CHARLOTTE, NC. Baseball welcomes the spring with Spring Training and basketball ends its NCAA season with March Madness. But there remains yet a third annual Rite of Spring in the wonderful world of sports. To avid aficionados of golf, it’s known as The Masters Tournament.
A Peach of a tournament, The Masters happens in Augusta
Dating from the 1930s, Georgia’s Augusta National golf course has served as the official home of The Masters, one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments. When the azaleas bloom in Georgia, everyone knows it’s time to tee it up for 72 holes featuring some the most celebrated golf challenges of the year.
Those legendary Augusta greens are thick with devilish, hidden undulations that can lead even the greatest golfers of all time badly astray. But even more menacing is the lightning quickness of this course. That’s what can make competitors feel as though they are putting not on grass but on a table top. It all serves to keep things exciting, and even at times unnervingly unpredictable.
So now, on the eve of this Very Big Weekend of golf, it only seems proper for Myth Trivia to explore a few of the lesser known bits of golf history. We’ll call it CDN’s official pre-game Trivial Introduction to 2019’s incoming edition of The Masters Tournament.
The origin of Augusta National and The Masters Tournament
Let’s start our trivial cavalcade by ticking off some of the more traditional Masters firsts. Then, we’ll delve into some lesser known but perhaps more interesting, trivia facts and factoids.
After completing a pre-Masters grand slam in 1930, amateur golfer Bobby Jones acquired a former plant nursery in Augusta, Georgia. He then proceeded to transform and redesign the property into what we know today as Augusta National, along with golf architect Alister MacKenzie.
Jones and investment banker Clifford Roberts then teamed up to create the annual tournament we know today as The Masters. It’s been held at the Augusta National ever since.
The initial event was held in 1934. For its first five years, until 1938, it was known as the “Augusta National Invitational.” Horton Smith won that first tournament in 1934, taking home a winner’s check for $1,500. Today, the winner’s share is well over a million dollars.
The Golden Bear, the Tiger and Slammin’ Sammy
Since that time, Jack Nicklaus has won the most Masters tourneys with a total of six in all. Not content with that record, the Golden Bear also holds the record of being the oldest golfer to win the Masters’ “Green Jacket.” He won it at the age of 46 in 1986.
Eleven years later, Tiger Woods became the youngest player to win the tournament. That happened in 1997 when he was only 21.
Speaking of the Wearing of the Green, the tradition of awarding a Green Jacket to the winner began in 1949. That was the year when Slammin’ Sam Snead took home the Masters trophy. In the early days of the tournament, members would wear green jackets so patrons would recognize them and be able to get accurate information about the club and the tournament.
Now for the good stuff
Since 1940, the dates for The Masters tournament are traditionally scheduled for the first full week of April (Sunday to Sunday) each year.
With so much history and tradition, Augusta National has numerous natural features whose names may be familiar while their background remains unknown. For example, the course boasts 61 huge magnolia trees lining the entrance gate to the clubhouse. The 330-yard Magnolia Lane dates back to the late 1850s. That makes this grove considerably older than the course itself.
Planted in the 1850s, another Augusta National landmark is known as “the big oak tree.” About 145 to 150 years old, it stands on the golf course side of the clubhouse.
Given that Augusta National was once a nursery, each hole is named after a plant or shrub. For example, No. 3 is called “Flowering Crab Apple.”
The Amen Corner, Rae’s Creek and three dedicated bridges
The so-called “Amen Corner” of Augusta National was more or less named in 1958. That’s when Sports Illustrated writer Herbert Warren Wind described the second half of hole No. 11, hole No. 12 and the first half of hole No. 13 as the “Amen Corner.” He borrowed the name from an early jazz recording, Shouting at Amen Corner, and appropriated the expression to define the place where the real tournament begins during the fourth round of the competition.
Another familiar course place name is Rae’s Creek. This actual creek was named after John Rae whose house was used to provide safe haven from Indian attacks back when much of Georgia was still part of the early American frontier. The house was the furthest fortress up the Savannah River from Fort Augusta.
Today, Rae’s Creek meanders in front of No. 12 green with a tributary flowing near No. 13 tee. The creek also passes to the back of No. 11 green.
And now for those three dedicated bridges noted under this headline, each appropriately named after a legendary Masters Tournament golfer. The first of the three at No. 12 green pays tribute to Ben Hogan for his then record score of 274 in 1953. The next one, at No. 13 tee, offers a hat tip to Byron Nelson. It commemorates the time when Nelson “mastered” Amen Corner to win the 1937 tournament. The final bridge stands at No. 16. It honors Gene Sarazen for his double eagle in 1936.
Jack and Arnie
Elsewhere on the course, a plaque honoring six-time champion Jack Nicklaus graces the drinking fountain between holes 16 and 17. Yet another plaque at the fountain behind No. 16 tee pays tribute to Arnold Palmer for his contributions to the great game of golf.
By the way, Nicklaus, Palmer and Senior PGA tour player John Harris are the only pro golfers who are actually members of Augusta National. The only U.S. president to have been a member was Dwight David Eisenhower.
About those cabins
Most people recognize the “Eisenhower Cabin” as the site where the media conducts most interviews during the national telecasts of the tournament. A total of 10 cabins actually stand on the grounds to provide lodging for members and their guests.
In time of war… and peace
Other than the period between 1943 and 1945, when The Masters was not played during World War II, the tournament has been an annual event. During those war years, in an effort aid the war effort, turkey and cattle were raised on the Augusta National grounds.
Today, perhaps no other sport exudes its traditions and its history like golf. And that’s what makes The Masters “Royal and Ancient Game’s” perfect tribute to spring.
— Headline image: Jack Nicklaus walks up to his ball on the 9th hole of the par-3 course at Augusta National Golf Club during the 2006 par-3 contest. Nicklaus was playing along with Andy North and Tom Watson as a non-competitor in the contest. (Image via Wikimedia, CC 2.0 license)
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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