Masters Golf Tournament

Masters Golf Tournament

Type of Holiday: Sporting
Date of Observation: First full week in April
Where Celebrated: Augusta, Georgia
Symbols and Customs: Green Jacket, Champions Dinner

ORIGINS

The golf tournament known simply as "The Masters" was created at a time when neither of the other major American golf tournaments-the U.S. Open or the PGA (Professional Golfers' Association) Championship-had ever been played in the Deep South. It was established in 1934 by Bobby Jones, a famous golfer who had come from the South and who had also designed the course at the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club, where the tournament is held. Together with his friend Clifford Roberts, the chairman of Augusta National who oversaw every detail of the tournament for forty-three years, Jones was so closely identified with The Masters that crowds flocked to see him for years after he ceased to be a serious competitor. It was Bobby Jones who set the strict standards for spectators' behavior that are still printed in the spectators' guide, and who conducted the traditional interview with the new champion before presenting him with his GREEN JACKET .

The tournament started by Jones received a boost from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a World War II hero and president of the United States (1953-61). Eisenhower vacationed in Augusta in 1948 and returned there frequently during his presidency to play golf, drawing nationwide attention to Augusta National and its yearly spring tournament. Up until this point, golf had been regarded as a sport for the elite, but Eisenhower made it a more acceptable pastime for common people.

It was professional golfer Arnold Palmer, however, who really put The Masters on the map. He was followed by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, and together they were known as the "Big Three." In the nine years beginning in 1958, when Palmer won his first Masters, the Big Three won eight times, ushering in what was later referred to as "the golden age of golf."

Qualifying rounds for the tournament are held on Thursday and Friday of the four-day tournament, and the top forty-four finishers participate in the final round. The top twenty-four finishers are automatically invited back the next year and do not have to requalify. In addition to a cash prize, the winner of the tournament receives a trophy and a green blazer.

It wasn't until September 1990 that the Augusta National Golf Club admitted its first black member, Ron Townsend, president of the Gannett Television Group. But the stage had been set by Lee Trevino, a Mexican-American golfer who declined the Club's invitations to play in the tournament in 1970 and 1971 because he said he felt uncomfortable in what remained a largely white, southern organization. The PGA now has rules forbidding discriminatory membership practices.

In 1997 Tiger Woods, at age twenty-one, won the Masters with a record 270 strokes for three days. At twenty-one, he became the youngest golfer to win the tournament and the first African American or Asian (his father is African American and his mother is Thai) to wear the green blazer. Woods also won the Masters in 2001, 2002, and 2005.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Green Jacket

The 300 or so members of the Augusta National Golf Club, who come from all over America, wear blazers that are the green of well-tended grass. They are not allowed to remove their Club jackets from the premises. About one-third of the members, who are known collectively as the "Green Jackets," work actively on the tournament every year. They are not all superior golfers, but they have shown their dedication to the game.

The winner of The Masters is presented with a green jacket to symbolize his victory and acceptance into the golf elite. He may take it home with him and keep it for twelve months, until the next year's tournament.

Champions Dinner

An exclusive club gathers for dinner the Tuesday night of the week of every Masters. The menu is selected by the previous year's Masters champion. He hosts the group of previous champions and is given his inscribed gold locket in the form of the Masters Club emblem. Perhaps the most talked-about menu was that of Tiger Woods, who selected cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, French fries, milk shakes, and strawberry shortcake. This is the dinner he hosted at the age of twenty-two, after his first Masters victory. Other notable menus include Vijay Singh's Indian feast and Mike Weir's wild game spread.

FURTHER READING

Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Owen, David. The Making of the Masters: Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Sampson, Curt. The Masters: Golf, Money, and Power in Augusta. New York: Villard, 1998. Taylor, Dawson. The Masters: Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1986.

WEB SITES

Augusta Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau www.augustaga.org

Masters Golf Tournament Official Web Site www.masters.org

Masters Golf Tournament

First full week in April
Known to golf fans everywhere as The Masters, this annual tournament has been held at the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia since it was first started there in 1934 by Bobby Jones, who designed the course. It has long been associated with names like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower often played the course and stayed in a cottage to the left of the 10th tee that is still called "Ike's Cottage."
The qualifying rounds are held on Thursday and Friday of the four-day tournament, and the top 44 finishers participate in the final round. The top 24 finishers are automatically invited back the next year and do not have to qualify again. In addition to the cash prize, the winner of the tournament, which has been referred to as "golf's rite of spring," receives a trophy and a green blazer. Each year on the Tuesday night before the tournament, there is a Champions Dinner attended by past winners and hosted by the defending champion—all of them wearing their distinctive green jackets.
It wasn't until September 1990 that the Augusta National Golf Club admitted its first black member, Ron Townsend, president of the Gannett Television Group. Had the Club refused to admit a black man, it is likely that the Masters would no longer have been held there, since the PGA (Professional Golfers' Association) now has rules forbidding discriminatory membership practices.
Seven years later, Tiger Woods, an African-American player, broke a 32-year tournament record and became golf's newest sensation.
CONTACTS:
Augusta National, Inc.
2604 Washington Rd.
Augusta, GA 30904
706-667-6000
www.masters.org
Augusta Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau
1450 Greene St., Ste. 110
P.O. Box 1331
Augusta, GA 30901
800-726-0243 or 706-823-6600; fax: 706-823-6609
www.augustaga.org
SOURCES:
HolSymbols-2009, p. 553
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