The "Historic" Butler Cabin
One thing I miss now that Hootie Johnson is no longer Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is his welcome to “the historic Butler Cabin” at the start of that very odd ceremony of presenting the green jacket to the winner of the Master’s golf tournament.
Leaving aside the reason why this ceremony takes place in a room in a cabin in front of an open fireplace, with nobody to witness it apart from TV viewers across the world, it’s that word “historic” that always struck me as being interesting. Agreed, Billy Payne, who has conducted the ceremony since Hootie retired in 2006, describes the cabin as being “famous”, but Hootie always stuck to “historic”.
So that must mean, presumably, that the cabin is of considerable age, or that some great event took place here. Given that Augusta is in Georgia, perhaps this was the scene of some Civil War battle or siege? Did the heroic Butler family, armed with only pitchforks and a blunderbuss, hold off an army of Northerners until they were starved into submission? Or perhaps Butler was a Confederate general who, with his trusty companions, planned their tactics around the table, in front of this very fireplace, where now last year’s winner turns into a butler for the day as he helps his successor into a jacket that is two sizes too big or too small?
OK, this is golf we are talking about here, so maybe we should limit the history to that of golf. The Masters was first held in 1934, so presumably the Butler Cabin was the original clubhouse, and this was where Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts drew up the rules? Or was it from here that the first players set off for the first tee?
We Brits appreciate that, to an American, history describes anything that happened the day before yesterday, so a building that dates from the mid 1930s could conceivably be “historic”, especially if it witnessed events of great importance to the story of the sport for which it is renowned, but it turns out that the truth is somewhat different.
Indeed, the “historic” Butler Cabin has seen far less history than the course on which it sits, having been built as recently as 1964! The first green jacket ceremony only took place there in 1965, so this year’s ceremony was the 45th. So when exactly did this ceremony, and its location, become “historic”?
Even allowing for America’s foreshortened view of what constitutes history, there are other features of Augusta National that have a much better claim to the epithet. How about the Eisenhower Cabin, for example, that was built in 1953 for the use of the President, who had been an Augusta member since 1948? At least everyone knows who Eisenhower was!
I am sorry that Hootie and “historic” have given way to Billy and “famous”, simply because it was something to look forward to each year! Fame is more easily acquired than history, and I am quite prepared to associate the Butler Cabin with the former.
I apologise for not offering you a photo of the said Cabin, but finding a non-copyright image proved impossible, and Augusta National have far longer pockets than I have when it comes to lawsuits! However, the photo is of another southern golf course, and those red things might just about be azaleas!