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History of the Masters

The Masters Golf Green jacket

History of the Masters

In addition to a cash award, the winner of the tournament is presented with a distinctive green jacket, awarded since 1949, and highly coveted among professional golfers. The green coat is actually the official coat worn by members of Augusta National while on the club grounds; each Masters winner becomes an honorary member of the club. Winners keep their jacket for the first year after their first victory, then return it to the club to wear during tournament week each following year. The tradition that began in 1949, when Sam Snead was the winner. The Green Jacket is only allowed to be removed from Augusta National by the reigning champion, after which it must remain at the club. The only exception to this rule is Gary Player, who failed to return his jacket after his 1961 victory, despite the club’s insistence that he do so.

History at a Glance

Looking to provide a service to golf by hosting a tournament, Bob Jones and Clifford Roberts decided to hold an annual event beginning in 1934. The final decision was made at a meeting in New York at the office of member W. Alton Jones. Roberts proposed the event be called the Masters Tournament, but Bob Jones objected thinking it too presumptuous. The name Augusta National Invitation Tournament was adopted and the title was used for five years until 1939 when Jones relented and the name was officially changed. An early decision was whether Jones would play or serve as an official. Jones preferred not to compete but was persuaded by the Club’s members to join the field. In the nine pre-war Tournaments when Jones played, 12 overall, his best finish was 13th in 1934.

Many decisions made in the early days of the Tournament remain today. Among these are the four-day stroke playing of 18 holes each day instead of the then customary 36 holes on the third day, eliminating qualifying rounds, and denying permission for anyone except the player and caddie to be in the playing area. A complimentary pairing sheet and a spectator booklet were provided, and commercialization in any form of the Tournament was limited.

The first Tournament was held March 22, 1934, and beginning in 1940, the Masters was scheduled each year during the first full week in April. That first Tournament was won by Horton Smith, and in the Fall of 1934 the nines were reversed. In 1935 Gene Sarazen hit “the shot heard ’round the world” scoring a double eagle on the par 5 15th hole, tying Craig Wood and forcing a playoff. Sarazen won the 36-hole playoff the following day by five strokes. In 1942 Byron Nelson defeated Ben Hogan 69-70 in an 18-hole playoff and the Tournament was not played the following three years, 1943, 1944 and 1945, during the war. To assist the war effort, cattle and turkeys were raised on the Augusta National grounds.

The 1950’s included two victories by Ben Hogan, and the first of four for Arnold Palmer. Palmer’s 1958 win began the tradition of Amen Corner. In 1960 the Par 3 Contest was begun, and in 1965-1966 Jack Nicklaus became the first Masters champion to defend his title successfully. During the decade of the 1970’s the two founders of the Masters Tournament passed away. Both Jones and Roberts left indelible impressions on the Masters and on the world of golf. The following decade Spaniard Seve Ballesteros won twice and Tom Watson captured his second title. In 1986 at age 46, Nicklaus donned his sixth Green Jacket. And in 1997, Tiger Woods broke the Tournament four-day scoring record that had stood for 32 years. At the 2001 Masters, Woods won his fourth consecutive professional major, and in 2002 became only the third player to win consecutive Masters titles.

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