Southern Discomfort

October 11, 1998

Take an e-mail, Poindexter. Address it to
billgates@richerthangod.networth.

Dear Bill,

So you can't get into Augusta National Golf Club. You've been
hanging around the place, playing golf with fellow billionaire
Warren Buffett, bunking at the cabins. You've let on that you'd
love to be a member. You've even given a new building at your
company headquarters the code name Augusta.

Yet you've gone and double-bogeyed this thing. The notification
letters will be going out to new members in a few weeks, but
you're not gonna get one. Crazy world, ain't it? The initiation
fee is only about $40,000. Hell, you've got that in your couch
cushions. Yet you're still waiting down at the Magnolia Lane
guard shack. You're worth $58 billion. You could buy the club.
You could buy Georgia. Yet you can't buy a membership. Even you
gotta admit it, Bill, this is rich.

Problem is, you don't understand the place.

First off, your name. It's gotta go. This is Augusta, son. The
chairman of the club is named Hootie. Everybody else is either
Cletis or Stump. They're all worth half of downtown Etlanna, but
it don't make no never mind. You need to tack on something
friendly, something homespun. How 'bout Gitalong? Gitalong
Gates. Smile a lot, and we'll call you Pearly. Hell, at least
give 'em Billy Jim.

Come to think of it, maybe you oughtta do something about the
name of your company, too. This is an all-male club. Most of the
members voted against Lincoln. In the locker room they dispense
Viagra right next to the witch hazel. They're not gonna be real
excited about hearing the words micro and soft over and over.

Now, for that mug. You look like the equipment manager for the
junior high chess team. You're 42 years old trying to get into a
club where the average age is coma. Add 30 pounds. Lose some
hair. Grow some dandruff. Put your glasses on a chain around
your neck and then constantly search the top of your head for
them. Stick one of those little suction cups on the end of your
putter so you don't have to bend over to get the ball out of the
hole.

Another thing. Don't go down there ordering lobster and arugula.
Think blue plate, not silver. Fried chicken, macaroni and
cheese, collard greens. Everything's Chez Aunt Bee. Learn to
stick a supper of bobbycue, fried oakree and a mess of cobbler
down your neck, shove back from the table and say, "Well,
that'll push a turd."

That's the other thing. You gotta speak fluent Augusta. It's
goff, not golf, and guff, not gulf, as in the sentence, Ahm
fixin' on playin' me some goff with that ol' boy from Guff Earl.
When thirsty at the turn, say, Lordy, ah show could use a
Sebmup. And if you play awful, say, Ah hit it everwhichaways,
and then add humbly, Ah prolly orta quit ratcheer.

Now, about your game. You've only played about five years. Your
handicap is 26. Get yourself some lessons. Join Pine Valley and
Cypress Point and the R&A. Drop sentences like, "Sandy and I had
a helluva good match at Machrihanish." Develop a reverence for
the loose-impediment rule and make sure a ratty copy of Down the
Fairway falls out of your ball pocket in front of the members.

The most important thing is, you gotta want it less. Remember
going on dates in high school? O.K., not a good question for
you, but for a lot of us, the more anxious you seemed in high
school, the less chance you had. Same deal at Augusta. Some of
the members didn't like the way your candidacy became so public.
You're not even supposed to know you're up for membership. They
all think of it as the world's plushest tree house. They like to
put an arm on you, drag you up and rub bloody thumbs together.
Act surprised.

You do have a few things going for you. You're in a nasty rassle
with the U.S. gubmint. The boys'll like that. You play fast.
Bad, but fast. That's good, too. I figure you'll be in by the
time you're 50. They encourage all members to help out with the
Masters. So first thing you do is sign up for the concessions
committee. No reason in particular, except I just love the idea
of you sticking little $1 price tags on pimento cheese sandwiches.

All I ask is that, when you do get in, have me down. After this
column, you're my only shot.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA [Rick Reilly]

You gotta speak fluent Augusta. When thirsty at the turn, say,
"Lordy, ah show could use a Sebmup."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)