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Mementos from champions are part of Masters lore

The kings of clubs
February 16, 2012 - 4:30 pm
The ball Gene Sarazen used when he hit the ''shot heard 'round the world'' in winning the 1935 Masters is displayed in the Trophy Room.  File/Staff
File/Staff
The ball Gene Sarazen used when he hit the ''shot heard 'round the world'' in winning the 1935 Masters is displayed in the Trophy Room.
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By David Westin |

There's a Masters Tournament tradition known mainly to club officials, members and winners at Augusta National Golf Club.

Soon after a victory, Augusta National asks the champion to donate a club, preferably one that was used during that week.

The clubs are displayed in the Trophy Room and Grill Room of the clubhouse. Clubs used by winners during 1934-54 are in the Trophy Room; the balance are in the Grill Room.

In a tournament known for its traditions, this one has been around since the very beginning. In the Trophy Room is the putter Horton Smith used to win the inaugural Masters in 1934.

Through 1954, multiple winners donated a club for each victory. Since then, winners of more than one green jacket donated a club from the first victory, with the exception of Jose Maria Olazabal, who donated a putter from his 1999 victory, not his 1994 win. Four-time champion Tiger Woods donated a driver from his first victory, in 1997.

One exception to the "club rule" has been made, with good reason. In the Trophy Room is the ball Gene Sarazen used to make his double eagle on No. 15 that helped set up his 1935 victory.

One of the most famous clubs on display is the wedge that Larry Mize used 20 years ago to win the Masters. Mize used it to hole out a 140-foot chip shot for birdie on No. 11, the second hole of sudden death. With that, he beat Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros (who was knocked out of the playoff on No. 10) to become the only Augusta native to win his hometown tournament.

At the time, the wedge was new. His other one had become worn in the sweet spot, and Mize switched right before the Masters.

"When they (Augusta National) asked for a club, they were very nice," Mize said. "They said they understood that clubs are special to players. A wedge lasts me about 11 years, so I sent it to them (when it became worn). What better place to have it?"

Some champions give replicas or backup clubs that look like the ones they used in their victory. Not Mize.

"For me at least, because of the circumstances of my victory and the chip, I thought it was important for me to give them the club," he said. "They have the real deal. That's the club I chipped in with."

Mike Weir also donated the wedge he used in his victory year.

Because Weir isn't the longest of hitters, he couldn't reach some of Augusta National's par-5s in two shots during his 2003 victory. That's where his wedge came in. Using it for his third shot to par-5s, he could get it close to the hole and set up birdies.

"Why the wedge?" Weir asked. "Because it was important to my win. I hit a number of great wedges all week. I hit a real important one into No. 15 (in the final round) for the last birdie I made.

"That club saved me a lot of shots that week."

When Mark O'Meara won the 1998 Masters, he ranked first in the field in putting with 105 putts. In particular, the birdie putts he made on the final two holes of the tournament gave him a one-shot victory over Fred Couples and David Duval. Therefore, a month after his victory, O'Meara donated one of his Ping Anser backup putters to the club.

Not every champion remembers what he donated. Bernhard Langer, the winner in 1985 and 1993, wasn't even sure whether he donated a club. He did: The sand wedge he used in his first victory is in the Grill Room.

Other famous clubs donated include the 8-iron that Phil Mickelson used to set up the birdie on No. 18 that won the 2004 Masters and the 5-wood that Raymond Floyd hit all week on his second shots to par-5s that helped him win the 1976 Masters by eight shots.

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 ordavid.westin@augustachronicle.com.

 

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