Bobby Jones, the greatest gentleman golfer who ever lived, and Clifford Roberts decided to hold an annual event beginning in 1934. Roberts suggested the event be called the Masters Tournament, but Jones thought this would be too presumptuous. They decided on Augusta National Invitation Tournament, and this was used for five years until 1939 when Jones gave in; that’s when the name was officially changed. In the nine pre-war Tournaments in which Jones played, his best finish was 13th in 1934.

Several decisions about this tournament which were made in the early days remain today.

  • Four-day stroke play for 18 holes each day instead of the then customary 36 holes on the third day.
  • Eliminating qualifying rounds.
  • Pairing the field instead of playing in threesomes.
  • Denying permission for anyone except the player and caddie to be in the playing area.

The first Masters was played March 22, 1934. Beginning in 1940, the Masters was scheduled each year during the first full week in April. That first Tournament was won by Horton Smith. In 1935 Gene Sarazen hit the "shot heard round the world," making 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.

In the 1950s, there were two victories by Ben Hogan, and the first of four for Arnold Palmer. Palmer’s 1958 win began the tradition of Amen Corner. In 1965-1966 Jack Nicklaus became the first Masters champion to defend his title successfully. During the decade of the 1970s the two men who began the Masters Tournament passed away. Both Jones and Roberts left indelible impressions on the Masters and on the world of golf. People today still watch in awe as they see slow motion footage of Bobby Jones striking the golf ball. He looked somewhat like a small Babe Ruth, and his Georgia accent was just dripping from his mouth. But he never turned pro, and all of his accomplishments in golf came with no money and no strings attached. Think about that the next time you tune in an NBA game or watch a baseball player spit on the umpire.

In the 1980s, the Tournament’s youngest winner to date was crowned when Spain's Seve Ballesteros won in 1980, just four days after his 23rd birthday. Tiger Woods bested this by winning at age 21 in 1997. He also broke the scoring record for the event that year (a record which had stood for 32 years) with an impossible score of 270 for four rounds.

The most emotional Masters I have ever seen was when, at age 46 in 1986, Jack Nicklaus put on his sixth Green Jacket. There were tears in the eyes of all aging golfers when he accomplished this.

Augusta National is the sacred holy land for golfers around the world.

Much of this material was borrowed from

Being an avid, although not so skilled, golf enthusiast, the season doesn’t really begin for me until the first or second week in April when the most skilled players in the world descend on Augusta, Georgia to try and take on the course and themselves and win that coveted “Green Jacket”. More on that in a bit.

Besides the caliber of play and the idyllic setting, The Masters is about one thing and one thing only. Well, make that two things. The first is tradition.

"The Masters, a tradition unlike any other"

That's how CBS and its opening lines of coverage describe the tournament.

Yesterday’s opening round began with three legends of the game, Arnold Palmer age 83, Gary Player age 77, and Jack Nicklaus age 73 lumber up to the first tee box to hit the ceremonial first ball to begin the tournament . Between them, over their careers they’ve accounted for a total of 34 “major victories” with the Golden Bear having won an astounding 18 all by himself. On a personal note, I’d of cut off my little toe just be in the gallery amongst the other patrons (At Augusta, they are not called “fans”.) to watch that spectacle.

There’s also the tradition that if you’re ever lucky enough or skilled enough to win the tournament, you get what’s known as a “lifetime exemption”. That means you don’t have to qualify at other tournaments or be somewhere on the money list in order to play. That was changed a few years back to state that they have to play at least 36 holes in order to retain their exempt status.

Besides the cash, the winner of the tournament is awarded a “Green Jacket” in a ceremony right after its conclusion. That’s been going since on Sam Snead won the first one back in 1949. They must return the jacket to the club the next year where it is put on display and made available to the winner if they want. If the player becomes a “member” of Augusta, only then will they be allowed to keep it.

The second thing about The Masters is what I would call “respect for the game” and it’s really sorta intangible. There are no electronic scoreboards or advertisements on the course. The patrons themselves are not allowed to hold up any signs endorsing their favorite player and while the wearing of shorts is allowed, there will be no jeans or cut off t-shirts within sight. If you plan on bringing your cell phone or camera to the course, don’t get caught using it. You’ll quickly be escorted off the grounds with the likelihood that you’ll also never be allowed to return.

That respect is not limited to fans or sponsors though. If you're in the booth and broadcasting the event you have to be careful of what you say. The powers that be at The Masters also have a pretty long and unforgiving memory if you get on their wrong side. Take for instance, the following.

Back in 1994 a broadcaster by the name of Gary McCord was announcing the tournament for CBS. When the players got to the 17th hole he commented that the greens were so fast that they must have been "bikini waxed" and that if players missed their approach shots to the green, there were "body bags" waiting for them on their way to the 18th tee. While he continues to broadcast golf, he hasn't been seen at Augusta since. Prior to that, back in 1966, famed broadcaster Jack Whitaker had the audacity to refer to the patrons as a "mob" on national television. He might as well have started singing the Ray Charles version of the song "Hit the Road Jack" because that's just what he was asked to do.

I was reading Rick Reilly’s column over at ESPN the other day and he related an interesting anecdote regarding what goes on during The Masters. Apparently, it’s become a tradition for the members of Augusta to play gin at night after the round is over. The stakes are only a penny a point. Let’s put this in perspective, members of the club have more money to burn than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. I guess they just don’t like to show it off to the rest of the world.

Well, it seems that a well heeled guest was attending the ritual games and began spouting off about them being so rich and why they were playing for such small stakes. After awhile, one of the members had had enough of his antics and asked :

”All right, sir. What is your net worth?”

The guest told him and all the member did was plunk down a deck of cards in the middle of the table and stated the following :

”Fine, I’ll cut you for it.”

I guess that shut him up.

See, to them the stakes don’t really matter. It’s more about the honor, tradition, dignity and respect for the game that counts. (Kindly take note all chest thumping trash-talking players and owners from all other sports.)

This year, like most other years at The Masters, there was another history making event. A fourteen-year-old kid from China named Guan Tianlang actually qualified to play in the tournament. That made him the youngest person ever to play at The Masters. He shot a one over 73 yesterday and birdied the eighteenth hole in front of a huge gallery. I don’t know about you but I’ve had my fair share of dreams as a kid growing up related to sports. I was always the one scoring the game winner, be it buzzer beater, home run or touchdown. If you had put me on the actual field of competition at that age, I’d have had my ass handed to me. Hats off to Guan Tianlang for being able to hang in there with the big boys, even if only for one day.

For the next three or four days, I’ll be glued to the television either in my living room or at my local watering hole absorbing all of the shots, missed shots and stories that The Masters has to offer.

Since it’s still cold, gray and damp here in Columbus, Ohio in early April, I can’t think of a better way to spend them.

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