by Pete Willett
No amount of innovation will ever match the Masters when it comes to making a youngster want to pick up a club.
As golf continues to innovate in order to grow the game, it is in the lauded traditions of its greatest tournament that we witness just how much the game can grow.
Muirfield’s long overdue, reactive response to their ban on female members was vital; new tournament formats like GolfSixes are helpful, the night golf-playing, pop music-blaring, firework-blasting injection of modernity into the sport refreshing to see. Without this progress, without this innovation, golf is a corpse.
But the Masters, with TV viewing figures almost triple that of the other majors, is proof that time-honoured tradition can make the typically uninterested interested. The strength is in the familiar. Without traditions, golf is a sheep without a shepherd.
They are all simple ideas, repeated and celebrated, until they have become folklore. Just by watching from the comfort of your own home, you can sense the majesty of it all. It is the tournament everyone wants to attend.
The ball-skipping on 16, the boiler suits, the par 3 tournament, family members as caddies, the cheese sandwiches, the drive down Magnolia Lane, and the Champions Dinner, and, of course, the handover of the green jacket from the previous champion to his successor.
I will be taking a keen interest in those last couple of Masters traditions in particular. I don’t want the current champion to hand over his jacket on Sunday, and his Champions Dinner seems like a great opportunity to aid that.
During this exclusive meal, attended only by previous winners, Danny is responsible for feeding six other players currently in the world’s top 50, two of them in the top 10, just a couple of days before they first tee off.
My brother is a renowned host, who relishes the responsibility of entertaining. Often starting with a beer pong warm-up, it is never long until he is filling your glass with something expensive, as the ambience of Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits prepare you for the heavy evening ahead. But for this meal, rather than just relying on getting everyone hammered whilst listening to power ballads, there is an expectation to adhere to a theme.
Previous winners frequently reference their heritage when compiling their menu, whether it’s Jordan Spieth’s Texan BBQ, Adam Scott’s Australian wagyu steak, or Charl Schwartzel’s South African braai. And Danny’s Twitter feed has already hinted at the inclusion of Henderson’s Relish – a real Sheffield staple, it’s all reyt tha knows – in his Champions Dinner
But, by utilising a hint of ruthless intelligence, he could give a nostalgic nod towards his upbringing, whilst simultaneously poisoning a number of his direct competitors. Danny, through years of misfortune, has built up a staunch resistance to what could be his secret weapon – our Swedish mother’s cooking.
For starters, a delight from her homeland: hard boiled eggs smothered in a pungent fish roe. This delectable canapé is served by mum at Christmas. Imagine the claggy, cold, mushy bounce when biting into an overdone ovum and combine it with the musky, saltiness of something squeezed out of the end of a fish. This dish is likely to cause illness in at least a third of the attendees.
For main, I would stick with the Scandinavian approach, but combine it with another haunting echo from our childhood.
Take sliced bread, and lay it out the length of a table, then fill it with multiple layers of congealed horror. Not satisfied with the quadruple-decker monstrosity packed with all manner of pickled vegetables, flaked fish and sweaty cheese, you then lather it with a thick, sweet cream – to quote Ross from Friends: “It tastes like feet.”
The Swedish name for this dish is Smörgåstårta, which roughly translates as “Mother, why do you hate us?” Now, to really elevate this dish above the level of simply vomit-inducing, add a side of liver, Momma Willett style.
Growing up in a flat in Sheffield, she had to frequently invent ways of making cheap cuts of meat seem appealing. Grinding bloody offal into a floppy paste, slapping dollops of it into a greased pan and frying until gravelly was one of her specialities. Serve that with the hellish Swedish sandwich trifle. Those that weren’t made ill by the starter are certain to begin retching into their main.
Dessert is difficult. Swedish puddings are nice. I would cheat slightly here and go for a Scandinavian pick ’n’ mix. The deception would be delightful. I would provide wondrous morsels of confectionery heaven. The satisfying chew of Bilar (imagine Jelly Babies, but nicer), and the wafery moreishness of Kex (think KitKat, but better), but then, lurking innocently at the bottom of the bag would be something called Salta Sillar Lakrits. Black in colour, shaped like little fish, and squidgy to touch, they will be mistaken for a type of wine gum. But wait until those who have not yet been defeated by the rancid servings of the first two courses succumb to the evil that is Salta Sillar Lakrits.
Imagine liquorice and salt. So much salt that the hot spit flooding into your tingling mouth becomes the sea itself. Just a single bite and your lips will pucker like Poseidon’s briny sphincter. And this is before you have swallowed. And you must swallow – you are at the Champions’ table. Spitting is out of the question. When just a nibble of these sodium devils drops into the pit of your gurgling gut, it will hastily make its way back up from whence it came. The table will be awash with the puke of legends.
Thus ends the Masters Champions Dinner, and with it the hopes of many potential contenders for this year’s jacket, crippled by days of nausea only my mother is capable of delivering.
There has already been speculation aplenty about Danny’s menu. I doubt, despite my advice, he will assume the role of saboteur. I expect his offering to be of a Yorkshire persuasion – flat cap, miserable expression, munching on Parkin. Bubba Watson recently gave an amusing response to the prospect of being served Toad in the Hole, and he didn’t seem enthralled by a dish that sounds like a frog enema.
The Champions Dinner marks the beginning of the four greatest days in the golf calendar. Whatever ends up being served, here’s hoping my brother doesn’t end the week handing over sport’s most famous piece of clothing.
Even though green makes him look fat.