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The 1950s

Masters History
February 3, 2012 - 4:54 pm
Clifford Roberts (from right) and Bobby Jones discuss Arnold Palmer's embedded lie and his playing a second ball on the 12th hole in the final round of the 1958 Masters. Palmer's playing partner, Ken Venturi, looks on.  File
File
Clifford Roberts (from right) and Bobby Jones discuss Arnold Palmer's embedded lie and his playing a second ball on the 12th hole in the final round of the 1958 Masters. Palmer's playing partner, Ken Venturi, looks on.
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THE MOMENT: AMEN CORNER 

The year 1958 was eventful at the Masters Tournament.
 
Two bridges across Rae's Creek were dedicated in honor of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. A young pro named Arnold Palmer won the tournament for the first time. 
 
And Amen Corner was born.
 
Actually, the famous stretch of holes -- Nos. 11, 12 and 13 -- had been in existence for 25 years, but a catchy nickname didn't exist until Sports Illustrated  golf writer  Herbert Warren Wind came up with the term in 1958.
 
The three holes where Rae's Creek meets the National played a vital role in the early years of the Masters. 
 

The Nelson Bridge commemorates Nelson's charge of a birdie at No. 12 and an eagle at No. 13 to win in 1937. The Hogan Bridge honors Hogan's score of 274 in 1953, then the lowest 72-hole score in Masters history.

 
The 1958 tournament proved to be equally important.
 
After playing two balls on the 12th hole amid a rules controversy and making eagle on the par-5 13th during the final round, Palmer claimed the first of four Masters wins by one shot over Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins.
 
Wind, a veteran golf writer who  also was a jazz buff, decided to combine his interests to describe the Sunday action.
 
He took the name from a jazz recording, Shoutin' in That Amen Corner . (Wind wrote that the album was recorded by Milton Mezzrow, but research has shown Mezzrow did not make a record by that name.)
 
The nickname became part of the tournament's lore. Wind died in 2005 at age 88, but his lengthy essays and many books are still popular reading for golf fans.
 
"Herbert Warren Wind was one of the greatest golf writers that ever lived," former Augusta National and Masters Chairman Hootie Johnson said. "For many years, he wrote wonderful stories about the Masters and the players that competed in the tournament."
 
SNEAD AND HOGAN 
 
Sam Snead and Ben Hogan dominated golf shortly after World War II. One or the other won the green jacket from 1949-54, except for one year.
 
Hogan broke through to win his first Masters in 1951, and he followed up with a suggestion that led to an enduring tradition. A dinner for former champions is held each Tuesday of tournament week.
 
A final-round collapse by Hogan opened the door for Snead to win in 1952, but the following year Hogan would show no mercy. He set a record with a 72-hole total of 274 and won the first of three consecutive major titles that year.
 
That set the stage for 1954, the most memorable duel between Snead and Hogan.
 
Amateur Billy Joe Patton dominated the early rounds, but most figured he would go away. He didn't, and in the final round he took the lead thanks to an ace on the sixth hole and solid play.
 
Patton jockeyed with Snead and Hogan for the lead but found the water on both par-5s on the second nine. Snead and Hogan wound up tied after 72 holes at 1-over-par 289, and Patton finished one shot behind them.
 
In the playoff the next day, the two men played even for nine holes. Snead holed a chip for birdie on the 10th but gave back the lead with a bogey on the 12th. That set up the 13th hole, which proved to be decisive as Hogan elected to lay up on the short par-5.
 
Snead went for the green in two and made it, setting up an easy birdie to give him a one-shot lead when Hogan made par.
 
Hogan had one final shot at catching Snead when he hit his tee shot close at No. 16, but instead he three-putted to give his foe a two-shot lead. Snead played the 18th cautiously and made a bogey to win.
 
It would be Snead's third and final win at Augusta National. Hogan, who also had lost an 18-hole Masters playoff to Byron Nelson in 1942, remains the only player to lose twice in a playoff at the Masters.
 
CARY MIDDLECOFF 
 
To say Cary Middlecoff was a nervous type might be an understatement. The golf scribes of the 1950s used three descriptions for him: he was tall for a golfer (6-foot-2), a dentist (he was stationed at Oliver General Hospital in Augusta during World War II) and fidgety ("He is noted for his compact swing and jumpy nerves," Sports Illustrated  reported).
 
Two things stand out about Middlecoff's second-round 65 in 1955, which essentially won him the tournament: He made four consecutive birdies on the front nine for a then-record score of 31, and on 13 he made an eagle putt in excess of 80 feet.
 
Middlecoff's 279 total was seven better than Ben Hogan's and eight better than Sam Snead's.
 
PRESIDENT EISENHOWER
 
As supreme commander of Allied Forces in World War II and president of the United States for two terms, Dwight D. Eisenhower often found it difficult to enjoy some privacy away from his duties.
 
Enter Augusta National Golf Club, which proved to be the perfect getaway spot for its most famous member.
 
Eisenhower enjoyed golf, and he liked to play bridge. Those were the prevalent activities at the club, where Eisenhower's close friend Clifford Roberts was chairman.
 
He joined the club in 1948 at Roberts' urging and remained a member until his death in 1969. Eisenhower made 45 visits to Augusta National - five before his election, 29 while president and 11 after he left office - and his trips were often lengthy.
 
Reminders of his impact on the club remain to this day.
 
A cabin for Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, was built in 1953 by a group of Augusta National members who purchased building certificates. One of a handful of residences on the Augusta National grounds, a gold presidential seal hanging over the front porch distinguishes it from other cabins. 
 
It was Eisenhower who discovered an ideal spot for a fishing pond, and Ike's Pond was soon built. Two holes of the Par-3 Course are now played over the pond.
 
The Eisenhower Cracker Barrel, which sits in the pro shop at Augusta National, was made from wood that was once part of the White House roof.
 
Eisenhower was hardly an expert golfer. He kept hitting into the loblolly pine in the left-center of the 17th fairway, and he proposed to have the tree removed during a club meeting in 1956.
 
The famous general and leader of the free world quickly learned his powers didn't carry much weight at Augusta National. Roberts ruled Eisenhower out of order and adjourned the meeting, and the pine has been known ever since as Ike's Tree.
 
JACK BURKE JR.
 

In 1956, all eyes were on amateur Ken Venturi as he put himself in position for one of the greatest wins in golf history, but poor weather and solid play by Jack Burke Jr. kept Venturi from slipping into a green jacket.
 
Venturi soared to 80 in the final round, and that enabled Burke to mount the largest comeback in Masters history. His 71 was one of only two sub-par rounds that day.
 
Burke holed a 15-footer for birdie at the 17th with an assist from a gust of wind, then saved par from the greenside bunker at the 18th. Venturi could not birdie the final hole, and Burke was the winner.
 
Burke's winning total of 289 is the highest (along with Sam Snead in 1954 and Zach Johnson in 2007) in tournament history.
 
DOUG FORD
 
A final-round charge by Doug Ford put him into contention in 1957, but he had to make a crucial decision on the par-5 15th: go for the green from well over 200 yards out, or lay up. Ford disregarded his caddie's advice, hit the green and two-putted for a birdie.
 
Ford holed out from the bunker on No. 18 for another birdie that was the icing on a final-round 66 and a three-shot victory.
 
 
 
 
 
 
ART WALL JR.
 
Art Wall Jr. put on one of the most dazzling displays of golf in the final round of 1959 to win the Masters by one stroke over Cary Middlecoff. 
 
His five birdies in the final six holes, including the 11-foot putt to win on the final hole, ranks as one of the top comebacks in tournament history.
 
Wall's birdie streak began with a birdie at the 13th. 
 
He ran in a 20-foot putt at the 14th and two-putted the 15th for another birdie. 
 
After a par at the 16th, Wall made birdie at the 17th from 15 feet.
 
Wall's 8-iron approach at No. 18 left him an 11-foot putt for birdie. He studied the putt carefully, then rolled it into the cup.
 
"When it was a foot from the hole," he said, "I knew it was in the cup."