Sooner or later, it was going to happen. Some black golfer would take a long, hard look at the Masters golf tournament and say exactly what thousands of blacks had been thinking for years.
That its antebellum setting, the lack of black members at the Augusta National Golf Club, the scarcity of black fans on the course and the number of black people in service jobs don't quite bring to mind the glory years of black history.
And that grates.
Calvin Peete, a black golfer who was fourth on the PGA money-winning list last year, told reporters before last month's Masters that this historic sports event was "just another tournament."
Peete knows that's not true. No more than Wimbledon is just another tennis tournament. But I know exactly what Peete was thinking, for throughout a great part of my tennis career, I played at numerous clubs I could not have joined, regardless of my bank account. The reason: I'm black.
My first experience at the conservative West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills, N.Y., was as a 15-year-old. Peete is a grown man. He has had plenty of time to reflect on a prospective Masters invitation (the Masters is an invitation-only event).
I vividly remember walking through the Burns Street entrance to the West Side Tennis Club as a teen-ager. Even though I was with my coach, the late Dr. R.W. Johnson, that old Tudor clubhouse instilled apprehension and excitement in me. I was apprehensive because I had been conditioned to believe that I didn't belong in such places. But I was excited because Forest Hills was a magical name to any young player.
I'm sure Calvin Peete, professional golfer, wanted very much to win the Masters and wear the Green Coat.
I'm also convinced Calvin Peete, black American, felt resentment and anger and it surfaced when he said, "It's just another tournament."
Those black waiters, locker room attendants and caddies were thrilled to see Peete, a four-time winner on the 1982 PGA Tour. He would, like the black golfer Lee Elder before him, acknowledge these normally faceless fixtures. For it is an unwritten rule among black Americans that we say hello to one another, no matter the setting.
Peete finished dead last in this 72-hole event, won by Seve Ballesteros. His last two rounds of 87 and 80 were the worst of his pro career. I wasn't surprised.
But Augusta's traditions are no more or less revered than are the traditions at, say, Cypress Point or Baltusrol. So why, in Pete's mind, is Augusta different?
"These traditions were made by newspapermen," said Peete. "Till Lee Elder came, the only blacks here were caddies and waiters. To ask a black man how he feels about the traditions of the Masters is like asking him how he feels about his forefathers, who were slaves."
Until Augusta National admits blacks as members (as the West Side Tennis Club has done), there will always be this bitterness and confusion in the minds of black golfers who are invited to play the Masters.
In the mid '60s, I was constantly asked how I could play tennis at a club that wouldn't have me as a member. My answer was simple: "I either play there or I don't play at all."
Peete could have declined the invitation. Instead, he tried to play his best. But if asked how he felt about it all, he was going to tell the truth.
By comparison with other sports, the PGA Tour has been relatively free of racial incidents. Black golfers Charlie Sifford and Pete Brown occasionally encountered racial epithets 20 years ago. And the white South African, Gary Player, has been heckled because of his country's racial policy of apartheid.
But Calvin Peete's initiation to the Masters serves as a reminder there is more to Augusta than magnolias, dogwoods and green jackets.