The Masters Tournament: Truly Second-To-None
By Mike May
The great thing about The Masters golf tournament is that you really don’t have to like golf or even understand golf in order to really enjoy The Masters. Whether you are watching a broadcast or you are walking along the grounds of this historic piece of eastern Georgia real estate, there’s an element of class and prestige that emanates through your television, laptop, tablet or your smart phone about the atmosphere at the Augusta National Golf Club.
There are a number of aspects of The Masters, many of which are unknown to some of the tournament’s most loyal patrons. This confirms that The Masters tournament is ‘a cut above the rest’ and ‘a tradition unlike any other.’ And, it’s a position which Augusta National’s membership relishes and cherishes.
Listed below are a number of facts about The Masters, 13 in all, which help make this event stand out from other events, not just in golf, but in the sports world, as a whole:
- Dinner Reservations. Winners of The Masters each year don’t have to worry about dinner that night because they are invited to join the members of the Augusta National Golf Club for dinner in the Trophy Room inside the clubhouse. The meal starts soon after the awarding of the Green Jacket inside Butler Cabin and on the 18th green, upon the conclusion of the tournament.
- Sleepover Special. While it’s well known that amateurs who play in The Masters each year are invited to stay in the Crow’s Nest, which sits at the tip-top of the Augusta National clubhouse, many people would be surprised that it sleeps five and is 1,200 square feet of living space.
- Trophy Time. The permanent Masters trophy weighs 100 pounds and it features the name of the annual winner of the tournament and the name(s) of the runner-up. The winner of The Masters receives a replica of the real trophy and a gold medal, both of which he is allowed to take home. The replica weighs only 20 pounds. The permanent Masters Trophy was built in England and features 900 separate pieces of silver.
- The Clubhouse. The Augusta National clubhouse predates the building of the golf course as it was originally a private home built in 1854.
- Keeping Up with the Jones’. In the first edition of The Masters (in 1934), then known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, Bobby Jones competed in the event, where he finished in a 13th place tie with Denny Shute and Walter Hagen. Jones’ 72-hole score was +6, which was ten shots behind the winner Horton Smith.
- Naming Rights. The credit for the naming of each hole at the Augusta National Golf Club is given to Louis Alphonse Berckman, Bobby Jones, and Clifford Roberts, who adorned each hole with a plant for which it is named. The course starts with Tea Olive (the first hole), though it was originally called Cherokee Rose, and concludes with Holly (the 18th hole).
- Arnie’s Plaque. On April 4, 1995, a bronze plaque, in honor of Arnold Palmer’s play and contributions as the first four-time winner of The Masters, was unveiled. The plaque is affixed to the water fountain which sits behind the 16th tee.
- Jack’s Plaque. On April 7, 1998, a plaque, in honor of Jack Nicklaus’ play and contributions as the only six-time Masters champion, was unveiled. The plaque is affixed to a drinking fountain that sits between the 16th and 17th holes.
- By Invitation Only. There are 19 different criteria which The Masters Committee uses to draft the list of players who are invited to play in The Masters each April. The Masters Committee, at its discretion, also invites international players not otherwise qualified. Previous winners of The Masters are automatically invited to return and compete every year.
- Who Is Rae? Rae’s Creek, which has a presence on the 11th, 12th, and 13th holes at Augusta National, is named after John Rae, who died in 1780. Rae’s house was the farthest fortress up the Savannah River from Fort Augusta. His house kept residents safe during Indian attacks when Fort Augusta was out of reach.
- The Green Jacket. The tradition of awarding The Green Jacket to the winner of The Masters started in 1949, when Sam Snead won. The tradition of the members wearing a green coat started in 1937. The jackets were purchased from the Brooks Uniform Company in New York City. Each Green Jacket is adorned with brass buttons. On each button, there appears the logo of the Augusta National Golf Club.
- Par 3 Tournament. The Par 3 Contest at The Masters was first held in 1960. The first event was won by Sam Snead. To date, no player has ever won both the Par 3 Contest and The Masters in the same year. The course record is held by Jimmy Walker who recorded an eight-under-par round of 19 in 2016.
- Winner Buys -- Next Year. On the Tuesday night of Masters week, all previous champions of The Masters gather for the Champions Dinner, which is held in the main clubhouse. The defending champion of The Masters selects the menu and hosts the dinner. The only non-winner to attend the dinner is the current chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club. This tradition started in 1952 with Ben Hogan. The meals have ranged from cheeseburgers, fries and a milkshake by Tiger Woods in 1998 to elk and wild boar by Mike Weir in 2004 to chicken panang curry by Vijah Singh in 2001 to Spanish seafood paella by Phil Mickelson in 2011. “You’re in a room amongst great players,” said Gary Player. “The ambiance of the whole place is remarkable. And, you hear so many stories. It’s something special.”
As an aside, 17 players have won The Masters at least twice, five of whom (Player, Ballesteros, Langer, Faldo, and Olazabal) are non-Americans.
This story would be remiss if didn’t embellish a little on Augusta National’s three named bridges – the Hogan, Nelson, and Sarazen bridges. The Hogan bridge crosses over Rae’s Creek, allowing players to reach the 12th green. It was dedicated to two-time Masters champion Ben Hogan. The Nelson bridge crosses over Rae’s Creek, allowing players to reach the 13th green from the 13th fairway. It was dedicated to two-time Masters champion Byron Nelson. Both the Hogan and Nelson bridges were dedicated on the same day -- April 2, 1958. The Sarazen bridge crosses over Rae’s Creek, allowing players to reach the 15th green. It was the first named bridge at the course, dedicated to former Masters champion Gene Sarazen on April 6, 1955, as a way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sarazen’s famous double-eagle at the 15th hole during the 1935 Masters, which he won in a playoff.
While so much attention is given to those who win The Masters, it’s also worth honoring the three players with the most second-place finishes. Hogan, Nicklaus, and Tom Weiskopf share the distinction of being four-time second-place finishers at Augusta.Next time you get together with friends to either watch or attend The Masters, you’ll be able to educate and enlighten your colleagues with some interesting facts about this event which is truly second-to-none, ‘a cut above the rest,’ and ‘a tradition unlike any other.’