By Dave Taylor | April 13, 2019
Augusta, Georgia, was once a crossing point of the Savannah River favored by Native-Americans.
It became an American colony settlement in 1735 as part of British Georgia.
Augusta itself got its name from Princess Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Today, sports fans know Augusta for an entirely different reason: the Masters.
Originally known as the Augusta National Invitational Tournament, the first actual golf competition occurred way back in 1934. It was the next year that the organization put the “Masters” tournament in the headlines.
Golfer Gene Sarazen hit the “shot heard ‘round the world,” a double eagle on the 15th hole that gave him the edge to ultimately win the tournament — and the Masters moniker became appropriate.
The course was designed by the great golfer Bobby Jones, who discovered the land and developed it after his retirement from the game, along with Alister MacKenzie, a British golf course architect. The Masters Tournament, the first of four major events in professional golf each year — and currently underway — was dominated by three golfers during the ’60s and ’70s who have become the names of legend: Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.
Other famous players have included Lee Elder, notable as the first black competitor in the tournament in 1975 — 15 years before the Augusta National Golf Club actually admitted its first black member.
Twenty-two years later, in 1997, another young black golfer rose to fame: Tiger Woods, who won the Masters by a staggering 12 shots at age 21.
The Masters is just as well known for its traditions as its participants. CBS commentator Jim Nantz famously described the Masters as “a tradition unlike any other.”
There is perhaps no greater golf trophy than the famous green jacket awarded to the winner. A tradition that formally began back in 1949, it’s actually a symbol of membership in the Augusta National Golf Club: The winner of the tournament is awarded an honorary membership.
There’s also a quite substantial cash purse that’s split among the winners.
In the tournament’s first year, the purse was $5,000 and the winner, Horton Smith, received $1,500. Inflation has kept it growing at a good rate — and the 2014 tournament prize money amounted to $9 million dollars, with $1.62 million going to the winner.
Last year, the winner received $1.9 million.
This year of 2019, the champion will also make a record amount — “cracking the $2 million mark for the first time in Masters history,” as Golf Digest reported. “Sunday’s winner will bank $2.07 million, up from the $1.98 million that Patrick Reed claimed in 2018.”
The Masters also has some other intriguing traditions that make it stand apart from other sporting events. The player with the lowest daily score wins a crystal vase, while players who score a double eagle or hole-in-one win a large crystal bowl.
Didn’t manage a double eagle? That’s OK: Players receive a pair of crystal goblets for each eagle attained, too.
Golfers don’t carry their own clubs, of course, but one has to be paying really close attention to notice that caddies all wear the same outfit: a white jumpsuit, white tennis shoes and a green Masters cap.
Like the other majors, the tournament consists of four rounds of 18 holes, played Thursday through Sunday of game week. Golfers play in groups of three for the first two days, after which the playing field is trimmed down to the top 50 places, or within 10 strokes of the leader’s score. This is referred to as “making the cut.” After all four days of play, there’s a sudden-death playoff if the competition ends in a tie.
Since the golf course started out as a nursery, each hole is named after a tree or shrub.
Since the Augusta golf course started out as a nursery, each hole is named after a tree or shrub. The longest hole is Pink Dogwood, or #2, at 575 yards. It’s a par 5. The shortest is the Golden Bell, at a mere 155 yards. That one’s a par 3. In total, the course is 7,435 yards for a par 72.
Keep that par 72 in mind. The par score for four games is 288. In 2016, Danny Willett won with a total score of 283 and had his best day when he hit a 67 on his fourth day of golfing. Tiger Woods back in 2001 won with a total score of 272 — a feat bested by Jordan Spieth in 2015 when he hit a 270.
And there’s the course itself. Golf fan and Bleacher Report contributor Seph Anderson described the course as “of an unreal color and texture. They were heavenly. Beautiful, mature pine trees stood on nearly every hole hovering over the fairways and greens.” For the Lost Golf Balls blog, Chris Osmun described the course as “golf’s most serene and magnificent place.”
Says a woman in New York, a mom of four who attended the tournament with her golf-loving husband several years ago, “Honestly, it is one of the most beautiful and interesting places I have ever been. It’s a scene of both serenity and drama — of stunning landscaping and sporting excellence all wrapped together. The fans, as avid as they are, are also polite and respectful. Everything is done to the highest quality. I would literally drop everything and go each year if I could.”
She added, “Since I can’t do that, I console myself by watching it on television.”
A magnificent place for a magnificent tournament, indeed. The Masters is one of the best and most important competitions in the world of professional golf.
In an incredible finish on Sunday evening of the 2017 tournament, Sergio Garcia of Spain won the Masters — the first major championship of his career — with a sudden-death victory over Justin Rose. Garcia, 37, finally broke through in his 71st major as a professional, nearly 18 years after he was runner-up to Tiger Woods in a breakthrough performance at the PGA Championship.
In 2018, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy were going head-to-head in the finish — and Reed was the ultimate victor, winning his first major championship with a one-shot victory over Rickie Fowler.
So far in 2019, there is a tight grouping of people at the top — so it’s anyone’s guess who will emerge victorious.
This article originally appeared earlier and has been updated.
This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.
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