A Brief History of the Masters Tournament

After Sergio Garcia has finally returned home a Masters champ, we thought it might be fun to take a trip down history lane with the most prestigious tournament in golf.

The Augusta National tournament is rich in juicy golf lore, and unlike any other, it is held at the same location every year without fail.

The Masters is still to this day the only major that utilizes sudden death to determine a winner in the unlikely event of a tie, and is home to the traditional green jacket, which is awarded to the winner ever year. That tradition began in 1949, when Sam Snead became the first Masters champion to receive one.

Originated by Clifford Roberts, and golf legend Bobby Jones in the early 1930s, the Augusta National course was designed by Jones and famed course architect, Alister MacKenzie. It was constructed atop Fruitland Nurseries and took less than two years to build, opening for limited play in 1932.

Jones and Roberts (an investment dealer and golf administrator) initially had some trouble finding private members and funding the club, considering America was in the throes of the Great Depression. They believed that bringing a tournament to the course would greatly improve its fate. When their attempts to acquire the U.S. Open failed, they decided to stage their own annual tournament, which is where The Masters was born.

In spring 1934, Jones officially made his grand comeback to competitive golf at the Augusta National Golf Club, which became the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament.

It is still uncertain to golf historians how Jones met MacKenzie. “This is one of the great mysteries, but most of the MacKenziephiles believe they met sooner, perhaps as early as 1926 when Jones was in St. Andrews and MacKenzie had completed his rendering of the Old Course,” golf writer Geoff Schakelford said. “But we don’t really know for sure.”

Jones started formulating ideas for the perfect course, and read a copy of MacKenzie’s book on architecture, where he references 13 principles that he holds dear, including natural preservation, and encouraging strategy alongside skill. These two beliefs were where he and Jones completely agreed, and are definitely emulated at Augusta National.

Check out some impressive black and white photography taken at the 2017 Masters for ESPN here.

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