Bobby Jones – Father of the Masters
April 2nd, 2014 by John Nichols
“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies.”
One of the most famous athletes in the world. When Bobby Jones retired from competitive golf in 1930, he was just 28 years old. It came as a shock to people the world over, who recognized him everywhere he went. Paparazzi followed him, the crowds adored him –he was a rock star to the public during the height of the Great Depression. Bobby longed for a place where he and his friends could play a little golf in private, in peace and in quiet.
Bobby’s private golf club turns out to be Augusta National … and that golf game? Well, in the spring of 1934, Bobby Jones actually makes his return to competitive golf, playing the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament, aka the Masters.
But we’re getting ahead of the story.
“In order to win, you must play your best golf when you need it most, and play your sloppy stuff when you can afford it. I shall not attempt to explain how you achieve this happy timing.”
Bobby teams up and Clifford Roberts, a former Wall Street stockbroker, and together they transform Fruitlands, an arboretum and indigo plantation since the Civil War era, into his dream. Bobby co-designs the course with Alister MacKenzie and construction takes less than two years. The new club opens in early 1933, followed by the first Masters Tournament played at Augusta in March 1934. Interestingly enough, it is the presence –and fame- of Bobby Jones that initially gives the Masters its cache; because Bobby was playing, the world’s top players followed suit and the media paid attention. The Masters owes a great deal of its success to Bobby Jones.
“I never learned anything from a match that I won.”
Bobby Jones played in the Masters every year it was held through 1948, but only in the first as a competitor –a match he didn’t win. In 1966, the governing board and membership of Augusta National passed a resolution naming him President in Perpetuity.
“The secret of golf is to turn three shots into two.”
Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts made many important innovations that led to the creation of golf as a popular spectator sport:
- Using gallery ropes to control the flow of the large crowds
- Locating many scoreboards around the course
- The use of red/green numbers on those scoreboards to denote under/over par scores
- Hosting an international field of top players
- Excellent television coverage
- Week-long admission passes for patrons
- Over the years, the Masters has earned its place as one of the most respected tournaments in the world as one of the four major championships.
“I have found out this much: In the long run luck seems to play no favorites – if the run is long enough.”
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