Originally Published: March 29, 2018 6:03 a.m.
As we look forward to the upcoming Masters Invitational next week at Augusta National Golf Club with great excitement and anticipation, I want to share with you some history and interesting tidbits regarding the first golf major of the year.
Bobby Jones, after completing his legendary Grand Slam of 1930, shocked the golfing world by announcing his retirement from competitive golf. While visiting the small town of Augusta, Georgia in late 1930, Jones met with a New York banker, Clifford Roberts, who vacationed there often. Jones confided in Roberts his desire to build the perfect golf course.
Together they found a 365-acre site that was originally an indigo plantation that was turned into a nursery in 1857. The owner planted magnolia seeds along the drive to the mansion and introduced a garden wonderland of camellia, azalea and dogwood. With the property prices hit hard by the Depression, they bought the land at a bargain price. Today, each hole is named after a plant or scrub.
Canvassing affluent friends, Roberts and Jones set up plans for a private club. Membership was by invitation only, with a maximum of 30 coming from Augusta. The initiation fee was $350 with annual dues of $60.
A highly respected Scottish architect, Alister MacKenzie, joined Bobby Jones in designing the course. Jones disliked long par-5 holes and placed emphasis on accuracy rather than length, especially around the greens. Augusta National opened in 1932 and its intentions were to be a private club surrounded by nature’s beauty.
One member, Fielding Wallace, who later served as president of the USGA, proposed that a US Open be held at Augusta National. It was rejected unanimously but in 1934 the members decided to host their own invitational of the top players in the world, hence Augusta National Invitational (in 1939 its name was changed to the Masters Invitational). It is still an invitational, hosted and run by its members. It is not a PGA Tour event and is the only major to be played at the same course every year.
During World War II, the Masters Invitational was not held. And to help with the war effort, turkeys and cattle were raised on the grounds. After the war, German POW’s were used to restore the course to its pristine condition.
Augusta National members wore green jackets so that the patrons (not called spectators) could easily identify them to assist with information. It wasn’t until 1949 when Sam Snead was the first winner to be presented with the famous traditional Masters green jacket.
Today, the Masters is the most sought-after and very limited golf event to attend. You will not find poor sportsmanship from the patrons and if anyone does show disrespect for the players or the event, they are escorted out – with a lifetime ban.
Enjoy this one-of-a-kind major golf event and remember some quotes from one of the founders, Bobby Jones: “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies.” And “I never learned anything from a match that I won.”
John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.