The Masters Tournament, commonly known as “The Masters”, is one of the four major championships of professional golf. Scheduled for the first week of April, it is the first of the majors to be played each year. Unlike the other major championships, the Masters is held yearly at the same location, Augusta National Golf Club, a private club in Augusta, Georgia. The tournament was founded in 1934 by a native Georgian, the great Bobby Jones. The tournament is an official money event on the PGA Tour, the PGA European Tour, and the Japan Golf Tour. The field of players is smaller than those of the other major championships because participation is by invitation only by Augusta National Golf Club.
Many decisions made in the early days of the Tournament remain today. Among these are the four-day stroke play of 18 holes daily instead of the then customary 36 holes on the third day, thereby eliminating qualifying rounds. Commercialization of the Tournament in any form remained severely limited.
The Masters immediately grabbed the world’s attention, but when Gene Sarazen fired a 220-yard 4 Wood over the water and into the hole on the 15th for an incredible double-eagle, the tournament had a fascinating history in only its second year. Soon fans from all over the country looked forward to seeing Bobby Jones once again play the game of golf. Cars with license plates from 38 states filled the parking lot, many of them doubling as sleeping accommodations since every hotel room in Augusta was booked. The fascination and audience greatly increased by the advent of television. The annual broadcast is completely controlled by the club to hold down commercial interruptions, and has made the Masters one of the most watched sporting events in the world. The heroic deeds of Palmer and Nicklaus, and the dazzling beauty of the azalea, magnolia and dogwood are scenes held dear by many. Watching it has become a national tradition for all golfers.
The Masters itself has a number of cherished traditions. A green jacket, perhaps the most coveted award in all of golf, is awarded to the winner of each tournament. The champion of the previous year’s tournament presents the green jacket to the new winner. The Champions dinner, inaugurated by Ben Hogan, is held on the Tuesday before each tournament, and is only open to past champions, and board members of the Augusta National Golf Club. Beginning in 1963, legendary golfers, themselves often past champions, have hit an honorary tee shot to begin the first round. Such greats as Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, and Arnold Palmer have fired this coveted opening drive. Since 1960, a semi-social Par 3 Contest has been played on Augusta National’s grounds the day before the inaugural round of each Masters Tournament.
Bobby Jones’ shadow was a constant presence at The Masters up until the last years of his life. When his failing health made visits to the course impossible, he watched the tournament he started on television from his small white cottage beside one of the greens. Long after his death, Jones’ legacy lives on as The Masters continues to be one of the most celebrated and important events in all of sports. The Masters will stand forever as his monument.
Tags: the masters