Masters Memories: The Most Significant Non-Golf Moments in Augusta History
This is part three of a five part series leading up to Masters week. We are now 17 days away from the start of the Masters.
Every April, the best golf players on earth gather in the town of Augusta, GA, for the first major of the year. It is the unofficial start of the golf season and millions of people who weren't lucky enough to be on the list for tickets watch on television.
Golf is center stage on the beautiful course, but there seems to always be something a little extra going on outside the ropes.
To be sure, a great many events that had nothing to do with hitting a golf ball have happened around the Masters. A good example of one that didn't make the cut was Gary McCord being banned from CBS's Masters coverage after making remarks that the club did not like. He said the that 17th green was so fast that it appeared to have been "bikini-waxed," and that "body bags" were located behind that green if a player hit an errant shot back there.
It isn't always a good moment, but one thing is for sure, the moments on this list are very memorable.
Honorable Mention: 2004—Phil Mickelson's Got Mad Hops
Take a good look at that picture. That is the apex of Phil Mickelson's jump after securing his first Master's victory and the first major victory of his career.
Mickelson is beloved in a way golf has not seen since Arnold Palmer was in his prime. He a riverboat gambler in spikes, and he is absolutely adored for his go-for-broke style of play. He doesn't always win, but he always entertains.
The four-time major championship winner has a beautiful wife, gorgeous children and a life most of us can only dream of, playing golf every day and getting paid to do it.
The one thing Phil does not have, however, is a vertical leap.
Work on those leg muscles, Phil.
10. 1980—"Augusta" Is Used for the First Time
It is as familiar to a golf fan as the sound of the ball falling in the cup.
That tinkling piano melody that plays during the Masters is called "Augusta" by Dave Loggins. (He also wrote "Please Come to Boston" and is a cousin to popular recording artist Kenny Loggins)
Since 1980, that song has been synonymous with the Masters. I can say that I get chills every time I hear it because I know I'm about to witness history.
What I did not know is that there are words to that song. In the song, Loggins mentions features of the course like Amen Corner and dogwoods. He talks about all the great players like Nicklaus, Palmer, Sarazen, Hogan and Player. He also pays homage to the men who founded the club and created the tournament we love, Clifford Roberts and the greatest amateur player ever, Bobby Jones.
Click on the video for the full version, with lyrics, of Augusta by Dave Loggins, for your listening pleasure.
9. 1982—Players Can Use Their Own Caddies
From its inception until 1982, when you played in the Masters, you had to use one of Augusta National's club caddies. Tour caddies were not allowed to caddy in the tournament.
Players were assigned a caddy during tournament week.
It wasn't until golf legend Jack Nicklaus requested to be allowed to have his tour caddy alongside him during Masters week that the rule was changed.
While caddying at the Masters, caddies are required to wear the white jumpsuits we are so familiar with. It is not uncommon for a caddy to wear no clothing under the jumpsuit, especially in hot weather. (Yikes.)
The defending champion gets caddy No. 1, while all other caddy numbers are assigned in the order in which the player registers for the tournament.
If you catch a glimpse of a caddy during the tournament, look for his number on the front of his jumpsuit.
8. 2001—The Ticket List Closes Again
Attending a round of the Masters is on every golf player's bucket list. Good luck with that.
While they are not impossible to find, they are an extremely hot commodity and will cost you a lot of money, into the thousands of dollars. Even a practice round ticket will cost you a couple hundred dollars, and that is if you can find someone willing to even part with one of those.
The club opened a waiting list for tickets in 1972, which closed in 1978 due to incredibly high demand. The club then opened a new waiting list in 2000 which was closed a year later.
In short, there is no way to get Masters tickets directly from Augusta National Golf Club.
This speaks volumes to the immense popularity of the tournament. Can you imagine any other sporting event in which the general public cannot purchase a ticket from the event organizer?
7. 1952—The First Champions Dinner
The Masters is nothing if not rich in tradition, and one of the best ones is the dinner held for all the champions the Tuesday before the tournament begins.
The defending champion sets the menu for the dinner, while attendees are welcome to order from the regular menu if they so desire.
Ben Hogan hosted the first champions dinner, having won the tournament in 1951.
One notable meal served was when Sandy Lyle, a Scotsman, served haggis. There is no indication who partook of the traditional Scottish meal of sheep's stomach stuffed with the most of the beast's other organs and onions. I imagine there was plenty leftovers.
The next event on this list, while not directly involved with the dinner itself, makes mention of the dinner and ignites a firestorm of controversy.
6. 1997—Fuzzy Zoeller Puts His Foot in His Mouth
While Tiger Woods was steamrolling the competition at his first Masters as a professional, reporters at the tournament were trying to get a remark out of any of the players as to what we were witnessing.
Somebody found Fuzzy Zoeller after he had shot a final round 78, posted a tie for 34th finish and polished off a couple of scotches.
Zoeller was known to be a funny guy on Tour. He was always quick with a needling remark to another player, but it was always in jest.
When reporters found him after his round (and his rounds), they got the quote of a lifetime.
Referencing the Champions Dinner that Woods would host the following year, Zoeller said, "He's doing quite well, pretty impressive. That little boy is driving well and he's putting well. He's doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?"
As if that wasn't bad enough, before he walked away, Zoeller added, "Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve."
Zoeller would later apologize for the remarks directly to Woods, but the damage was done. Even with Tour pros agreeing that the remarks, while ill-timed, were meant in jest, public backlash against Zoeller was swift.
No longer was he the bubbly joker of the PGA Tour. He was a social pariah, and he basically disappeared from the public eye.
5. 1963—Honorary Starters
When you win the Masters, you receive a lifetime exemption to play in the tournament. Some guys will milk this for all it is worth (Doug Ford), but some realize that the game is best played by younger men.
(Just a quick remark here. If I won the Masters, they would have to drag me off that course kicking and screaming. I would play the Masters every year until I was incapable of lifting a golf club. I don't fault Doug Ford. I would have done the same thing.)
When legendary players finally hang 'em up, fans still want to see them. The players want to stay in the public eye, but know they will not win the tournament. So, how do you fulfill the desires of both the fans and the players?
With honorary starters, of course. Since 1963, the immortals of the Masters have gathered on the first tee on Thursday morning to hit ceremonial opening shots of the Masters Tournament.
Jock Hutchinson and Fred McLeod performed the duty for 10 years, 1963-73. McLeod continued on his own until his death in 1976 after poor health sidelined Hutchinson once and for all.
In 1984, Sam Snead joined Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen, who had been a duo since 1981. Snead was the last of this trio to perform the duty. He hit is final ceremonial shot in 2001.
In 2007, Arnold Palmer took up the mantle and was the lone honorary starter until 2010, when Jack Nicklaus (who had always sworn he would never do it) joined him. It is expected that the last member of the "Big Three," Gary Player, will join Palmer and Nicklaus in 2011.
4. 2003—Martha Burk Protests the Masters
The membership of Augusta National Golf Club is comprised of some of the wealthiest and smartest men in the world. They are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, chairmen of banks and computer companies.
What they are not is women.
Augusta National is an all-male club, and it was this fact that drew the attention and ire of the National Council of Women's Organizations and their chair-woman at the time, Martha Burk.
The issue began in 2002 when Burk contended that hosting the Masters at Augusta National constituted sexism because of the all-male membership of the club. Burk called for the admission of a female member, the relocation of the tournament or for players to boycott the tournament. The fact that she would ask for any of those things (particularly the ridiculous nature of the latter two) goes to show how little she knew about Augusta National and golf in general.
Obviously, it would not be the Masters if it were played anywhere else, and no player in his right mind would skip it because of the club's membership policies.
And the men of Augusta National were not about to be held hostage by Martha Burk.
In response to her proposed (and ultimately doomed) protest of the 2003 Masters, then-chairman of Augusta, Hootie Johnson, decided to televise the tournament completely free of commercials. The move was intended to take the decision out of sponsors' hands as to whether or not they wanted to continue advertising during the Masters with the controversy looming.
Because the Masters makes money whether they advertise or not through merchandise and ticket sales, as well as their series of lucrative single-year contracts with CBS, they could afford this strategy.
The move was a success. Burk and her minions, who were denied permission to gather outside the main entrance to the club, could not muster any sort of significant following. (Most of the people in that photo are reporters) To this day, the Masters boasts the fewest commercial interruptions of any golf tournament televised in the United States.
The club has maintained its ability to regulate who will or will not be a member (much like a sorority, a fraternity or countless other clubs), and to date, it still does not have a single female member.
3. 1958—Amen Corner Becomes Amen Corner
In the farthest corner of the course property from the clubhouse, set in the lowest part of the course, are holes 11, 12 and 13. They are named White Dogwood, Golden Bell and Azalea, respectively.
Together, they are known as Amen Corner.
None other than Herbert Warren Wind named the collection of holes when he was trying to come up with a catchy phrase to describe them. He once said he was thinking of baseball's "hot corner" and football's "coffin corner."
A lot of action happens on those holes, so it is appropriate that they have a name unto themselves.
An entire article could be written about those three holes, but here are a very few highlights:
The par-4 11th has a green guarded by a pond on the right. It is on this hole that Larry Mize chipped in to win the 1987 Masters. It is also the site of two of Nick Faldo's Masters victories, both in playoffs.
The par-3 12th hole may be one of the hardest short holes in golf, and has been witness to some of the most amazing shots and events in history. The hole sits in an area of trees that causes the wind to swirl over the green and causes a surprising number of tee shots to fall short into Rae's creek. Tom Weiskopf once made a 13 on this hole. Sam Snead made par from the water. Maybe the most amazing shot, though, was a shot that didn't go in the water. In 1992, Fred Couples hit a shot that remarkably hung on the bank of Rae's Creek. No one knows how the ball stayed dry, but Couples went on to win the tournament. It was called Couples' Cling.
The par-5 13th is all risk/reward. If you can hit a shot far enough around the corner, you could be left with a middle iron over Rae's Creek to the large, undulating green. If you hit the ball too straight, you are playing off pine straw for your next shot. This was the exact shot Phil Mickelson had in 2010. From behind a tree, Mickelson hit an incredible shot under branches and over the creek, onto the green. He would go on to win his third Masters.
All of this, and much, much more, happened in the area players and fans know as Amen Corner.
2. 1949—The First Green Jacket Is Presented to the Masters Winner
Let's be honest. If you saw that thing hanging in a store, you would either ignore it completely or openly mock it.
It is not the best color. It's not even the best shade of green.
But every person who has ever picked up a golf club would love to win one.
If you are member of Augusta National, you are expected to wear your jacket while you are at the club. The jacket is not to leave the club property. Indeed, only the winner of the Masters can take his off the property in the year following his victory. Then, it is to be returned.
Sam Snead was the first to win a green jacket, but winners of the Masters prior to him received one retroactively.
During a ceremony that is very familiar to golf fans, the prior year's champion will assist the winner with donning the green jacket.
If the winner has never won the Masters before, the club will find a jacket of a past winner that most closely fits the newest winner.
Jack Nicklaus was the first to successfully defend his Masters title. When he won his second consecutive green jacket (and third overall), he put the jacket on unassisted.
When Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods successfully defended, the chairman of Augusta National helped them with the jacket.
1. 1934—Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones Found Augusta National Golf Club
In January 1933, Augusta National Golf Club opened for play. Founded by Clifford Roberts and golf demigod Bobby Jones, and designed by Alister MacKenzie with Jones' assistance, the golf course sits on the site of a former indigo plantation.
The course is closed for of four months out of the year and sees only about 9,000 rounds a year from its approximately 300 members and their guests. That's a little under 40 rounds, or 10 foursomes, per day. That's all. This is part of the reason the course always looks amazing on television in April. Most public courses put 10 foursomes on the course in a little more than an hour.
Other reasons include the incredible amount of money the club pays to keep the course perfect. They have installed underground watering and cooling systems, as well as lighting to keep the greens healthy year round.
When a change is made at Augusta, it is hard to tell because it is made so quickly and seamlessly. When they plant trees, they are seemingly mature overnight. When they decide to move a tee box back, you won't know it until your tee shot finds a bunker you have never even looked at before.
Year after year, more shots are hit during the Masters, adding to the legend of the place. Year after year more people come to realize the magic that surrounds this beautiful piece of land.
And it all started on a former plantation in depression-era Augusta, Georgia.
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