Bobby Jones might not recognize some aspects of the Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club if he were still around.
But he would surely appreciate the role both play in golf today.
The golf legend, who was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1902, is the greatest amateur golfer of all time. His legacy continues with Augusta National and the Masters.
It was Jones and co-founder Clifford Roberts who had the vision for a magnificent golf course and the gathering of friends that became the game’s signature event.
His grandson, Bob Jones IV, recalled the first time he visited Augusta National in the early 1970s. He arrived at night, so he wasn’t able to take in the beauty of the course until the next morning.
“I got up and I went outside Jones Cabin and I saw Augusta National for the first time,” Jones recalled in a 2010 interview. “And you could have knocked me over with a feather, because for the first time in my life I realized the magnitude of who my grandfather was.
“I realized this place existed in his mind before it was put on paper. It just blew me away, and I’ve never looked at him the same way since.”
Bobby Jones died in December 1971, and he witnessed first-hand the growth of both club and tournament.
Both have prospered in the 40 years since his death, perhaps more than Jones could have imagined.
The course has been lengthened more than 500 yards to combat advances in golf technology, but at the same it retains the shot values that Jones intended when he helped Alister MacKenzie design the course more than 80 years ago.
The club has flourished financially, a far cry from the meager beginnings when Jones and Roberts practically begged prospective members to join. Now, Augusta National can afford to buy up huge chunks of real estate to offer patrons free parking.
And the tournament itself is larger than life, with interest from fans growing each year. At the time of Jones’ death, TV coverage was limited to the final few holes and just for a few hours for the final two rounds. Although still limited, there is now TV coverage each round and plenty of online options as well.
Perhaps Jones would be most proud of the role the club and tournament is playing in helping grow the game. Through various initiatives, including the creation of amateur events in Asia and South America, the Masters is trying to “create heroes” for future generations.
The tournament’s foundation is taking that a step further this year with the Drive, Chip & Putt national finals that will take place April 6. Created for golfers ages 7-15, a total of 88 boys and girls will compete at Augusta National on the Sunday before Masters Week.
There’s no doubt that Bobby Jones would approve.