Clifford Roberts was known for his gruff exterior and stern demeanor in running all things associated with the Masters Tournament.
But he wasn’t always opposed to fun.
With Roberts’ backing, the Par-3 Contest was held for the first time in 1960. It was an immediate hit.
Designed as a fun event to let competitors blow off steam before the tournament proper, it also fits nicely into Augusta National Golf Club’s mission to grow the game.
The contest is held on the Wednesday before the tournament, and participation is optional. Players often invite their children, spouses or celebrities to be their caddies for a day.
Though most regular professional events hold pro-am tournaments, the Par-3 Contest is open to tournament competitors, noncompeting past champions and honorary invitees.
The winner of the contest receives a crystal bowl, and those closest to the pin on each hole receive prizes.
Mark O’Meara, the 1998 Masters champion, was one of three golfers to make aces in the 2014 event.
“This was the first time my wife, Merideth, has ever caddied for me, so it was pretty cool,” O’Meara said. “To make a hole-in-one with my wife on the bag, I guess she’ll either be getting the crystal or a new pair of shoes.”
Getting a ticket for Wednesday’s Par-3 Contest and practice round is now almost as difficult as obtaining a tournament badge. Interest has increased since tickets were first limited in 1995. ESPN
began televising the event in 2008.
After years of long-drive exhibitions and other contests, Roberts decided right away that a new tradition had been born.
“Due to the indicated popularity of this new type of preliminary event with the patrons and players, it is likely that it will be staged again next year on the day preceding the first round of the Masters Tournament,” Roberts said in The Augusta Chronicle.