As the tournament’s founders begin to decline, the mythology around The Masters only grows stronger

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a five-part TGJ Podcast series which chronicles the origin, evolution and inner-workings of The Masters. You can find previously published episodes here. The series is voiced by David Owen and based on his best-selling book, The Making of the Masters. Below you can find a transcript of this entire episode.

Part 5 | The Making of The Masters | Monuments The Golfer's Journal Podcast

Few people remember today, but for two years in the late thirties Augusta National was the home of a second professional golf tournament. In 1937, at a meeting held in a hotel in Augusta, a committee of aging professionals established a senior division of the P.G.A. and decided to hold a national championship for players aged fifty-five or older. Augusta National offered to host the event. The inaugural P.G.A. Seniors’ Championship took place that year on the last day of November and the first two days of December. Alfred Bourne, the vice president of the club, donated $1,500 for a silver trophy and agreed to cover the competitors’ bar tab (which amounted to not quite two hundred dollars). “It was a delightful occasion,” Allie Berckmans, the club’s general manager, wrote shortly afterward in a letter to a member, “and it did one good to see these old fellows enjoy the sport. They didn’t give a rap about the prize money, all they wanted was to try to win the cup donated by Mr. Bourne and have a good time.” The winner was Jock Hutchison. The tournament returned to Augusta National the following year, when it was shortened to thirty-six holes because of rain. The winner that year was Fred McLeod, who beat Otto Hackbarth in an eighteen-hole playoff. In 1939, the Seniors’ Championship found a regular sponsor and moved to Florida.

The club had two main interests in hosting the senior event. The first was that the tournament, though small, brought additional prestige to the club and the course at a time when prestige was deeply coveted. The second was that the tournament gave the club a new opportunity to fulfill what Roberts and Jones increasingly viewed as one of its responsibilities. They had founded the Masters partly out of financial necessity, but they had also had a more idealistic goal of helping to build the game. Hosting the senior event, they believed, was both an opportunity and an obligation. As a result, Augusta National can be viewed as having helped give rise to the earliest ancestor of the Senior P.G.A. Tour. (Hutchison and McLeod continued to compete in the Masters until 1959, and in 1963 became the inaugural “honorary starters,” teeing off before the opening round. Hutchison continued in that role through 1973, McLeod through 1976. There were no honorary starters during the next four years, then Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson resumed the custom in 1981, Nelson taking part until 2002, though Ken Venturi took Nelson’s place for one year, 1983, when Nelson was ill. Sarazen’s last turn as honorary starter was in April 1999, shortly before his death. Sam Snead joined the group in 1984, and took part until his death in May 2002.)

A similar sense of purpose was evident in the club’s involvement, in the early forties, in a proposal to build a golf hall of fame. In 1941, two new Augusta National members—James Middleton Cox, a newspaper publisher, who years earlier had served three terms as the governor of Ohio, and his son, James Jr.—proposed erecting a large statue of Bobby Jones near the clubhouse, not far from what would later become the site of the Eisenhower Cabin. Jones and Roberts were deeply unenthusiastic about the monument, and both were relieved when the Coxes, at Roberts’s suggestion, shifted their attention to the possibility of building a hall of fame on club property. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum had opened in Cooperstown, New York, two years before, and the Professional Golfers’ Association had responded by inducting several legendary golfers, among them Jones, into its own hall. But the P.G.A.’s hall as yet had neither a building nor a plan for one.

Roberts embraced the idea and suggested several sites. His favorite, initially, was an elevated six-acre parcel roughly two hundred and fifty yards to the east of the tenth green. This was one of the building lots that the club had been trying to sell for a decade. Among the advantages of the site, Roberts wrote to Jones, was that visitors to the hall “would have four good views of the course instead of one.” He also liked the idea that “members using the golf course would have a good view of an attractive building”—though from a distance.

Roberts was especially concerned that golf’s hall of fame should be more compelling than baseball’s. In a lengthy letter to Olmsted Bros., written a few days after the 1941 Masters, he described a number of features that he thought ought to be included. “The more I think about it,” he wrote, “the more I feel that a building that houses a few plaques or a few bronze busts and that offers nothing else to the public, would prove to be a dull, worthless type of project, having no excuse for its existence except to attempt to glorify the leaders of golf. And I doubt that very much would be added to their fame.” One wing of the building, he continued, could contain “automatic movie machines,” which, for a quarter, would show instructional films by the game’s great teachers. Another wing could serve as both a comprehensive library and a bookstore. Visitors would be able to buy souvenir booklets, postcards depicting the Augusta National course, and “popular-priced copies” of some of the books in the library. Roberts’s boldest suggestion was to construct “a miniature Augusta National course surrounding the Hall of Fame which would be a practical pitch and putt course and could be made a most attractive part of the landscaping scheme.” The holes would be scaled-down replicas of the holes on the big course. He proposed a fee of twenty-five cents per round. He also suggested building an “especially attractive” public driving range based on a plan that Jones had come across and thought highly of.

Despite Roberts’s enthusiasm, the project never came to anything, and there was no further discussion of building a miniature Augusta National. The Coxes lost interest in the hall of fame, the club was not in a financial position to follow through on its own, and news from Europe and the Pacific soon made other concerns more pressing.

In a letter to the members in 1939, Roberts wrote, emphatically, “I do hope that I can count on everyone receiving this letter, keeping in mind as a live issue the whole year round the matter of getting desirable candidates to make application for membership.” He enclosed several membership blanks, and he expected members to make use of them. The effort paid off. The following year, the club’s total membership exceeded one hundred for the first time, and Roberts was able to pay down the club’s mortgage. For the first time since 1934, he had solid reasons to believe that the club’s most significant financial difficulties might finally be behind it.

There were other good signs as well. In 1939, the club for the first time sold more Masters tickets than it had in 1934, the year of Jones’s return. The tournament was still unprofitable, strictly speaking, because Roberts always spent more on course improvements and new tournament facilities than the club netted from ticket sales. But the Masters was beginning to produce operating profits of a few thousand dollars a year, and consequently Roberts’s budget for improvements was growing. He felt confident about the future, partly because ticket sales had grown stronger despite six years of bad luck with the weather. (Five times during the first nine tournaments, bad weather forced postponement of a day’s play.) In 1939 he wrote, “I think I can see good prospects of eventually building up a gate of $15,000 or more”—a target that represented a fifty percent improvement over that year’s results.

Most encouraging of all was the arrival of a new generation of golf stars-chief among them Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Ben Hogan. One or another of those three players would dominate the game for the next two decades, until the rise of Arnold Palmer in the late fifties, and the Masters would be a pivotal event for each of them. (Nelson was the first to emerge. He won in 1937, and then finished fifth, seventh, third, second, and first in the next five Masters.) Augusta National, despite its decidedly modest beginnings and continuing financial difficulties, was becoming a leading institution in American golf. “While we may not have expected it originally,” Roberts wrote in 1939, “we have created a tournament of such importance that we are bound to see that it continues.”

The iconic grip of Ben Hogan. Photo: Anthony Ravielli

And then came the war. Just as the club and the tournament finally seemed to be taking hold, the world turned upside down. To Roberts, the crisis must have seemed almost inevitable. In the past, every time his life or career had seemed to resolve itself, something devastating had upset it. And now, at what he had thought was the end of a decade-long struggle, he realized that a bigger challenge lay ahead.

Jones, for his part, was eager to continue for as long as possible not only with the Masters but also with the club’s normal activities. “My own notion,” he wrote to Roberts a little more than two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, “is that we should keep going until we strike a definite snag.” Roberts agreed. Both men soon realized, though, that the inevitable snag was not far in the future. Even if the they could somehow manage to keep the club open for another season, conducting the Masters in the usual manner would be unseemly at a time of growing international crisis. They discussed a number of alternatives: paying Masters prizes in defense bonds, donating tournament proceeds to the Red Cross, encouraging members to make individual contributions to the Red Cross through the club, securing pledges from members to give a certain amount of money to the Red Cross every time a competitor scored a birdie or an eagle. (That last idea had been inspired by the radio program Information, Please, in connection with which the American Tobacco Co., the sponsor, gave twenty-five dollars to the Will Rogers Fund every time a contestant missed a question.)

Roberts then had the idea of using a portion of the tournament’s proceeds to make golf available to soldiers stationed at Camp Gordon (now known as Fort Gordon), which was the largest military installation in Augusta. Jones thought that was “a swell idea.” In a letter to an officer of the club, Jones wrote, “The idea appeals to me as novel and a means of supplying nighttime entertainment as well as giving the boys a taste of something they can fall back on after they get out of the army. It will be a service to the game of golf as well as to the trainees.” In a press release the club announced, ”A man in an army training camp can’t come to a golf course-at least, not often. So golf is coming to him.” The club arranged, as a “gift of the 1942 Masters Golf Tournament,” to build a practice range and a huge putting green at Camp Gordon. The club donated balls, clubs, tee markers, flags, floodlights, turf from its own property, and maintenance equipment and supplies. Shortly before the tournament, it also sent a group of Masters competitors to the base to conduct an exhibition. Later, the army built (again with the assistance of the club) a small nine-hole course of its own. Roberts and Jones urged other clubs to set up similar programs. A number did, and the United States Golf Association credited the Augusta National with starting the trend.

The 1942 Masters was played in this unsettled environment. Against all expectations, it provided the most exciting finish since Sarazen’s miracle win in 1935. Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan tied at eight under par after seventy-two holes; the following day, in an eighteen-hole playoff, Nelson shot 69 (despite beginning with a double-bogey six on the first hole) and beat Hogan by a stroke. It was an outcome that came close to defining the state of the game at that particular moment, and it marked the real arrival of the Masters as a truly significant competition.

Two days later, Roberts sent effusive letters to both men. “I know you will not mind my saying that I will always remember this year’s Tournament as being the one won by both Byron and Ben,” he wrote to Nelson. ” … To my way of thinking, you fellows put on one of the greatest shows that golf has ever known and I wish I could have some more adequate means at my disposal to express our appreciation.” Along with each player’s letter he enclosed a check for two hundred dollars, “which you may consider as being extra prize money.” The bonuses added up to slightly more than the club’s net proceeds from additional tickets sold for the playoff.

The celebration following the 1942 tournament was muted, however. Roberts and Jones now realized that the club was going to have to shut down for the duration, and a number of members assumed that it would never open again. More than a few believed that Nelson and Hogan’s playoff would turn out to be the last competitive round ever to be played at Augusta National. As Roberts himself wrote ten months later, “the Lord only knows when we will again operate as a golf club.” Roberts announced the club’s closing in a letter to the members on October 1, 1942, shortly before what would have been the beginning of the ninth full playing season. By that time, travel had become difficult, Augusta’s hotels were about to be taken over by the army, and many of the club’s employees and members (among them Jones) were already in uniform. “Some months ago we cut down our staff to just a skeleton maintenance crew,” Roberts reported, “but the golf course and the plants are being properly cared for and we can prepare to open just as soon as the war’s end is definitely in sight.” He suspended dues and appealed to members for voluntary contributions and loans to cover the cost of maintaining the club in a state of suspended animation, a cost that Roberts estimated at $12,000 a year. Toward the end of 1941, the club had taken the precaution of laying in a large supply of golf balls. Now they wouldn’t be needed.

In 1942, Jones suggested to Roberts that the club might both contribute to the war effort and improve its financial situation by raising cattle on the golf course during the period when the club was shut down. The idea was that the cattle would keep the Bermuda grass under control while fattening themselves to the point where they could be sold at a profit. One of the club’s members had a son who knew about livestock, and he determined that the club had enough grass to support two hundred or two hundred and fifty head. Roberts went ahead with the idea, and suggested that the club might also want to try raising turkeys, geese, fish, “and what-not.” (In the end, only cattle and turkeys were tried.)

During the war years, Roberts supervised activities at the club from a distance. He lived in an apartment at the Park Lane Hotel, in New York, and worked at the investment firm Reynolds & Co., where he had become a partner in the spring of 1941. Business was slow. In his book about the club, he wrote that the war years were the second of two significant “lean periods” in his career, the first having been the dark years following the Crash. Charles Yates, who had joined the club in 1940 and was in the navy during the war, remembers seeing Roberts several times in that period. The destroyer on which Yates served had been hit during the invasion of Anzio in 1944, and had come to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs. Roberts invited Yates and his wife, Dorothy—who had come to New York to be with her husband—to stay in his apartment whenever he was traveling on business. He also visited Yates at the shipyard and took him and Dorothy out for meals. “Cliff was so different, if you knew him, from the way he seemed from afar,” Yates recalls. “One time, he took us out to lunch, and afterwards we were walking up Broadway, and in front of us was a couple that was moving awful slow. Suddenly, Cliff grabbed Dorothy’s hand and started skipping with her. They skipped right by this couple, and as they went past, Cliff turned to them and said, ‘Honk-honk! Honk-honk!’ ” Yates says that Roberts went out of his way to make life easier for him and his wife at a difficult time. “He was a man who kept so much within himself,” Yates recalls, “but he was extraordinarily kind.”

Toward the end of 1943, Roberts reported to the members that the club’s agricultural efforts were going well. The cattle herd was about two hundred strong, and the plan was to purchase another two hundred head as soon as the original animals could be sold. “The Club also purchased 1,423 day-old turkeys and was successful in raising 1,004 of them,” Roberts wrote. “These turkeys will soon be ready for market but over 100 are to be retained for Christmas distribution to our members—one to each member.” (These Christmas presents were a hit. A member who had received one wrote to Roberts, “It was a peach all right and doubly welcome in these days of tight rationing.”) The club also harvested pecans from its own trees. It donated half the crop, through the wife of Grantland Rice, to an army canteen, and it sold the other half in ten-pound bags to members. There was talk of growing corn and peanuts in a field now used as a parking lot for the Masters, but that idea was abandoned as unlikely to succeed.

Despite Roberts’s enthusiasm, the livestock experiment didn’t turn out as planned. A ceiling had been imposed on the price of turkeys but not on that of feed, and the market for beef was hurt by a sudden cattle glut resulting from drought conditions in the West. By the fall of 1944, the club had lost about $5,000 on the beef operation, not including the cost of damage to the course and its plantings. (The damage had been caused by what Roberts described as “the voracious appetite of the cattle.”) The loss was partly offset by a profit on the turkeys. But Roberts concluded, in a letter to the members, that “we have a better chance as a golf club rather than as live-stock feeders.”

Restoring the course to playable condition began in late 1944, when the end of the war began to seem imminent. Military use of local hotels had begun to slacken, and Roberts had calculated that the cost of returning the course to playing condition would no longer be significantly greater than the cost of continuing to maintain it as it was. He announced that the club would reopen on December 23, 1944, and that the course would be ready for play sometime later.

Much of the restoration work on the course was done during a six-month period by forty-two German prisoners of war, who were being detained at Camp Gordon, in Augusta, and were available for hire as day laborers by local businesses. The prisoners had been part of an engineering crew in Rommel’s Afrika Korps. They had been surprised, upon arriving in America, to find that New York was still standing, because they had been told by Nazi propagandists that German bombers had leveled the city. The club arranged for transportation to pick them up at Camp Gordon each morning and return them at the end of the day. A local member, who used to bring them fruit and visit with them while they worked, says the army had sent them out “mostly just to give them something to do.”

In Africa, the German soldiers had built bridges for Rommel’s tanks. At the Augusta National, they built a similar bridge over Rae’s Creek near the thirteenth tee. It was a truss bridge made of wood, and it was marked by a wooden sign on which the soldiers carved an inscription. The bridge, which is visible in a few old photographs, either washed away in a flood in the early fifties or was taken down in 1958 to make way for a stone bridge dedicated to Byron Nelson. (The Ben Hogan Bridge, which crosses Rae’s Creek near the twelfth green, was built and dedicated at the same time.)

The photographer Frank Christian, in his book Augusta National and the Masters, recalls spending summer afternoons on the course during this period when he was a young boy. “[M]y older brother, Toni, and I would gather our playmates and walk the few blocks from our house to the inviting shores of Rae’s Creek, where we had discovered the ideal swimming hole in front of the twelfth green,” Christian writes. “We would take rocks and dam the creek to create several deep holes within the pond, just perfect for running jumps taken from the high side of the creek …. After swimming, a great part of our fun was to throw cow biscuits at one another and chase the cows up and down the fairways.” Fred Bennett, who would later become a caddie at the club and then caddie master, also came to Rae’s Creek to swim and fish. “I remember those cows very well,” he recalls. “And when the war was over you could tell they’d been there, because all over the fairways there were circles of bright green grass about a foot across.”

In the improving financial climate shortly before the war, a group of club members, led by Bartlett Arkell, had donated $50,000 toward a major renovation of the clubhouse. This was a great stroke of fortune. “If the rebuilding of the clubhouse had not been done prior to World War II,” Roberts later wrote, “there is no way of telling when it might ever have been accomplished.” He also estimated that the renovation would have cost at least four times as much if it had been postponed.

The final step in the project was the conversion of the building’s attic into minimal sleeping quarters for six men, with streams of sunlight provided during the day by the building’s cupola. This dormitory, which came to be called the Crow’s Nest, was the first overnight lodgings available on the grounds. (For a time, some members also stayed in a house on Washington Road, just east of Magnolia Lane, which had been owned by one of the Berckmanses. The house was later torn down.) The Crow’s Nest—which today consists of a comfortable sitting room, four partially enclosed sleeping areas containing a total of five beds, and a bathroom—was completed at around the time the club reopened. It is still sometimes used by members and guests, although the steepness of the staircase limits its popularity among those with unreliable knees. During the Masters, it is offered to any of the tournament’s amateur competitors who wish to stay there; at night, they are inevitably drawn downstairs to thumb through the books in the library, look at the photographs on the walls, stand for a while in the champions’ locker room, and worry about teeing off the next morning in front of the multitude gathered around the first tee. Among players who slept in the Crow’s Nest as amateurs and went on to win the tournament as professionals are Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus, Mark O’Meara, Craig Stadler, and Tiger Woods.

Leonard Kamsler Augusta National The Masters locker room
The champions’ locker room at Augusta National, circa 1976. Photo: Leonard Kamsler

Construction of the Crow’s Nest was followed by what became an ambitious plan to add sleeping facilities. The quality and availability of local hotel rooms was increasingly unpredictable, and Roberts believed that the club needed to become more self-sufficient. In 1945, a member named Edward J. Barber, who ran the Barber Steamship Lines in New York, surprised Roberts by offering to lend the club $100,000 on extremely favorable terms and to leave the club enough money in his will to cancel the debt. (Upon his death in 1953 he actually bequeathed twice as much.) Barber explained that his years as a golfer were running out, and he wanted the club’s facilities to improve while he still had time to enjoy them. The end of the war also brought an influx of new members, more than offsetting a decline that had followed the closing of the club in 1942. By the fall of 1945, the club’s roster reached approximately one hundred and thirty-an all-time high. The situation was so promising that Roberts for the first time spoke of imposing a membership limit, which he placed at two hundred.

The unexpectedly large treasury provided by gifts, loans, and initiation fees enabled the club to embark immediately on an ambitious building program, which Roberts had previously thought would take many years to complete. The club added residential suites, a golf shop, a kitchen, and a formal dining room, which was called the Trophy Room. (The Trophy Room was originally intended to house “such souvenirs as may have a direct connection with the Augusta National and its members,” and so to serve as a modest private version of the abandoned hall of fame; the only souvenirs kept there today are a set of Jones’s clubs, some clubs donated by early tournament winners, and the ball with which Gene Sarazen made his double-eagle.) The club also built the first of a series of residential cottages, which are usually called cabins and of which there are now ten.

The first two cottages to be built were named for Burton F. Peek and Bobby Jones. Peek, who joined the club in 1934, was the chairman of Deere & Co. and was once described by Roberts as “our candidate for top honors as the man who hit the most golf balls in one lifetime.” The Jones Cabin, which is situated to the left of the tenth tee, is still decorated much as it was in Jones’s lifetime. The sportswriter Charles Price used to visit Jones there during the Masters when Jones had grown too ill even to observe the tournament from a golf cart. “We would sit at a card table next to a window,” Price wrote in Golf Digest in 1991. ”A curtain prevented spectators from looking in but allowed Bob to peer out.” The cottage has a small front porch that can accommodate just a few chairs. It has always been an extremely pleasant spot from which to watch a sunset on a late-spring evening.

Seven additional cottages were built over the years. The best known are the Eisenhower Cabin, which was built in 1953 (and will be discussed in the next chapter), and the Butler Cabin, which was named for Thomas B. Butler and was built in 1965. In the basement of the Butler Cabin is a large, open room that is used as a television studio during Masters broadcasts. Interviews with the tournament winner and others are conducted in front of a large stone fireplace at one end of the room. The space looks intimate on television but is actually cavernous, since it was designed to accommodate cameras, lights, electronic equipment, and several miles of cable. Before the Butler Cabin was built, televised interviews with the winner were conducted in Roberts’s bedroom, sometimes with his extravagantly printed floor-to-ceiling curtains billowing in the background. At the end of the broadcast in 1960, Roberts angrily turned around on the couch to correct a CBS correspondent who had just referred to the tournament’s venue as “the Augusta National Country Club.” Roberts barked, “Golf club. Not a country club.” It was a distinction that was extremely important to him and one that he was always careful to maintain.

The last cottage to be built was named for Jackson Stephens and was built in 1969. Stephens, who served as the club’s chairman from 1991 until 1998, recalls that Roberts brought up the subject one evening as they were walking along a path that connects all the cabins. “Cliff said, ‘If you’ll underwrite it, I’ll get it built this summer,’ and I said I would,” Stephens says. “But I had never won an argument with him, so I said, ‘You know, Cliff, I love to swim, and I expect I’ll be spending a lot of time in that house, so I’d like to have a swimming pool underneath it.’ Oh, God, he hated that idea. He felt that a swimming pool had no place at a golf club. We went back and forth and back and forth, and it kind of became a thing with me—and Cliff finally acquiesced. Now, I no more wanted a swimming pool than I wanted a billy goat. I just wanted to win an argument with Cliff. So I relented as soon as he had agreed, and he was greatly relieved.”

Among the many decisions that had to be made after the war was whether to revive the Masters. It was not necessarily a foregone conclusion. In October 1945, in a letter to the club’s thirty local members, Roberts pointed out that there were many difficulties, among them the limited number of hotel rooms. The Bon Air had changed management, and other accommodations were scarce. “For my part,” Roberts wrote, ”I’d like to see the Augusta National do its part to keep Augusta’s resort business alive by continuing the Masters Tournament. I’d also like to see our Tournament continue to serve the game of golf; but the future of the Club—as a private organization—is by no means dependent upon the Tournament. Rather, the Masters is a public event that belongs to the city of Augusta.” Roberts concluded his letter by listing what he believed to be the club’s only possible courses of action. There were three: The first was to put pressure on the Bon Air to make improvements in its facilities and its services, while also stepping up efforts to sell tickets locally; the second was to postpone resumption of the tournament until 1947, by which time the hotel situation might have resolved itself; the third was to “relinquish the Masters name to some other city, and not bother about the tournaments.”

Roberts’s letter may have been partly a bluff intended to stir up the local members, who would have to assume much of the responsibility for selling tickets and putting the course back into shape. If that was Roberts’s intention, he was successful; within a month, the club was fully committed to moving ahead.

Roberts’s investment business by that time had increased to the point where he could no longer devote as much attention as he once had to the Masters or the club. Many tournament preparations became the responsibility of James Searle, who had served as the club’s manager since before the war. The list of his chores, which Roberts sent by mail from New York, was lengthy: the underground telephone lines, which linked the scoreboards and crisscrossed the course, had to be tested and repaired; the main scoreboard had to be found, cleaned up, and reinstalled (Roberts couldn’t remember where it had been stored); all the old signs had to be found and repainted; the condition of the rest rooms had to be determined and dealt with; a printer had to be found for tickets, badges, and various publications; press releases had to be written; contestants had to be invited. That last task was made difficult by the fact that the U.S.G.A. had held neither the Open nor the Amateur since 1941, and the Royal and Ancient had not held the British Open since 1939. The pool of qualifiers, therefore, was unusually small. Roberts suggested appointing a special committee to make up the difference.

Despite the many challenges, the 1946 Masters went off on schedule and ran smoothly. The winner was Herman Keiser, a relatively unknown professional from Springfield, Missouri, who had once worked as an assistant to Horton Smith. The players called Keiser “the Missouri Mortician,” because his long face was usually cast in a darkly gloomy expression. After two rounds, Keiser, at seven under par, was five strokes clear of the field. He maintained that margin with a 71 on Saturday. On Sunday, he was erratic on the first nine, made eight consecutive pars on the second nine, and bogeyed the final hole, for a 74. Hogan, who had begun five shots behind, came to the eighteenth knowing he needed a birdie to win and a par to tie. He hit his second shot twelve feet from the hole—then three-putted, including a miss from two and a half feet. He finished second by a stroke. (Among those who witnessed Hogan’s miss was a fifteen-year-old girl named Pierrine Baker, whose boyfriend had lifted her up so she could see over the heads of the spectators in front of them. Her boyfriend was Hootie Johnson, also fifteen, who is now the chairman of the club. They have been married for nearly fifty years.)

Several times in the last ten years, Keiser, who is now in his eighties, has made accusations concerning what he says was a conspiracy to derail his victory in 1946. In various magazine articles and a book, he has been quoted as saying that two prominent members of the club had each bet $50,000 on Hogan and therefore didn’t want Keiser to win; that the club on Saturday paired him with Sam Snead, who was twelve shots behind him, in the hopes that Snead’s large gallery would distract him; that for the same reason the club on Sunday paired him with Byron Nelson, who was eight shots behind him; that he and Nelson were sent off in the middle of the pack rather than in the final pairing in the final round in order to place him at a disadvantage; and that Hogan, as the club’s favorite, was given the last tee time. Keiser has also said that he had assumed he would be teeing off last on Sunday and that he would have missed his starting time if someone hadn’t rushed into the clubhouse while he was eating lunch to warn him that he was about to be called to the tee. “Someone didn’t want me to win,” he has said—and some sportswriters have taken him at his word.

Keiser’s contention that two prominent members had placed gargantuan wagers on Hogan and that the club conspired with them to protect their money is impossible to check directly, but all of his other accusations can be tested against the record—and none of them is supported by the facts. The third-round leader in the Masters today plays in the final pairing on Sunday, but he didn’t in the old days. In Keiser’s era, the leader played much earlier, in a featured pairing that teed off in the early afternoon. Roberts explained the rationale in 1956 in a letter to Byron Nelson: “The people who drive great distances [to watch the tournament], ranging as high as 200 miles or more, are not going to be willing to make those long trips unless they can arrive at Augusta around noon, get a bite of lunch, and then see the most interesting personalities perform in the afternoon.” The tournament had operated that way from the beginning, and it continued to do so for more than twenty years after the war. In the final round in 1934, for example, Horton Smith (the third round leader and eventual winner) teed off at 12:58, ninety-eight minutes before the final group; twelve years later, Herman Keiser (the third-round leader and eventual winner) teed off at 1:12, ninety-six minutes before the final group. The first tournament leader to play in the final pairing on Sunday was Billy Casper, in 1969. (He finished in a three-way tie for second.)

Why did Hogan tee off last in 1946? He didn’t. Despite Keiser’s recollection, the final pairing that year consisted of Ralph Guldahl (who was thirty-one shots out of the lead) and Johnny Palmer (who was twenty shots out). The last few pairings in the early years were typically assigned to players who were either hopelessly out of the running or were notoriously slow—a practice that prevented deliberate or struggling golfers from holding up the leaders. Hogan, who was paired with Jimmy Demaret in 1946, teed off nearly an hour before the final group.

Nor was there anything remotely unusual about Keiser’s pairings in the last two rounds. Pairings in the early years were not based on scores, and the leader was typically grouped with a player from well back in the pack. Horton Smith in 1934 played his final round with Denny Shute, the British Open champion, who stood ten shots behind him. Jimmy Demaret, who won in 1947, played his final round with Bobby Locke, the top international player at that time, who was nine shots back. Final-round pairings with the leaders in those days were essentially ceremonial. Byron Nelson did the honors four times in the first ten tournaments after the war, and he brought home the winner all four times. The only tournaments in which he didn’t play with the third-round leader were ones in which he himself was in contention—and on one of those occasions, in 1954, his playing companion won anyway. That was Sam Snead, who beat Ben Hogan (the third-round leader) in an eighteen-hole playoff. If the club had really wanted Keiser to lose, they could have greatly improved their odds by pairing him with anyone but Nelson.

Keiser’s accusation about a huge bet by two members—whom he has never named—is impossible to check. But his contention that the club tried to alter the outcome of the tournament in order to protect their wager is easy to dismiss. Beginning in 1934, the club had participated indirectly in the operation of a public Masters auction pool, or calcutta—a standard feature at golf tournaments in that era—which was held at the Bon Air Hotel; there were numerous other pools as well, including some at the club itself. (The last Masters calcutta conducted at Augusta National was held in 1952.) But Roberts always distinguished those popular activities—in which he himself sometimes participated—from professional gambling, which he referred to as “banditry” and fought for years. One of his complaints about the Bon Air after the war concerned his conviction that the hotel had (as he put it in a letter) “made space available to professional gamblers,” whose activities he believed were a threat to the game. Any attempt to skew the outcome of the tournament by tinkering with the pairings would have had to be approved by him. The idea that he would have risked the destruction of the Masters and the club in order to preserve the bankrolls of a pair of members, whose alleged wager would have amounted to ten times the purse of the tournament, is preposterous. If their bet was common knowledge at the tournament, as Keiser has suggested, Roberts would have known about it, too, and he would have thrown both of them out of the club.

The 1947 Masters provided another exciting finish. The top players on the leader board included Nelson, Hogan, and Demaret—who won by a stroke. The most thrilling player, though, was a relative unknown Frank Stranahan, who played the last two rounds in six under par, had the low round on Sunday (68), and finished two strokes out of the lead in a tie with Nelson for second place. The most exciting thing about Stranahan was that he was not a professional. (He would later win the British Amateur twice.) Jones and Roberts had both dreamed since the beginning that an amateur might win the Masters someday, and Stranahan came closer than anyone had.

The following year, Stranahan provided the shock of the tournament when, six days before the first round, the club withdrew his invitation. In a statement issued to the press on Monday of tournament week, Roberts explained the reason: “Mr. Stranahan, last Friday, was advised that his invitation had been withdrawn because of disregard of regulations made for the protection of the golf course and for the benefit of all Players in the Tournament. This was a repetition of similar offenses of which he had been guilty last year and against which he had been warned. In these circumstances, our Tournament Committee felt justified in considering that the violation of its regulations was flagrant and that it had no other choice than to request Mr. Stranahan’s withdrawal.”

Stranahan had repeatedly violated a club rule limiting players to a single ball in practice rounds, but his main offense was that he had become belligerent when confronted for doing so by the course superintendent. In a two-page letter of apology (handwritten on club stationery), Stranahan acknowledged as much: “I would also like to apologize to Mr. Luke [the superintendent] for talking back as I certainly know better. However, I did not feel he could have my invitation revoked because of a few heated words or that he could call me a fresh ‘bastard.'”

The club’s statement had been necessitated, Roberts said, by “continued publicity of the incident, apparently inspired by Mr. Stranahan.” In a wire service news story published that day, Stranahan had been quoted threatening “serious repercussions” against the club’s tournament committee, whose members he referred to as “high hats.” A few days later, in a private letter to Joe Williams of the New York Telegram, Roberts wrote, “Needless to say, it was an unpleasant experience—something that’s never happened before in this Tournament. We were sorry to lose a good golfer but you are quite right when you say there was no other course we could take.”

In more recent years, some writers have speculated that there must have been something sinister behind Stranahan’s expulsion—that Roberts must have been out to get him for some dark personal reason, perhaps even because he suspected him of having an affair with a secretary of his from New York, as was suggested (without evidence) in a recent book. It has also been suggested that Roberts intimidated Jones and others into saying nothing in Stranahan’s behalf.

But Jones’s correspondence from that period as well as other sources demonstrate persuasively that Stranahan’s problem was Stranahan’s alone. He was invited back to the Masters in 1949 and for the next ten years after that—he remained one of the top amateurs in the world—but his respect for the rules and his behavior in the tournament continued to be an issue. According to an article in Collier’s in 1947, Stranahan had a reputation as “the most egocentric, monomaniacal character who ever swung a niblick”; that description was undoubtedly an exaggeration, but it was based on well-established fact. Augusta National employees from that era remember him as arrogant and rude. Stranahan was (and is) a bodybuilder, and he typically traveled in those days with several hundred pounds of free weights in his luggage. A favorite trick of his was to ask unsuspecting bellboys to bring his luggage, then laugh as they struggled to carry his bags.

Problems with Stranahan, though unpublicized, continued for years. Two months after the Masters in 1956—more than eight years after the notorious practice round expulsion—the situation was severe enough that Jones felt compelled to write a man-to-man letter to Stranahan’s father, who was the head of Champion Spark Plug Co., in Toledo, Ohio, and who had financed his son’s amateur golf career. “I want very much to have a talk with you about Frank and his relationship with the Augusta National Golf Club,” Jones wrote. “Frank is a very fine golfer and I like him personally very much. Quite frankly, though, he needs to be straightened out on a few aspects of his behavior at the Masters Tournament. I would very much hope that a little talk between you and me might have this effect. While it would be possible for us to have this sort of conversation on the telephone, I would very much prefer, and I think you would too, that we might have it person to person.” He suggested that they meet in New York.

On August 6, the son responded with a letter to Jones (addressed”Dear Robert”). “As I travel the road of golf,” he wrote, “the Masters Tournament—the way it is handled and what it stands for in the game—means more to me than I have been able to display. Please accept my word that there is nothing I would rather do to add to the Masters in any possible way and to help carry out any suggestions or rules that the committees feel are for the good of all.”

That response angered Jones. “Your letter of August 6th uses some very pretty words,” he wrote, “and I thank you for your kind expressions. It does not, however, give me the satisfactory answer to the problem I discussed with your father. To have you give me your word that there is nothing you would ‘rather do’ than the things I and others would normally expect of any competitor who accepted an invitation to play in the tournament is not at all what I want you to tell me.”

Stranahan sent another letter three weeks later, but again Jones was displeased. “Perhaps I should not expect that you would use words as carefully as is necessary in my profession,” he wrote, “but I am sure you will understand that when you say that there is nothing in the world you ‘would rather do than to add to the Masters in any possible way and to help carry out any suggestions that the committees feel are for the good of all,’ you are not saying that you will do this.” Jones sent a copy of his reply to Stranahan’s father as well, and he wrote to Roberts to say that he had “made it plain” to both men “that we would not issue an invitation to Frank again this year” unless Jones was satisfied.

Four days later, Stranahan gave Jones what he wanted: a brief, typewritten letter (addressed “Dear Mr. Jones”) in which he repeated wording that Jones himself had suggested: “You have my word that I will cooperate and observe all the suggestions, regulations and rules of the committee.” And that, finally, was the end of it. Jones wrote back to say that Stranahan’s eleventh Masters invitation would be forthcoming, and he urged Stranahan to stop by and see him when he got to Augusta. Stranahan played in the Masters in 1958 and 1959 as well—in 1959 as a professional—and there is no indication in the club’s files that his behavior was ever an issue again.

In a letter to Jones in December 1946, Roberts wrote, “I want you to take over as Tournament Chairman in exactly five years,” adding, ”I’d like you to start saying now, whatever you will, about Tournament policies.” In five years, Jones would be fifty years old and beyond competing in the Masters. He and Roberts had both felt that it would be inappropriate for him to have any official involvement in the running of the tournament or the selection of the field for as long as he was a competitor. But Roberts hoped that his friend would take charge of the tournament as soon as his playing days were over, and he reiterated this desire in other letters as well.

Whether that transition would actually have taken place will never be known, because events in the intervening years dramatically altered Jones’s life. In a press release issued early in 1949, Roberts explained what had happened: ”As the result of an injury to the upper part of the spine which is believed by his doctors to have occurred when he was quite young,” Roberts wrote, “Bob has occasionally suffered, for some years, from what he called a ‘crick’ in his neck and a lame shoulder.” Roberts had also noticed at some point that Jones had begun to drag one foot. “The first noticeable discomfort,” Roberts continued, “occurred in Scotland in 1926, but the exact cause of the trouble was never accurately determined until 1948.” At that time, Jones was diagnosed with syringomyelia, a rare and devastating disease in which a fluid-filled cavity forms inside the spinal cord and, as it grows over a period of months or years, destroys the center of it. Typical symptoms include numbness, difficulty in walking, weakness of the arms and legs, deformation of the hands, and chronic pain. The symptoms are almost always progressive, as they were in Jones’s case, and even today for the vast majority of patients there is no cure. Treatments in Jones’s day were crude and almost invariably ineffective. He underwent two operations, but they didn’t help.

Jones never played golf again. More than fifty of the club’s members chipped in to buy him a golf cart, which was among the first to be manufactured, so that he could drive himself around the property and visit friends on the course. The cart became Jones’s link to the club and the Masters. He was too ill to take Roberts’s place as the chairman of the tournament, but he continued to consult with Roberts on club and tournament matters until shortly before the end of his life. His main public appearances during the tournament were at a dinner for Masters winners held on Tuesday of Masters week, at a dinner for the amateur players held on Wednesday, and at the awards ceremony following the conclusion of the final round.

Today, the guest list for the Amateur Dinner includes not only the amateur competitors—of whom there are now typically four or five—but also five or six dozen others, among them the amateur honorary invitees, various officials of the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and numerous members. The first amateur dinner was held in 1948 at the suggestion of Charles Yates, who had played in every Masters through 1947. When he stopped competing, Jones and Roberts asked him if he could help them think of a way to make the amateur players feel more at home. Golf was changing, and amateurs were no longer stars, as they had been during the heydays of Jones and Yates. “I said that we ought to have a pep rally,” Yates recalls, “so that the amateurs wouldn’t feel so much in awe of these professionals they’d heard so much about.” The dinner was the result.

Jones loved the Amateur Dinner. On the day of the dinner in 1968, the last year he came to Augusta for the Masters, he was in considerable pain but was still determined to attend. He told Yates, though, that he didn’t feel well, and he asked not to be called on to speak. Yates complied, and was preparing to dismiss the gathering when he felt a tug on his jacket. It was Jones. With a great effort, he drew himself to the podium and said, in a voice that was scarcely audible, “I just want to say a few words …. “

Roberts and Jones had always spoken at the dinners. Roberts would typically offer advice and inside knowledge about the course. He would remind the amateurs that they could learn a great deal by keeping their eyes open as they played—for example, by looking through the trees to see where the hole had been cut on the third green as they walked down the second fairway. Jones would usually tell stories. “There was one story that Bob always used to tell,” Yates recalls, “and it became a tradition to call on him to tell it. It concerned a new member of the club who was a nervous sort of fellow. He was attending his first Jamboree, and after dinner he got involved in a bridge game that deteriorated into poker. To settle his nerves he was drinking pretty steadily, and when they finally poured him into bed, at three o’clock in the morning, he was as drunk as a hoot owl.

“Well, at eight o’clock they awakened him and took him out to the first tee. This fellow had a handicap of eighteen, a stroke a hole, and he was paired with a fellow who had a handicap that was much lower. On the first tee, the low-handicap fellow sliced his ball so far that it hasn’t been found yet. Now, our hero, who was about to jump out of his skin, stepped up on the tee and topped his drive down the hill. The ground was hard, and it rolled to the bottom. When he got to it, his caddie gave him a spoon—and he topped it again. But the ball bounced along and bounced along past that trap on the right side of the fairway, and it rolled up to where he had about a hundred and twenty-five yards to the green. He said to his caddie, ‘What should I use now?’ And the caddie said, ‘Oh, just go ahead and use the one you’ve got—it doesn’t make any difference.’ Well, he topped the ball a third time. The pin was cut over there on the left, behind that trap. The ball rolled up the front of the green, just missing the trap, and stopped about six feet from the hole.

“So here was our hero with a six-foot putt for par, which would be a net birdie, and his partner was in his pocket. When he stood up to the ball, his hands were shaking on his putter. They kept shaking and he took the putter back. Then, just as he stroked the ball, a great big collie dog came running up from somewhere, and it ran between his legs. Miraculously, though, the ball went into the hole, and the low-handicap fellow rushed up and said, ‘Partner, that’s the greatest display of coolness and calmness under fire I’ve ever seen. How in the hell did you make that putt when that collie dog was running right between your legs?’ And the fellow said, ‘My God—was that a real dog?'”

Cadillac Days Augusta National Leonard Kamsler 1980
Fancy a trim? Augusta National’s club barbershop, circa 1980. Photo: Leonard Kamsler

“I sprained my ankle just before the Jamboree one year,” Dr. Stephen Brown, a member, recalls, “and I had a cast on my leg, so I couldn’t play. But I came over here anyway, just to visit. Bob Jones asked me if I would chauffeur him around, so I got in his cart and took him onto the course so he could watch some of his friends. Then he said, ‘Steve, I want to get a haircut.’ We had a barber shop back of the pro shop at that time, and I drove him over there in the cart. There was a little step in front of the shop, and he couldn’t raise his foot high enough to get over it. He said, ‘Steve, how about putting my foot up there?’ So I reached down and picked up the foot of this great athlete and lifted it six inches onto the step, and tears came into my eyes.”

Jones bore his illness heroically, but his long and painful decline was hard for his friends to watch. The sportswriter Charles Price, who was close to Jones during the last years of his life, wrote about some of their final visits in a column in Golf Digest in 1991. “By 1968 Bobby Jones’ health had slipped from the terrible to the abysmal,” Price recalled. “His eyes were bloodshot from the spinal disease he had endured for 20 years, his arms atrophied to the size of a schoolgirl’s, his ankles so swollen by body fluids that they spilled over the edges of his shoes.” His hands were gnarled and misshapen. To sign his name, he used a ballpoint pen inserted in a rubber ball and a spring device that helped to support his hand and wrist. His script was large, shaky, and round; it looked like the scrawl of a third grader. He sometimes drank more than he should, undoubtedly to dull the unremitting pain that is one of the distinguishing symptoms of syringomyelia.

“Bob smoked more than two packs of cigarettes a day, sometimes in chain fashion,” Price continued, “and they were lined up on the card table in neat rows for him, each in a holder so he would not accidentally burn himself. An elegant lighter, covered in leather, sat ready. All he had to do was push down a lever that any child could. But even that was becoming an effort. So, with as much nonchalance as I could devise, I’d pull out a cigarette of my own, thereby giving me the excuse to light his.” Shortly before he died, Jones sent the leather-covered lighter to Price with a note, typed by his secretary: “You weren’t fooling me a bit.”

Jones was so ill in the spring of 1969 that he was unable to make the trip from Atlanta to Augusta for the Masters, a development that worried and depressed Roberts. Then, two weeks before the tournament, Eisenhower died. “This is an unhappy period for me,” he wrote in a gloomy letter to his sister. One of the two most important men in his life was dead and the other was dying, and he had begun to feel his own age as well. At dinner during Jones’s last visits to the club, Roberts always included him at his table in the Trophy Room. Jones was confined to a wheelchair, and he had great difficulty eating, but he liked to be part of the conversation. During the last tournament Jones attended, in 1968, Roberts went to confer with him in his cabin. Jones was suffering from an intestinal virus in addition to his steadily worsening spinal condition, and he was nearly helpless. Roberts was visibly shaken when he returned to his room. “I will never let that happen to me,” he said to J. Richard Ryan, the attorney who handled the club’s television contracts, who had been waiting for him. Jones died in December 1971; a few days beforehand, according to Price, he told his secretary, “If I’d known it was going to be this easy, I’d have gone a long time ago.”

In recent years, a few writers have suggested that there was a falling out between Roberts and Jones in the last years of Jones’s life. But according to people who were in a position to know, the two men remained good friends to the end. Charles Yates, who knew both men well, says they were always close. Kathryn Murphy, Roberts’s tournament secretary, says she never noticed any tension between them and that they remained in regular contact even after Jones was no longer well enough to travel to Augusta.

Correspondence between the two men shows the same thing and proves, in addition, that Jones continued to play a role in the direction of the tournament and of the club until shortly before his death. Roberts regularly consulted him by mail and by telephone on a broad range of issues concerning the Masters; before and during each tournament, large packages containing schedules, bulletins, pairing sheets, and other documents were sent to Jones from tournament headquarters virtually every day. Jones wanted to be kept informed, and Roberts often sought his advice. In 1970, when Jones’s illness was approaching its final stages, they engaged in an extensive correspondence over arrangements for an award ceremony at the club honoring Fred McLeod and Jock Hutchison. Jones himself had arranged for the club to hold the ceremony, which he had scheduled for just before the tournament. In Jones’s absence, Roberts handled the details according to directions that Jones provided by mail.

Roberts also regularly sought Jones’s advice concerning potential new members of the club. Augusta National had accepted applications until 1946, after which time membership was offered by invitation only. The club then had a nominal membership committee, although most decisions were made by the executive committee, and especially by Roberts, Jones, and local member Jerome Franklin. (A member from Charlotte, who had been trying for several years to get an acquaintance into the club, once asked a friend on the membership committee what he might do to expedite the process. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve been on the committee for seven years, and we haven’t had a meeting yet.”) Jones had the final say on potential members from the Atlanta area, and he continued to exercise it until shortly before he died.

In recent years, a few writers have suggested that Roberts betrayed Jones in 1968, the last year he attended the tournament, by telling CBS not to include Jones in the televised award ceremony. Steve Eubanks, in Augusta, wrote, “Roberts thought it unseemly to have Jones’s withered physical condition broadcast to the entire country. Therefore he told his old friend that CBS (specifically MacPhail) had decided Bob should not continue to be part of the presentation. Hurt to the point of tears, Jones confronted MacPhail. As he had done every year with Roberts, Bill listened, only this time he didn’t smile. Instead, he turned away. MacPhail let Jones go to his grave thinking CBS was responsible for his ousting. The truth, MacPhail knew, would have been far too painful.”

Eubanks presented the story without attribution. MacPhail died in 1996—like Roberts, he was a suicide—so no one who is mentioned is still alive. Judged on its own, though, the story doesn’t ring true. The least plausible element, given the history of the relationship between the network and the club, is the notion of Jones accepting an explanation from Roberts that CBS had dictated to Roberts how the televised presentation would be run. Nor would it have been characteristic of Jones to “confront” MacPhail during the tournament, even if he had had an opportunity to do so—which was not likely, since Jones that week was virtually confined to his cottage. And even if there was a confrontation, Jones would have known that CBS had no involvement in the main award ceremony, which was held on the putting green for the benefit of the tournament patrons and was not televised. Yet Jones did not appear at that event, either—undoubtedly because of his health. Shortly after the tournament, he wrote to Herbert Warren Wind that he had been too sick to attend the ceremony but that he would have made an effort to be there if he had realized how the decision about Roberto de Vicenzo’s scorecard was going to be received.

This dark period in Roberts’s life was lightened somewhat by the success of the tournament, which now more than ever defined the state of the game at the highest level. The Masters in the sixties had been dominated by Palmer and Nicklaus, who between them had won six times in the period from 1960 to 1966. In 1966, the Masters became the first golf tournament ever to be sold out months in advance. Nicklaus won again in 1972, in the first tournament following Jones’s death, and again three years after that. Gary Player won his second green jacket in 1974. Ray Floyd, in 1976, tied Nicklaus’s scoring record of 271, which he had set in 1965. In 1977, Tom Watson beat Nicklaus by two strokes in a victory that marked the beginning of the first convincing challenge to Nicklaus’s domination of the sport.

Roberts, meanwhile, was feeling the effects of age. He was nearly eighty years old, his health was tenuous, and the pressures of running both the club and the Masters had begun to weigh on him. In the early seventies, he settled on a successor—an Oklahoma banker named Frank G. Mcclintock, who had been a member since 1965. But then McClintock suffered a stroke and couldn’t take the job. “I’m going to get out as soon as I can,” Roberts told a writer from Golf Digest in 1974. But he was determined to find the right man to take his place.

Roberts finally found him in William Lane, a businessman from Houston, Texas, and announced his retirement at a press conference the day before the beginning of the Masters in 1976. He stressed, though, that he wasn’t stepping down quite yet. “I am still chairman of the tournament,” he said. “I want no interference from [Lane] until he’s installed in office.” When a reporter later asked Lane about his background, Roberts interrupted: “Mr. Lane is to remain silent.” Roberts’s brusque comment provoked chuckles, although it was not widely perceived by reporters as a joke. The comment was entirely characteristic, though. Roberts did not intend to be treated as a lame duck at his fortieth Masters; more important, he wanted to spare Lane an interrogation for which he had not prepared. Sportswriters tended to note the harshness but miss both the humor and the kindness, as they often had before.

Roberts’s retirement as the chairman of the tournament did not dramatically simplify his life. He was still the chairman of the club, he had just published a book, and he was about to become deeply involved in a legal issue that some of his friends would later blame for initiating the final stage of his physical decline.

The legal issue had to do with the name of the tournament. Some months before, the club had discovered that the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. intended to sponsor an official event of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, to be known as the Ladies Masters. The tournament was to be held on a course at a new real estate development in Hilton Head, South Carolina, called Moss Creek Plantation, in which Northwestern Mutual had a large financial stake. Francis E. Ferguson, who was the president of the insurance company, had visited Augusta National as a guest a few years before. He had been deeply impressed, and he believed that the Masters name would help to sell building lots adjacent to the Moss Creek course. Ray Volpe, who had recently been named the commissioner of the L.P.G.A., believed that using the Masters name would add distinction to the women’s tour, which had been struggling for years.

When Augusta National learned of the L.P.G.A.’s plans, the club objected. Roberts said that use of the name implied a nonexistent connection with the tournament in Augusta, and that Northwestern Mutual’s main interest appeared to be not golf but real estate. Roberts said the Masters name had been adopted by tournaments in half a dozen foreign countries—a fact that didn’t bother him, since there was no question of a connection between the copies and the original. However, he said, “When it comes to the United States, we would greatly prefer that this is the only tournament which is called Masters.” (Roberts had no quarrel with an American junior tournament called the Future Masters, because he felt that there was no possibility of confusion and that the name was “a compliment.”) The club asked the company and the L.P.G.A. to find a different name.

The L.P.G.A. complied, and the first tournament, in 1976, was formally known as the Women’s International. Still, the tournament’s organizers, various L.P.G.A. personnel, some sportswriters, and some players used the Masters name unofficially. And while NBC had been very interested in broadcasting a Masters Tournament for women, it was considerably less interested in broadcasting an anonymous L.P.G.A. event in a real estate subdivision. Northwestern Mutual approached Augusta National about possibly licensing the Masters name, or perhaps devising a version of the name that the club could live with. (The company suggested “Moss Creek Ladies Masters.”) The company sought to register “Ladies Masters” as a trademark, then withdrew the application. When it became clear that Northwestern Mutual and the L.P.G.A. were going to proceed regardless—and intended to hold their tournament one week after the Masters—Augusta National sued.

On trial, in effect, was the work of Clifford Roberts’s life. A number of sportswriters interpreted the lawsuit as an attempt by a rich and powerful organization to crush a poor and vulnerable one, but Roberts didn’t see it that way. NBC and the sponsors of the Women’s International coveted the Masters name precisely because they knew that golf fans would mistakenly assume the new tournament had some relationship with Augusta National. Northwestern’s president even acknowledged that his intention was to “ride the coattails” of the celebrated tournament.

Most of the club’s case consisted simply of recounting the long and unlikely history of the championship that Roberts and Jones had created in 1934. The Masters name was magical in the world of golf, the club argued, only because the tournament’s architects had worked for decades to make it that way. Building the Masters had required more than forty years of pain, debt, good luck, hard work, focus, and obsession. To allow that accomplishment to be usurped for the sake of a brazenl commercial enterprise, the club said, would be a desecration.

One of the most effective witnesses for Augusta National, to the surprise of some, turned out to be Roberts himself. Blake Clark, a member of the club who was present at the trial, says, “Northwestern Mutual had a lawyer on its team who was about forty years old. He got Cliff on the stand and asked him a question, and Cliff—as he always did—cleared his throat and gave about a three-second pause while he thought about his answer. Before he could speak, this young lawyer pointed a finger at him and said, ‘You haven’t answered my question.’ Well, Cliff just folded his arms politely, just like that, in Federal Court, and said, ‘Well, that was a damn dumb question, and I don’t answer dumb questions.’ And he didn’t. And that was it. The case was over.”

The judge’s opinion was unequivocal. As a result of the club’s efforts, he wrote, “the Masters Tournament has become world-renowned as the epitome of such contests in the field of golf. Whenever the terms ‘The Masters, or ‘The Masters Tournament,’ or ‘The Masters Golf Tournament’ are used, they have come to be understood by the cognoscenti as well as the ignoranti of the game of golf as referring to the plaintiff’s golf tournament. This tournament is acknowledged to be one of the greatest sporting events of the year, and because of the manner in which it is staged and conducted, it has come to symbolize, universally, excellence in a sports production.” As a result, the judge wrote, “The defendant, its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and all those persons in active concert or participation with them, who receive actual notice hereof, are hereby perpetually enjoined and restrained from using directly or indirectly the word or term ‘Masters,’ or a derivative thereof, in connection with the organization, promotion, sponsorship, advertisement, ticket sales and conduct of any golf tournament or any other golfing event in the continental limits of the United States.” He further ordered Northwestern Mutual to reimburse Augusta National for its legal costs.

The lawsuit, despite its outcome, tormented Roberts; some of his friends felt that it hastened his death. In a letter to William Lane toward the end of 1976, Roberts wrote that “the deliberate doings” of Northwestern’s president had “damn near wrecked my health.” During the final stages of the case, he suffered a mild stroke, and his physical condition deteriorated. He lost weight and was fatigued by mild exertion. Shortly before the 1977 Masters, he checked into St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, and remained for nearly a week. He returned to Augusta National in time for the tournament, but was in poor health. Not least of his difficulties was a severe case of hiccups, which lasted a week. During most of the tournament, he was too ill to leave his bedroom.

A few weeks later, shortly after the club had closed for the year, Roberts sent personalized copies of a color photograph of himself to a number of his closest friends. In it, he was wearing his green jacket and one of his favorite caps. Not long after the photographs were sent, Roberts received a thank-you note from Laura Kerr, the wife of William Kerr, who for many years had been the chairman of the club’s television and radio committee. She wrote that she had taken the picture to be framed at agallery in La Jolla, California, and that a saleswoman there had suddenly said, “Why, that’s—that’s Mr. Clifford Roberts!” The saleswoman turned out to be the wife of a man who had worked with Roberts in New York. Kerr continued, “Then the other day Margie Rader, who is the half sister of Shirley Casper, saw your picture on our wall. She is eighteen. And she also remembered you for a long ago thoughtful gesture. We—and that of course includes you—were at the Caspers’ home one Christmas some years ago. While Bill Casper [who won the Masters in 1970] was showing you his house, you went into Margie’s room where she had some bills in a little pile on the bed. You asked what she was going to do with them. And when Margie answered that she was saving them up to buy a special something, you added your contribution. She said she had never forgotten your interest and your generosity.” Jay Johnson—an Augusta lawyer, who took up golf after Roberts invited him to join the club—also received a copy of the photograph. His wife, upon seeing the picture, said, “You’re never going to see him again, Jay. He’s saying good-bye.”

In late September, Roberts traveled from his wife’s home in Beverly Hills back to St. Luke’s Hospital. His condition had declined over the past six months. Jane Gosden—whose late husband, Freeman, was one of Roberts’s closest friends—says that Roberts had seemed especially frail just before he left for Texas. “We had taken him to see some doctors here in California,” she says. “I remember one day when he was visiting us, and he needed to use the bathroom. He was a little unsteady on his feet. My housekeeper, who adored him, said, ‘Mr. Roberts, let me help you, sir.’ And she took him by the belt and lowered him down the step.” Roberts’s weight had fallen to less than a hundred and thirty-five pounds; he was easy to lift.

In Houston, Roberts was examined first by a physician who had never met him. The physician noted that Roberts “spoke slowly with slurred speech and difficulty with recall” and made a preliminary diagnosis that included the word “dementia.” Later, a different doctor—one who knew Roberts—wrote that he found no sign of dementia and softened the overall assessment by noting that Roberts had always spoken with what to others seemed like difficulty, and that his memory, insight, and clarity of thought were normal for a man of his age. Roberts underwent a CAT scan and various other tests, but no new ailments were detected. (He did not have cancer, contrary to accounts of his death in numerous articles and books.) On the third day, he asked to be discharged. His doctor said a longer stay would serve no purpose, and Roberts called Jack Stephens in Little Rock. Stephens sent his plane to take Roberts back to Augusta.

“When my pilots got home,” Stephens recalls, “they said, ‘There’s something wrong with Mr. Roberts.’ Cliff had jumped all over them for not having that day’s newspaper on the plane. But they did have it. Cliff had just lost track of what day it was. He thought the paper on the plane was the one from the day before.” In Augusta, Roberts was picked up at the airport by John Milton, one of the club’s chauffeurs. As Milton’s car turned down Magnolia Lane, the clubhouse came into view, and Roberts leaned back in his seat, sighed, and said, “John, I didn’t think I was going to make it home.”

The club really was Roberts’s home, the only true home he had ever had. He had spent more nights in his bedroom there than he had in any other residence. All his travels had begun and ended there; it was the place he had always come back to. His apartment in New York, his condominiums in North Carolina and the Bahamas, his wife’s house in California—all of those had merely been temporary lodgings, places where he had waited out the weeks and months between visits to Augusta. The club and the tournament had been the first important landmarks in his life that had reliably remained fixed in one place from year to year. His friends at Augusta National were the first permanent friends he had ever known.

On his last day at the club, Roberts had his hair cut in the clubhouse barbershop. He asked Bettie Yonker, a receptionist, to go into town and buy him a new pair of pajamas. Late in the afternoon, after his usual snack of tea and toasted pound cake, he asked his regular waiter, Ray Wigfall, to help him walk from his room to the first tee. “He was very, very weak,” Wigfall recalls. “As a matter of fact, he almost pulled me down.” Standing on the tee, Roberts looked up the fairway, studied the trees at the top of the hill, and assured himself that Montgomery Harison’s old house, which for forty years had stood just beyond the first green, had really and truly been torn down. At the end of the previous season, he had told another member, “I don’t intend for a guest to come here ever again and ask who lives in that house.” Now the house was gone. “We can go back now,” Roberts said. He ate dinner alone in his room that night. He had lamb chops, oven-browned potatoes, and carrots—probably his favorite meal. When he had finished, he asked Wigfall if he would mind keeping him company for a little while. Wigfall helped him call his wife in California, gave him a rubdown, and left at about ten o’clock.

Early the next morning, Wigfall picked up Roberts’s breakfast in the clubhouse kitchen and took it to his room, as he always did. When Roberts didn’t answer his knock, Wigfall let himself in. The bed was empty. The bathroom was empty. There was no sign of Roberts. Wigfall went back to the kitchen and told James Clark, the chef, that the chairman was missing. A receptionist checked with the guard at the main entrance and with the local hospital, and she called Phil Wahl at home. The club’s staff dispersed over the property to search.

A housekeeper named Annie Smart was the first to see Roberts’s body. It was lying by the side of a service road on the dam at the lower end of Ike’s pond, just beyond the southern edge of the par three course. Smart’s scream brought others running. James Clark and Homer Jones, another employee, knelt beside the body and saw that Roberts was dead. ”I’ll remember that as long as I live myself,” Clark says. There was a small, neat wound in Roberts’s temple. His glasses were hanging from one ear. A pistol lay on the ground near his hand. He was wearing bedroom slippers and the new light blue pajamas that he had sent Bettie Yonker to buy the day before. He had pulled a pair of trousers over the pajama pants. His slippers were on the wrong feet and his shirt was misbuttoned. In his breast pocket was an Augusta National envelope containing a copy of his medical chart, which he had brought from Houston. On a corner of the envelope he had written, in spidery pencil:

Dear Betty:
I am sorry.
I love you.

Those who knew Roberts were not entirely surprised that he had chosen to end his life. “He was a wonderful man,” Bill Hibbard, a tournament patron who every year brought Roberts a bag of oranges, wrote to one of Roberts’s secretaries. “He just didn’t want to go the way of his closest friend, Bob. He didn’t want to be a burden to others. He’s resting in peace now.” For a man whose adult existence had been founded on control, the depredations of age had been intolerable. By placing his medical chart in his pocket he had offered an explanation. At the end, what he feared was not death but life on anyone’s terms but his own. He was convinced he would never get better, and he was determined he would never get worse. Against what he had worried were impossible odds, he had made it back to Augusta; once there, he had begun to prepare, with his usual thoroughness, to bring his life to an end. Jack Stephens says that Roberts was characteristically thoughtful even in his choice of location: the embankment on the dam was remote from the course and from all the club’s buildings, yet was in a well-traveled area where he knew his body would be easy to find.

Employees who were present at the club at the time of Roberts’s suicide doubt that he could have made his way from his room to the dam by himself, especially in the dark, since he had trouble walking on his own and he would have had to negotiate a long, steep, slippery hill in the dark while wearing bedroom slippers. The hill is so steep that the club leaves golf carts parked at the bottom for players finishing rounds on the par three course. (One sportswriter recently wrote that Roberts “strolled down” to the par three course to take his life—an absurdity.) Fred Bennett says Roberts had several brand-new hundred dollar bills in his wallet when he arrived at the club for his final visit, and that the money was no longer in his wallet when his body was found. Bennett thinks Roberts probably paid a night watchman to drive him down to the dam in a golf cart and leave him there. The club’s security report for that night said that Roberts had called in the early hours of the morning to report noises outside his room, and that a watchman, at Roberts’s request, had helped him load a pistol, which Roberts had owned for many years.

The parallels between Roberts’s suicide and that of his mother are haunting. Like his mother, he had suffered a variety of increasingly debilitating ailments in the months and years before his death. Like his mother, he had left his bed in the early hours of the morning while those he cared about slept nearby, unaware. Like his mother, he had used a gun. Like his mother, he had left a terse note written in pencil.

Roberts had always said that if the Masters ever got out of hand or became destructive to the club, he would end it immediately. He treated his life the same way. His suicide was reasoned, deliberate, and unsentimental, and it constituted a sort of ironic proof that his faculties were intact. He was cutting his losses. With his usual focus and attention to detail, he chose to die while he was still in a position to dictate the terms.

“The death of Cliff Roberts marks the passing of one of the great eras of modern golf,” Arnold Palmer said when he heard the news. Jack Nicklaus said, “Mr. Roberts set the tone for tournament golf with his Masters. The standards and quality with which he conducted the Masters are unmatched anywhere. All of us in golf appreciate what he has done for the game, and he will be sadly missed.” His widow flew to Augusta from California, and a brief memorial service was held for her and a number of members. Betty Roberts later wrote to Bill Lane, the club’s new chairman, “The Memorial Service was so beautifully done and it was perfect to hold it at the Club, which he loved, and among friends he had known for so long.” Lane wrote back, “I still feel the same way about Cliff that you do and every time I have to write about him or speak about him, I get very emotional. Cliff had become an important part of my life and I had grown to feel about him as my second father and the conversations we had are very much missed.”

Roberts had left a memo in his files requesting “unmarked interment on the grounds.” Whether his ashes were buried in a single spot or spread over a larger area is now unknown; the four people who handled the chore—Jerome Franklin, Bill Lane, Ellis Slater, and Phil Wahl—have long since died themselves. The most likely spots are probably somewhere on or near his beloved par three course—perhaps near a small grove of trees where he and Eisenhower had often sat and talked—and Amen Corner, particularly in the area near the Nelson Bridge, which crosses Rae’s Creek near the thirteenth tee.

At any rate, his grave is unmarked, as he had requested. Had he wanted a gravestone, an appropriate epitaph would have been that of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, whose unassuming tomb in the great building’s crypt is inscribed Si monumentum requiris circumspice: If you seek his monument, look around you.

At five o’clock in the morning on Thursday of Masters week, a crew of tournament employees is busy making sandwiches in a large food preparation area behind and below the club’s press building. The Masters lasts just a week, but feeding the patrons is a full-time job, and it requires the year-round attention of Alex Collie. Planning and purchasing for next year’s tournament will begin almost as soon as this year’s tournament is over. Collie took over the business in 1968, when his father, who had handled the food and beverage concessions at the Masters since the mid-fifties, suddenly died. “The first year was easy,” Collie says, “because I didn’t know what to worry about.” He is now in his mid-fifties. Until fairly recently, he had to live on the property for a month before every tournament, sleeping in a trailer in the parking lot. “We had old-style tents in those days, and if it rained in the night I had to go out with a broom handle and poke the water out of all of them, to keep the tents from falling down. I would do that all night long, for years and years and years.” Collie no longer needs the trailer, because he now has a permanent office at the club; it adjoins the food preparation area, and it opens onto a fully furnished bedroom, where he and his wife live during Masters week.

Ticket holders begin to gather along Washington Road long before the gates are scheduled to open. Most Masters patrons have favorite viewing areas, and they like to stake their claims early. During lulls in the traffic, they can make out the drone of distant mowers, trimmers, and blowers—the low morning music that awakens those members, players, and others lucky enough to be staying on the grounds. When the gates open at eight, the spectators stream onto the course. They don’t run. An elderly woman and her grandson place folding chairs beside the eighteenth green. The first twosome won’t reach this point for many hours, but they don’t mind. “We sit, and we don’t move,” the grandmother says. “It’s a perfect day. There’s no way you can get bored. You talk to people, you share stories, you look up old friends.” Other patrons leave their chairs as placeholders and wander off to reacquaint themselves with the course. The sky is deep blue, and the weather is expected to hold. “How long have we been coming?” one longtime ticket holder says. “Well, their little boy was four or five years old, and now he’s a lawyer. That’s how long.”

Many changes have been made to the golf course since last April, but even veterans have trouble spotting all of them. Earth-moving crews arrived shortly after the club closed last May; by the time the club opened again, in early October, all the dirt piles, tire tracks, and bare spots had disappeared. Players often fail to notice the subtler changes; nearly as often, they detect changes where none have been made. “The course changes all by itself, too,” a member says. The topography of a green shifts in elusive ways through years of rain, wind, the weight of machinery, and the pounding of feet. A mower gradually alters the surface it maintains. Memory plays tricks. Sand thrown from a bunker lifts the ground beneath the fringe. The course evolves.

The sun is still low, but the early morning chill is gone, and the seventeenth green is being mowed. The course superintendent walks half a pace behind the man pushing the mower, eyes downward, inspecting his work. During the weeks before the tournament, the greens are topdressed repeatedly with minutely thin layers of screened soil. The grass is brushed before it is cut, to make the blades stand up for the mowers. Players and television commentators sometimes talk about the “grain” of one green or another, but the greens crew has studied the matter and determined that the grass on the greens at the Masters is cut too short to lean. A worker with clippers the size of nail scissors trims a high spot in the fringe. Another worker scoops green sand onto the tops of the sprinkler heads, then smoothes the sand to make a surface level with the tips of the grass. A subterranean vacuum system, emitting a hum that can be heard through vents in a greenside mound, draws yesterday’s rainfall from the soil, drying the putting surface from underneath.

There are no smudges on the windows in the clubhouse. Marsh Benson, a club employee, says, “In February every year, I’ll pick out a scrape or a dark mark on the paint on the side of one of the buildings and keep an eye on it. It will be there and be there—and then in March sometime, I’ll look and it will be gone.” Last week, two men with cans of green paint spent several hours obliterating tire marks on the concrete curbs alongside the driveway in front of the clubhouse. Today, half a dozen young men and women are slowly working their way up the tenth fairway, using long bamboo poles to sweep away grass clippings the consistency of sawdust. A worker attaches a green garbage bag to a green metal stand. A rules official drives past in a golf cart, on his way to check wooden stakes that mark a lateral hazard not far below the eighteenth tee. The hazard is hard to see. It wasn’t staked until a few years ago, when Mike Donald required a ruling after having the misfortune of becoming the first Masters competitor ever known to have hit his tee shot into it.

An amateur player, who stayed last night in the Crow’s Nest-the dormitory on the top floor of the clubhouse—heads to the Trophy Room for breakfast. Two nights ago, unable to sleep, he came downstairs to the clubhouse library and studied Alister MacKenzie’s first watercolor sketch of the layout of the course, which hangs on the wall. Two members and their guests were standing on the verandah, looking out at the stars, and he joined them briefly before going back up to bed. Now, long tables have replaced the library’s furniture. A man holding a portable television camera stands outside near the huge live oak tree just behind the clubhouse. Everything has changed.

Not far below the verandah, a group of old friends is waiting near the practice putting green. One of them says, “We always have lunch at the fountain, and then we go down to the point—the corner—at eleven and twelve, and then come up and sit on the bank at seventeen.” When the last players have finished today, the group will return to the northwest parking lot for a tailgate party. One of them says, “We began coming to the Masters thirty-five years ago, and we saw a fancy tailgate party, so we decided to have a tacky one. We’ve had a tacky tailgate party ever since, and we’ve tried to make it tackier every year. We’ve added a parasol and a candelabra and a red carpet and some little fences.” When they go out to dinner in Augusta tonight, they will take their candelabra with them. It has garishly colored candles and is decorated with plastic flowers. The oldest drips of wax on the base are ten years older than Tiger Woods.

A committee sets out from Tournament Headquarters to cut the holes. The approximate location of each hole has been marked already with a dab of white paint. “There are no new hole locations,” a veteran touring professional, who is a member of the committee, says. “The players sometimes think there are, but there really aren’t.” Committee members roll putts from the highest point on the green to assure themselves that a speed exists at which a ball will stop within a foot or two of the cup; if none can do it, they move the cup. Al Reid, a retired Class A superintendent who has come to Augusta for more than thirty years to work at the Masters as a volunteer, repairs dents on the putting surface. He carries a large salt shaker filled with a granular synthetic substance that blends with the grass. It contains four parts green granules, two parts orange granules, and two parts brown granules—a combination that, when damp, exactly matches the hue of Augusta National’s bent grass. Clarence Stokes, who has worked on the course for more than fifty years, helps to cut the hole and place the cup. A member notices that a slope near a grandstand has become slippery in a place where spectators have been walking, and he uses a walkie-talkie to call for a load of sand. The committee moves to the next green.

A woman sitting near the eighteenth green holds a journal in her lap. She has kept the journal for as long as she has been coming to the Masters. It contains autographs, quotes, observations about the tournament, and entries contributed by other people. Guy Yamamoto, who competed as an amateur in 1995, wrote, “The entire Masters experience has been one that I will never forget …. The people of Augusta National have been wonderful to me and my family. On Friday I hit a 7 iron from 171 yards into the cup and made an eagle 2. That became the fourth eagle on #10 in Masters History.” Yamamoto shot 84-77, missed the cut, and came in next to last, seven shots ahead of Billy Casper and one shot behind Ian Baker-Finch. He won a pair of crystal goblets for his eagle.

On the far side of the second fairway, a gallery guard points to one of the bunkers near the green and says to a spectator, who has stopped to chat, “Hogan used to try to hit his second shot into the bunker down there. He figured he would either get up and down for birdie or make an easy par.” Some of the guards have worked as tournament volunteers for decades. Some plan their work schedules around the Masters, timing their vacations for the first full week in April. Why go to the beach when you can spend a week standing in a ticket booth at Augusta National Golf Club? A guard stationed near the edge of the tenth fairway says, ”I’ve been here for thirteen years. The other guards and I rotate positions, so it always looks different.” On the other side of the trees, the grass in a spectator crossing has been trampled to brown straw by the feet of practice round spectators. A smiling member, unconcerned, says, “The grass will all be green again in a couple of weeks.” A British photographer spots an unrepaired divot and takes a picture. “A divot at the Masters?” he says. “They’ll never believe this!”

Near the sixteenth tee, a man says, “I’ve been coming since 1955. When my wife was alive, we used to sit down on number six. She loved Gary Player. When he sank that putt on eighteen, in 1961, I thought she was going to have another baby.” Another man says, “In thirty-five years, I’ve seen just one guy skip it across the water and hold the green. It happened right here.” He points. Another man says, ”A dog ran out and grabbed a ball off the first green once. I saw that. It surprised the heck out of me.” Several of the spectators sitting nearby are wearing hats, jackets, or sweaters that are covered with tournament badges, many of them decades old. ”I’ve got a hat like that at home,” a man says, “but I don’t wear it anymore. It’s too heavy.” A woman with dozens of badges pinned to the back of her sweater says, “My father loved golf. It was a religion with him. I just wish he could have lived to see Tiger play. He loved to see young players come along.” The people sitting here know this green so well that many of them could read the putts as well as most of the players—even though, after so many years, not all of them can see the flag from their seats without the help of binoculars.

In a few more minutes, the first shots in this year’s Masters will be struck from the first tee. Parts of the clubhouse are visible from the observation stands beside the fifteenth fairway, and there are signs of distant commotion. Still, it will be more than three hours before the first group reaches this part of the course. There is an air of anticipation but not of impatience. A turtle suns itself on the bank beside the pond in front of the green. A rules official inspects the edge of the greenside bunker. “I followed Ben Hogan around,” someone says. Nearby, waiting among old friends, is a woman who has attended every Masters since the end of the Second World War. Someone asks her which of those fifty-odd tournaments she liked the best. She thinks back over five decades of competition—a period that defined the true coming of age of American golf and encompassed unforgettable performances by Snead and Hogan and Palmer and Player and Nicklaus and Watson and Ballesteros and Crenshaw and Faldo and Woods and so many others—and answers, as Clifford Roberts would have, “I think this one is going to be my favorite.”