as an Apple Watch.

There’s nothing simple about our cell phones. I use mine to check email and text messages and to send email and text messages. My cell phone connects me to the rest of the world.

At the Masters, that world can wait. For a day or most of a week we can hang up and lose ourselves amid the stunning shots and the stunning landscape.

The Masters is one of the great sporting events most of us will ever attend. If we need a cell phone to enjoy it, we probably ought to stay home.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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