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The 1930s

Masters History
February 1, 2012 - 2:43 pm
Gene Sarazen (left) hit the "shot heard 'round the world" to take Craig Wood (right) to a playoff at the 1935 Masters, which Sarazen won.   File/AP
File/AP
Gene Sarazen (left) hit the "shot heard 'round the world" to take Craig Wood (right) to a playoff at the 1935 Masters, which Sarazen won.
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By Staff |

THE MOMENT: GENE SARAZEN, DOUBLE EAGLE

The Masters had a lot going for it from the beginning. It had the game's marquee player, Bobby Jones, as the headliner of an impressive field. It had a new course that was drawing rave reviews for its beauty and playability.

In 1935, Gene Sarazen gave the tournament a signature moment.

The Squire, as he was known, skipped the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament in 1934 because of a prior commitment. He didn't miss the following year, and he played extremely well in practice rounds.

But Craig Wood was also on top of his game, and he held the clubhouse lead after completing the final round. Sarazen reached No. 15 trailing by three. After a decent drive, he had about 230 yards to the par-5 green.

With one mighty swing - and a good deal of luck - Sarazen helped put the Masters on the map.

His 4-wood shot cleared the stream fronting the green, hit the bank and rolled into the cup for double eagle. Sarazen made up the three-shot deficit with one swing, and he made pars on the remaining three holes to force a playoff the next day.

In the only 36-hole playoff in tournament history, Sarazen prevailed with a total of 144 to Wood's 149. The victory made Sarazen the first man to win all four majors - the U.S. Open, the British Open, the PGA and the Masters - for his career.

Sarazen's feat became known as the "shot heard 'round the world," and he gained international fame.
"If I hadn't won, it would have been a double eagle without feathers," Sarazen said in 1995.

And a large part of Masters and Augusta National lore would have been just a footnote.

BOBBY JONES

Bobby Jones never did anything in an ordinary fashion.

As a golfer, Jones set the standard for excellence. He won 13 major championships in eight years, all while maintaining his status as an amateur. His crowning achievement was winning all four of golf's majors in 1930 to complete the only Grand Slam in a calendar year.

Jones also found time to complete degrees in mechanical engineering and English literature, and he was admitted to the Georgia bar after one year of law school.

Sid Matthew, an expert on Jones' life and career, once compared him to Halley's Comet, a phenomenon that occurs every 75 years or so.

"He was able to do superhuman feats that other people could only dream about," Matthew said.

When Jones retired at age 28 to pursue the building of his dream golf course, The New York Times wrote: "With dignity, he quit the scene on which he nothing common did, or mean."

Jones didn't settle for anything but the best in retirement, either. In course architect Alister MacKenzie, he found a kindred soul who appreciated the same values of how a golf course should play. In Clifford Roberts, he found the perfect administrator capable of organizing a club and running it with a firm hand.

Roberts and MacKenzie get plenty of credit for their contributions to the creation of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament that followed. But make no mistake: Without Jones, there would be neither.

His spirit, like the dogwoods and azaleas that cover Augusta National, permeates the Masters. Tales of his sportsmanship and sense of fair play are retold each spring to a new generation, and his code of etiquette is still a must-read for any Masters visitor.

Throughout the highs and lows -- seeing his course and tournament become the best in the world, but battling the spinal disease syringomyelia that confined him to a wheelchair in his later years -- Jones remained a gentleman without equal.

President Eisenhower, an Augusta National member and one of Jones's greatest admirers, summed up Jones in a letter written in the early 1950s.

"Those who have been fortunate enough to know him realize that his fame as a golfer is transcended by his inestimable qualities as a human being," he wrote when a portrait of Jones was donated to the U.S. Golf Association headquarters.
"His gift to his friends is the warmth that comes from unselfishness, superb judgment, nobility of character, unwavering loyalty to principle."

CLIFFORD ROBERTS

Clifford Roberts didn't just break the mold for how to stage a successful golf tournament.
He shattered it.

As the first chairman of the Masters, a post Roberts held from 1931-76, he devoted the bulk of his adult life to making Augusta National and the Masters the very best they could be. It didn't hurt that he had Bobby Jones as a co-founder and main attraction in the early years, or that the terrain on which the golf club was built was more than suitable.

"We realized that, in order to build a tournament of stature that could survive Bob's eventual separation from the event, it needed to be operated in a better fashion and made more enjoyable than any other," Roberts wrote in his book, The Story of the Augusta National Golf Club .

His innovations included:

- A network of scoreboards around the course that eventually featured the over-and-under scoring system

- Free parking and pairing sheets for patrons

- Observation stands scattered throughout the course

- Roping off the fairways and greens for spectator convenience

Other tournaments quickly emulated the practices of the Masters, but Roberts continued to set the standard. He was particularly fond of being at the forefront of technology.

The tournament was the first to be broadcast live nationwide via radio. Though the Masters wasn't the first tournament to be televised, Roberts made the Masters the most coveted telecast in all of sports. Those innovations included the first golf broadcast in color (1966) and first overseas broadcast (1967).

His devotion to the club and its staff were unmatched. Roberts, whose health was failing, took his own life in 1977 on the grounds of the club. By that time, the Masters was well established as one of the premier sports events in the world.

A plaque from the Golf Writers Association of America hangs in the press building at Augusta National, and it sums up Roberts' legacy: "In grateful appreciation for the great influence his high personal standards had in upgrading tournament golf throughout the world."

ALISTER MACKENZIE

Alister MacKenzie might not recognize Augusta National Golf Club if he saw it today.

The nines have been reversed from MacKenzie's original design, and a 19th hole he designed to settle wagers was never built.

The course is abundantly green, and more than 500 yards have been added. Almost every hole has been altered since the course opened for play in late 1932, including some dramatic changes through the years.

One thing MacKenzie would probably recognize is the putting surfaces. The collection of slopes, hills and undulations endure much as he originally designed them.

The main difference is that the slopes are now covered in bentgrass, a conversion that took place nearly 50 years after MacKenzie's death.

MacKenzie took up golf course architecture late in life after practicing medicine and serving as a civil surgeon for the British Army in two wars.

Never a great golfer in his own right, MacKenzie enjoyed bringing pleasure to others through his designs, which emphasized strategy and playability regardless of a golfer's ability.

He designed courses all over the world, including a California creation known as Cypress Point that led Bobby Jones to hire him to design his dream course. MacKenzie made only a few visits to Augusta, and he never saw the course in its finished state. He died at his California home in January 1934, less than three months before the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament.

Clifford Roberts, who co-founded the club with Jones, wrote that MacKenzie died before the course was fully covered with grass.

MacKenzie often called Augusta National the "World's Wonder Inland Golf Course," and he was proud to be associated with Jones.

"He was quite ready, however, to declare the course to be his best, and he did so a number of times," Roberts wrote in his history of the club.

"What a pity MacKenzie did not come to this country earlier or did not live for another 10 years!"

GRANTLAND RICE

As the premier sports writer of the 1920s and 1930s, Grantland Rice was immensely popular. He came up with the nickname "Four Horsemen of Notre Dame," and the phrase, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game," is attributed to his writings.

As an Augusta National member from the start, Rice was crucial in helping gain members for the new club. He helped organize several outings for prospective members, and he was influential on the tournament gaining favorable press in the early days.

O.B. KEELER

Oscar Bane Keeler, known as O.B. to his friends, worked for The Atlanta Journal from 1913 to 1950. It was there he began to cover a young golfer named Bobby Jones, and the two quickly became friends.

Keeler covered Jones' entire career, and he co-wrote a book with Jones titled Down the Fairway . At the Masters, Keeler would make his copy available for papers across the country.

Jones acknowledged their relationship was special.

"What measure of (fame) I have enjoyed has been due in large part to Keeler and his gifted typewriter," Jones wrote.

BERCKMANS FAMILY

Augusta National owes a great deal of its beauty to the Berckmans family.

Belgian Baron Louis Mathieu Edouard Berckmans and his son, Prosper Julius Alphonse, turned the former indigo plantation into a nursery in the 1850s.

Under the name Fruitland Nurseries, the two men began to import trees and plants from other countries. Prosper is credited with popularizing the azalea plant, which is found all over Augusta National.

The business ceased operations a few years after his death in 1910.

Prosper's son Louis was an Augusta National member and part of the beautification committee that recommended distinctive flowers and trees be planted on each hole of the new golf course.

THOMAS BARRETT

The vice president of the Bon Air-Vanderbilt Hotel was instrumental in the creation of Augusta National. Barrett suggested the old Berckmans property as ideal for a golf course and helped with the purchase. He became mayor of Augusta in 1933 and lent his support to the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament.

 

ED DUDLEY

Ed Dudley was the first club pro at Augusta National Golf Club and a fine player in his own right. He competed in 14 Masters and finished in the top 10 seven times.

His best finish was third in 1937, and he retired as club pro in 1957.

BYRON NELSON

There's a reason the Nelson Bridge exists at Augusta National.

Byron Nelson became part of Masters lore thanks to his charge through Amen Corner in the final round in 1937. Nelson trailed Ralph Guldahl but made up six strokes at Nos. 12 and 13 with a birdie and eagle. Guldahl, meanwhile, played the two holes in 5-6, and Nelson cruised to his first major victory.

Five years later, Nelson defeated Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff for his second Masters win.

In later years, Nelson was an integral part of the tournament as the golfer traditionally paired with the 54-hole leader, and he served as an honorary starter for several years.

In 1958, the Nelson Bridge was dedicated at the No. 13 tee as a permanent reminder of the first of Nelson's two Masters victories.

HORTON SMITH

Horton Smith played second fiddle to Bobby Jones when he won the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament in 1934. Two years later, when he won for the second time, he validated it on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

Smith was the last man to beat Jones before his Grand Slam campaign of 1930, winning a tournament in Savannah, Ga. Four years later, Jones took the spotlight as he opened his new course for a new event.

Smith held at least a share of the lead each day. On the final day, Smith came to the final three holes tied with Craig Wood. He birdied the 71st hole to edge Wood by a stroke.

Smith was a fan of the course and tournament from the start.

"There is nothing monotonous about that course, and it is one of the most beautiful I ever played," Smith said. "Each one of the holes presents something new."

Two years later, Smith won for the second time at Augusta National when he nipped Harry Cooper by one shot. Smith sank a long chip for birdie at the 14th hole in the final round en route to his victory.

As one of the leading players of the 1930s, Smith won 32 times in his career. But he will forever be known as the first Masters champion.

HENRY PICARD

Henry Picard had to battle the field and the elements to earn his Masters victory in 1938. Inclement weather pushed the start of the tournament back to Saturday, and 36 holes were played Sunday. Picard, a native of Charleston, S.C., handled the conditions and took a one-stroke lead over four golfers into Monday's final round.

Picard played the front nine in 32 in the final round en route to 70 and a two-shot win over Ralph Guldahl and Harry Cooper.

 

 

RALPH GULDAHL

After a pair of close calls, Ralph Guldahl broke through for his only Masters win in 1939. Guldahl, the runner-up in 1937 and 1938, took matters into his own hands on the final nine in 1939. He shot 3-under-par 33 to edge Sam Snead by a stroke, and his total of 279 would not be eclipsed until 1953.

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