The Masters Tournament is the first of the four major championships in men’s professional golf. Unlike the other three majors, the Masters is held in the same location every year at Augusta National Golf Club, a private club in Augusta, Georgia. While the tickets to the event are not expensive, they are the most difficult sporting ticket to obtain. Practice round tickets are available every year for Monday through Wednesday, but the actual Tournament Badges for Thursday through Sunday have been sold out for years. Many corporations and individuals offer their tickets for sale every year, much to the delight of people who have “attending the Masters” at the top of their bucket list.
There are a number of traditions around the Masters, which makes CBS Announcer Jim Nantz’famous line “It’s a tradition unlike any other” all the more appropriate.
Here are some of the best traditions and some trivia from the Masters to share with your friends as you are viewing the broadcast this week:
· Magnolia Lane – the 300-yard tree lined entrance to Augusta National. There are 61 Magnolia trees – more than 150 years old – that form an archway down the road to the clubhouse.
· Azaleas – more than 30 varieties are planted on the grounds and are typically in bloom every spring for the tournament.
· Founders Circle – the flower garden shaped like the Masters logo outside the clubhouse – the US map in yellow flowers with a red flag showing the location of Augusta, Georgia.
· The Champions’ Dinner – held on Tuesday night of the tournament with the current champion hosting all the past champions at a dinner in the clubhouse. The current champion selects the menu for the evening – many times featuring food unique to their home state/country or simply their favorite food.
· Skipping golf balls on the 16th hole – it’s a practice round tradition for players to intentionally skip golf balls across the water on the Par 3 16th hole – sometimes even for a hole-in-one.
· The Par 3 Contest – a fun, casual event held on Wednesday afternoon on the par 27 short course. Many players have their spouses or kids caddy and even hit shots for them. There are usually multiple hole-in-ones, which is now a televised event. Many players will not putt-out or post a score as it is considered bad luck to win the Par 3 event since no Par 3 winner has ever won the Masters in the same year.
· Ceremonial Tee Shot – prior to the start of the event on Thursday morning there is a ceremonial tee shot by honorary starters – players who are no longer competing. This tradition started in 1963 by Jock Hutchinson and has included Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.
· Amen Corner – the most famous three holes in golf are Augusta National par 4 11th (505 yards downhill with a pond on the left side), par 3 12th (crosses Rae’s Creek to a narrow green) and par 5 13th (510 yard dogleg left that crosses Rae’s Creek twice). The phrase was coined by golf historian Herbert Warren Wind feeling that if a player on Sunday can navigate those three holes without making a mistake, he can sign and think “Amen.”
· Pimento Cheese Sandwiches – a staple tournament favorite made from pimento cheese and mayonnaise served on soft white bread in a green sandwich bag for $1.50. Food prices have stayed consistent for decades and it’s been said you can eat everything on the menu for less than $30.
· Caddie Bib – the Caddies are required to wear a white jumpsuit, a green Masters Cap and white tennis shoes. The number on the left pocket of the jumpsuit is important - Number 1 is reserved for the defending champion with the other numbers indicating when players registered for the tournament.
· Green Jacket – the ultimate prize in golf – the Green Jacket. In 1937 members began wearing green blazers to identify themselves as guides, should patrons need information. In 1949, the club started awarding a green jacket to the tournament champion that is presented by the previous year champion on the 18th green as well as in Butler Cabin. The green jacket is allowed off-property only by the current champion and is then returned to the club house one year after the victory, to be worn anytime the player is on the grounds. The tournament has had three players win consecutively – Jack Nicklaus in 1965 & 1966, Nick Faldo 1989 & 1990 and Tiger Woods in 2001 & 2002 – when there is a consecutive champion, the Chairman presents the green jacket.
· Special terms used at Augusta National:
o The people viewing the tournament are patrons (not spectators or gallery)
o To enter the event, you need a badge (not a ticket)
o Holes 1-9 are the first nine and holes 10-18 are the second nine (not front nine and back nine)
· All buildings, garbage bags, even sandwich bags and drink cups are “Masters green” so they “blend in” and don’t distract television viewers.
With years of tradition and the first men’s major of the year, many golfers feel spring has officially arrived when they watch the Masters Tournament.