A journalistic colleague from the UK had spent the night in jail in Augusta, Georgia, after failing a breathalyser test. He was feeling the worse for wear on two counts – the first because he was hung over and the second because of the shame attached to his arrest.
“If it makes you feel any better,” I said, “I too have been in the Augusta jail.”
He looked at me incredulously. “What did you do?”
I offered him a few guesses and, in the knowledge that I was not a drinker, he went for some rather more sinister options.
Each of his guesses got a negative response. No, I had not tried to force my way into the clubhouse carpark without a sticker. No, I had not been creating merry hell in some Augusta nightspot. And, no, I had not been stealing teaspoons from the Augusta National dining room.
Rather was my trip to jail all in the course of my work for The Daily Telegraph. You need to have the odd whacky idea when you are writing a daily diary, and this one had come when I noticed an item in The Augusta Chronicle saying there was not a bed to be had in town.
“If it makes you feel any better. I too have been in the Augusta jail.”
I rang the prison, which turned out to have an empty room and, thanks to a thoroughly obliging prison governor, I was invited to come and see it.
On the day it struck me that an American jail was a lot easier to access than some of our all-male clubhouses back home. (Years ago, when I had to write an article on Muirfield’s newly revetted bunkers, I was invited to wait on an outside bench cushioned with a layer of snow.)
The steel surface of the prison bed may not have been as soft as snow but it was scrupulously clean and shiny. Not exactly invitingly so but, had it been my lot, I could have made do. At least it was all there in front of you; you could see what you were getting.
Thus I managed to conjure up a diary item on a day when the prison governor’s help had provided one more instance of how everyone in Augusta goes out of his/her way to oblige the annual influx of Masters visitors.
This may or may not have been a first from someone who had ended up in one of the governor's cells, but I sent him a thank-you note for making me so welcome.