Halloween at Augusta National

Former Secretary of State George Schultz explaining golf to the mayor of San Francisco in 2005. (Photo by Luke Thomas.)

Condoleezza Rice isn’t the only former U.S. Secretary of State who belongs to Augusta National Golf Club: George Schultz, who ran Ronald Reagan’s State Department, is a member as well. In 1983, Schultz brought his boss and Donald Regan, the White House chief of staff, to the club as guests, and in addition to playing golf they discussed the U.S. invasion of Grenada, which began three days later, on October 25.

During that visit, a forty-five-year-old Augusta resident named Charles R. Harris rammed his pickup truck through a locked gate, took hostages at gunpoint in the golf shop, and demanded an audience with Reagan, who was playing the sixteenth hole. Secret Service agents surrounded the shop, and sharpshooters set up on the putting green. (One of them told a club member that the scope on his rifle was so precise that he would be able to hit a half-dollar coin on the first green, more than four hundred and fifty yards away.)

Harris eventually released all his hostages except David Spencer, the co-professional. Harris kept a pistol to Spencer’s head, and he threatened to shoot off Spencer’s fingers one at a time if Reagan wasn’t brought to see him. To prove that he was serious, he fired a bullet through a window in the front of the shop. (Today, a piece of the window frame with a bullet hole in it hangs on Spencer’s living-room wall.) Spencer was held at gunpoint for two tense hours (not twenty-one, as some Web accounts say). He managed to escape during a moment of confusion when food was sent in for Harris.

“Dave ran out the door and saw Mr. Johnson, the club’s barber, and myself standing there,” Dr. Stephen W. Brown, a member, told me in 1996, “and he more or less collapsed in our arms. I took Dave up to the clubhouse and sat with him awhile, and I told him that his wife knew he was out and all right. He said he wanted to cry. I said, ‘Well, go ahead. Nobody’s here but the two of us.’ He quickly wiped his eyes and turned to me and said, ‘Dr. Brown, I was just as nervous as if I was standing over a three-foot putt and Mr. Roberts told me I had to make it.” That’s Clifford Roberts, of course—the club’s legendary co-founder and longtime chairman.

One October evening fifteen years later—after Schultz had played a round with Nicholas Brady, who served as Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan and the first George Bush and is also a member—Schultz gave  everyone in the dining room a handmade Halloween favor: a small orange-and-black gift bag containing an orange golf ball on which he had used a black marker to draw a smiling jack-o’-lantern face. I got one because I was there working on my book The Making of the Masters. (See photo below.)

Orange and black, not coincidentally, are the colors of Schultz’s alma mater, Princeton University—which he also honored by having a tiger tattooed on his rear end.

Top-Flite jack-o’-lantern, hand-painted by my close personal friend George Schultz. (Collection of the author.)

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