It’s well-known that an amateur has never won the Masters Tournament, but a non-professional has been victorious at Augusta National Golf Club.
Fifty-five years ago, amateur Deane Beman – who served as PGA Tour commissioner from 1974 to 1994 – won the 1961 Par-3 Contest, outdueling Doug Ford for a one-stroke victory.
“I don’t remember much about my round,” Beman said, “but I still have the beautiful tea set that I received for winning.”
According to The Augusta Chronicle archives, Beman carded 22, making birdies on Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6 and 9. It was the second Par-3 Contest, after Sam Snead won the inaugural event in 1960.
As impressive as Beman’s victory was, it’s the story behind his tea set that he remembers most fondly.
“After I won, (PGA Tour Commissioner) Joe Dey mentioned to (Augusta National Chairman) Cliff Roberts that there may be a problem because the sterling silver tea set was extremely valuable,” Beman said. “Joe Dey said it could affect my amateur status because it was not a trophy of symbolic value.”
After speaking with Dey, Roberts told Beman to leave behind the tea set and that it would be mailed to him. About three weeks later, Beman received the tea set by mail, which had an engraving to honor his accomplishment.
“Mr. Roberts called and said, ‘Deane, it’s of symbolic value now!’” said Beman, laughing at the memory.
Beman played in 13 Masters from 1959
to 1973. His best finish was a tie for 19th in 1969.
When asked about his favorite memory of Augusta National, Beman thought back to 1959, the first year he competed.
“When I qualified for the Masters in 1959, Mr. (Bobby) Jones and Mr. Roberts asked me to have lunch with them at the clubhouse,” Beman recalled. “Well, we’re making conversation and Mr. Jones says, ‘So, this is your first time here, right?’ I said, ‘No sir, I was here last year.’ Mr. Jones said, ‘Darn, I didn’t see you here last year!’ All I said was, ‘Well, I hope not.’”
In 1958, Beman was playing a collegiate tournament in Miami when members of his University of Maryland golf team decided to stop by Augusta on their way home. With the Masters taking place, Beman and his teammates jumped a fence near hole No. 4 and watched a day of golf before returning to College Park, Md.
“Mr. Jones and Mr. Roberts both got a good laugh about that one,” Beman said. “I’m just thankful security never caught us.”