Two of one mind in regard to National

Friday, April 01, 2011
By John Boyette
Sports Editor

Not long after Bobby Jones retired near the end of 1930, speculation began over what he would do next.

Bobby Jones drives on the unfinished Augusta National as Alister MacKenzie and Jones work on the course in April 1932.

(Special)

It wasn't long before the public found out.

In July 1931, banner headlines in newspapers across the country trumpeted the news: Jones was building a course in Augusta, and Alister MacKenzie would be the primary architect.

Clifford Roberts, a friend of Jones', had helped find an old nursery that contained 365 acres that looked to be suitable for a golf course.

While Jones could have anyone to serve as his architect, he chose MacKenzie, not Donald Ross, or any of the other leading East Coast architects.

Although no formal details of the meeting were announced, MacKenzie met with the Augusta National Golf Club committee at the Vanderbilt Hotel in New York on July 10. That's probably where he was offered, and accepted, a chance to design Jones' dream course. A couple of days after that meeting, Jones and MacKenzie played the Bayside course on Long Island that the architect had recently designed.

MacKenzie arrived in Augusta on July 14 for a three-day visit. Pictures in the next day's Augusta Chronicle show the two looking at drawings and walking the grounds of the future Augusta National.

MacKenzie came back in October that year, and he and Jones began routing the course.

Compared to today's standards, Augusta National was built with remarkable speed. MacKenzie arrived in March 1932 for a two-month visit, and during that time he shaped the greens. With the land cleared and the holes roughed out, Jones would hit shots and MacKenzie would observe. Adjustments were made as necessary.

According to an article written by O.B. Keeler in 1932, the two men got along famously.

"I suppose no two people ever agreed better -- on a golf course," Jones said. "Doctor MacKenzie and I tried each other out thoroughly. Our ideas seem to be synonymous."

MacKenzie left Augusta for England in May 1932. It was the last time he would see Augusta National.

Seeding was completed in late May, and the course opened for play in December. A formal opening was held in January 1933. The club, though, continued to struggle financially, and at one point an idea of holding a U.S. Open on the course was brought up. But it was decided that holding the national open during Augusta's hot summer months, not to mention logistics, would be impossible.

Jones and Roberts, though, came up with an idea for an invitation-only tournament. The first one was held in 1934, and eventually came to be known as the Masters.

His best course

MacKenzie never saw the finished Augusta National. He never saw a Masters played, nor did he get to experience the accolades from its players or its fans.

He died in January 1934, at his Pasatiempo home, two months before the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament.

Tom Doak, who oversaw the renovation of Pasatiempo, wrote that it was a special place because of its connection to MacKenzie.

"Pasatiempo is ranked among the 100 Greatest Courses in America, but its significance outweighs even that lofty status," Doak wrote. "Whereas MacKenzie never saw the finished versions of Augusta National, Royal Melbourne, or Crystal Downs, he lived the last four years of his life at Pasatiempo."

Roberts, who co-founded Augusta National with Jones, wrote that MacKenzie never saw the course fully covered with grass. MacKenzie often called it the "World's Wonder Inland Golf Course."

"He was quite ready, however, to declare the course to be his best, and he did so a number of times," Roberts wrote in The Story of the Augusta National Golf Club . "What a pity MacKenzie did not come to this country earlier or did not live for another ten years!"

Before his death, MacKenzie pressed Roberts for payment, but to no avail. According to David Owen, in his club-authorized book The Making of the Masters, the club finally issued two notes of $1,000 each in order to appease him.

Things were so dire that MacKenzie once wrote, "I have been reduced to playing golf with four clubs and a Woolworth ball."

To come up with some money, MacKenzie started writing his second book. The Spirit of St. Andrews , which included a foreword by Jones. Although it was finished in 1933 with the help of his stepson, Tony Haddock, the book was lost until his heirs discovered it and finally published it in 1995.

In the foreword, Jones summed up the essence of what he thought made MacKenzie great.

"Dr. MacKenzie has proved that it is entirely possible to construct a course that will provide interesting yet not unreasonable problems for every golfer according to his skill," Jones wrote.

If MacKenzie had lived long enough to attend some of the first Masters, it is likely the story of how he and Jones met would have been told.

While MacKenzie and Roberts butted heads over finances, from all accounts the architect and Jones were never in discord.

"He rendered me assistance of incalculable value. I am convinced that from no one else could I have obtained such help," MacKenzie wrote in his description of Augusta National that appeared in the first program. "Bob is not only a student of golf, but of golf courses as well, and while I had known him for years, I was amazed at his knowledge and clear recollection of almost all of the particularly famous golf holes in England and Scotland, as well as America."

Jones, as was his custom, deflected praise toward MacKenzie. In his last book, Golf Is My Game , Jones wrote: "There was never any question that he (MacKenzie) was the architect and I his advisor and consultant. No man learns to design a course simply by playing golf."

Jones often receives equal credit for designing Augusta National, but that is not the case. Owen said MacKenzie came up with the course's routing and positioned the bunkers and greens.

"Jones is sometimes given equal billing, or even first billing, but his role was more nearly that of a junior associate," Owen wrote.

Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or john.boyette@augustachronicle.com.