As someone who has been to countless sporting events of all types, including major college football and professional baseball, I’ve heard my share of rude fans.
Heckling the officials and certainly the athletes is commonplace in almost every sporting venue. Not at Augusta National.
Thursday marked the first time I got a chance to attend a competitive round at the Masters, and I had no expectations for the crowd. Given past experience, though, I wouldn’t have been shocked to hear at least a little negative banter, even if just good-natured ribbing after a favorite hits a bad shot.
There was none of that. Instead, the patrons almost came together to act as a collective golfer’s brain, and only in the most positive sense. When any golfer’s putt got near the hole, fans murmered, “Go in.” It didn’t matter whether the golfer was a legend like Tom Watson or a regular pro like Scott Piercy; the patrons came together to wish well of every shot.
I especially saw it on the par 5 second hole. Belgian long hitter Nicolas Colsaerts was among the many golfers I saw come through that hole, and he naturally went for the green in two shots but narrowly missed, his shot bouncing into the right greenside bunker.
That would’ve been a good spot to hear a snide remark. At pretty much any other major event, one would’ve been audible; something along the lines of “Serves you right” or “Got greedy, huh?”
Instead, what I heard was a chorus of “Stay up” when the ball was bouncing along the edge of the bunker next to the green and then groans of genuine disappointment when the ball dropped into the sand.
That struck me because there can’t be that many Colsaerts fans out there. Truthfully, it didn’t matter who came through or what their nationality was: The patrons wanted the best for the golfers.
To add to the goodwill, many patrons attempted to congratulate the golfers in their native tongue. As I followed Chinese 14-year-old Tianlang Guan for the entirety of his round, several fans who knew or had been quickly taught the Chinese words for “Good luck” or “Good shot” did their best to pass those phrases along to Guan.
The general support didn’t escape the teenager’s notice.
“The people are nice and some of the times they are cheering for me, and it feels great,” Guan said.
Sure, a 14-year-old amateur competing against grown professionals is easy to cheer for, but everyone gets the star treatment at Augusta National.
I’m not suggesting that Braves fans start actively cheering for the Nationals and vice versa, but this was a refreshing change, more like Braves fans urging a Tigers pitcher to get out of a jam, just because they like to see success.
I doubt that it will happen, but fans of other sports could learn a thing or two from golf fans. All that positive energy surrounding the course makes the Masters experience that much more special.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.