Out of Bounds: Augusta is more than just golf

From James Brown to the Confederate Monument, there’s more than just golf here

In all the years I've been coming to the Masters, the regular early-morning journey has involved driving from a rented house on the banks of the Savannah River through what is known as "Olde Town" and along Broad Street before hitting the link that morphs into Washington Road and brings you to the trademark white water-tower that indicates the final destination, Augusta National Golf Club.

For anyone coming here in the first week of April, the Masters tournament is what it is all about. The place lives, breathes and exists on the sport. Inside, those grounds, it’s a paradise with no ills.

But Augusta is more than just golf.

There was life in Augusta long before the tournament and, although the Masters serves as a modern-day commercial lifeblood for the area, there is a reminder on that car journey of others who left an indelible legacy (of a non-sporting contribution) to this community.

Broad Street itself tells a story.

The largest monument is one known as the Augusta Confederate Monument, a mix of granite and marble which was dedicated in 1878 and which remembers those who died. Atop the monument is a statue of a solider of the Civil War, a man called Barry Benson. At its base are life-size statues of Generals Robert E Lee, Thomas R Cobb, William Walker and Stonewall Jackson.

The words, “No nation rose so white and fair, None fell so pure of crime. Our Confederate Dead,” completes the inscription.

Further up the road, there is a memorial of a different kind. Smaller, and not anywhere so fanciful. But it is a memorial of its own to a man who effected a global reach with his music.

Halfway up Broad Street, there is a set of traffic lights over which a street name hangs. On Monday evening, shortly after a storm had worked its way over the area, leaving uprooted trees in its wake, the sign - “James Brown Boulevard” - swung above the roadway just a short distance from that smaller statue, not life-size but close enough, of the legendary singer, one given the moniker “The Godfather of Soul.”

Brown wasn't born in Augusta, but he is of the city. He moved to Augusta when was only four or five, and it was here the self-taught musician evolved into a legendary performer who joined Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry as the first three inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As it happens, the nearby Augusta Museum of History has a special exhibition to venerate the life and times of James Brown, their favourite son.

And, as it happens, it is here too that Brown’s celebrated life merges with the influence and acclaim that The Masters tournament has brought to his home city.

For, in the museum, there is another permanent exhibition to celebrate the sport that has made Augusta a famed place on the sporting globe. Among those showcased in the exhibition to golf are Bobby Jones, Patty Berg, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. a journey of its own, if the truth be told.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times

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