Butler Cabin is the place where dreams come true.
If you don’t believe it, just listen to the stories from a couple of former roommates at the University of Houston.
Fred Couples and Jim Nantz had rehearsed the green jacket ceremony that takes place on live television at the end of each Masters Tournament in their dorm room. Couples aspired to be a professional golfer, and Nantz had dreams of a broadcasting career.
On April 12, 1992, Couples caught a break when his tee shot at the par-3 12th hit the bank but did not roll back into Rae’s Creek, and he went on to a two-shot victory over Raymond Floyd. Before he knew it, he was headed to Butler Cabin and the ceremony that included Nantz, who was the host for CBS’ Masters coverage.
“I remember being awfully nervous playing, and winning, and then being more nervous going in there,” Couples said. “Because it’s a spot you’re never really used to going. You win other tournaments, whether it’s a major or not, and having Jimmy in there was a little settling.”
It was a proud moment for Nantz, too.
“That’s the happiest moment of my career, seeing my buddy win the green jacket like we rehearsed,” he said.
It would have been easy for the two to become emotional, but Couples said he was able to maintain his composure “because I didn’t look at him.”
“I walked out of there that day and felt I had grown as a broadcaster,” Nantz said. “I had taken on a really potentially difficult situation and had it come off the way it should have.”
The Masters first awarded a green jacket in 1949. In 1960, a television interview with tournament co-founder Clifford Roberts and the new champion became a staple of the broadcast.
In 1964, Butler Cabin was built and named for club member Thomas B. Butler. It was designed with a TV studio in mind, and the basement was large enough to accommodate the necessary equipment.
The cabin was first used as a TV studio in 1965, the year Jack Nicklaus set the 72-hole scoring record as he rolled to a nine-shot win over Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
For more than 50 years now, Butler Cabin is the first place TV viewers hear from the champion and see the green jacket presented. The made-for-TV ceremony is followed by the official donning of the jacket on the putting green before the members, golf officials and fans.
For most champions, the trip to Butler Cabin is a blur.
“You can imagine, two of those you’ve walked off a playoff and you’re in there two minutes later,” three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo said. “You’re dealing with that, first time you’ve won, you’re in a playoff, the emotion of the Greg (Norman) battle, you’re not yourself in there. You go into silent mode. It’s not the place to start chatting away.”
Faldo has the unique perspective of being a former champion who now works for CBS as lead golf analyst. He and Nantz begin the Saturday and Sunday telecasts from Butler Cabin.
“The first time I went in there, my very first year at CBS, I suddenly realized I hadn’t been back here,” Faldo said. “You don’t recognize it. There’s cameras and wires running. There’s technicians. You don’t even notice it in those days (as a player). Now it’s a studio. I got quite emotional because suddenly I realized it’s the first time I’ve been back since 1996.”
Winning the green jacket is always a thrill, but receiving it from a top player like Nicklaus can be a treat.
“It’s very special to have the best player in the game put the coat on you, very special,” said Tommy Aaron, the 1973 winner who received his jacket from the Golden Bear.
Aaron hadn’t quite won it when he finished, and he had to sweat it out in Butler Cabin with Nicklaus, Roberts and others as J.C. Snead finished up.
“Nothing to do but sit there and watch the tournament play out,” Aaron said.
The first time Tom Watson won, he received a jacket that didn’t quite match his size of 42 regular. Augusta National usually sizes up potential champions, but instead gave him a 46 long, Watson said.
“I remember the jacket they gave me in 1977 was about six inches too long in the sleeves,” said Watson, demonstrating the size difference with his hands. “They didn’t assess my size very well. It didn’t matter to me.”
Butler Cabin is also used throughout tournament days for interviews with top players.
Couples, who has made a few trips there, put it in perspective.
“It’s the only spot to be in Augusta on Sunday night,” he said.