Men behind the Masters
Bobby Jones was a driving force in the establishment of both Augusta National and The Masters, but he wasn’t alone.
Bobby Jones, the greatest Amateur golfer that has ever lived, was a driving force in the establishment of both famed Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters which it hosts every year.
But the only man who can lay claim to a golfing Grand Slam certainly didn’t do it alone.
Clifford Roberts, a skilled investment banker from New York, was his co-founder in every way, both in establishing Augusta National as one of the USA’s most famous sporting institutions, and The Masters, traditionally the first major of the year, as one of golf’s most important tournaments.
And when it came to building what is today rated one of the world’s most beautiful and testing championship layouts, Jones called in and worked closely with the highly respected British golf course architect Dr Alister Mackenzie.
Jones’s fame and winning personality were key in attracting members to the club and later world class fields to the Masters which was first played in 1934, not long after the opening of the club, but Roberts was the back room boy responsible for the finances of Augusta National as well as for the many details required to establish it as one of the best managed golf clubs in America.
No one worked more tirelessly to refine the Masters experience for (to use the terms preferred by the club) its ‘patrons’ and ‘competitors’.
The Club, a male only institution with a membership that includes many of America’s richest and most important men, also prefers not to use the word rough and insists that this part of its course be called the ‘first cut or the ‘second cut’.
But to better understand the roles Jones and Roberts played, perhaps we should look back at these brief biographies of these two outstanding golfing pioneers.
Robert Tyre (Bobby) Jones Jr was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1902, in Atlanta in the state of Georgia where he would die in 1971.
He cut his golfing teeth at Atlanta’s storied East Lake Golf Club and claimed many of his greatest victories as a member of the club which today is the venue for the USPGA’s Tour Championship.
Jones, who earned degrees in engineering, English literature and law, never turned professional, but totally dominated the game from the 1920s to the 1930s, winning 13 of the 21 major championships he entered over a seven-year span.
His record includes five US Amateurs, one British Amateur, four US Opens and three Open Championships.
In 1926 he was the first man ever to win the Open Championship of both the USA and Britain in the same year.
In 1930, Jones accomplished the unprecedented feat of winning what was then considered to be golf’s Grand Slam by capturing the British Amateur on the Old Course at St Andrews, the British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, the US Open at Interlachen Country Club in Minneapolis, and the US Amateur at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania in the same calendar year.
Today the games official four majors are Masters, The US Open, The Open Championship and the US PGA Championship and won together in the same calendar year would now constitute a modern-day Grand Slam.
Tiger Woods is the only man who has won all four modern majors in a row, but as his wins were not achieved in the same year the media called his feat a ‘Tiger Slam’ and a second ‘Grand Slam’ winner after Jones has yet to appear.
But to get back to Jones, perhaps even more remarkable was the fact that in 11 of the last 12 Opens he played in (nine in the US and three in Britain) he never finished lower than second.
Jones retired from competitive golf after his 1930 Grand Slam at the age 28 to pursue a career in law. He came out of retirement only to play annually at the Masters. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974, three years after his death.
Off the course and away from the legal profession, Jones designed golf clubs; wrote four books, including Bobby Jones on Golf, and hundreds of newspaper articles; and gave instructional performances in several movies.
He helped found and make successful the Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club, where he was named President in 1933. He remains President in Perpetuity.
Jones excelled academically as well as on the golf course, earning a BSc degree in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, completing a BA in English literature at Harvard and later entering Emory University to pursue a degree in law where he passed the bar exam after his first year there.
He was married to the former Mary Malone and together they had three children, Clara Malone; Robert T Jones III; and Mary Ellen.
Jones died in 1971 of the spinal disease, syringomyelia, at the age of 69.
Clifford Roberts was born on a farm in Morning Sun, Iowa, in 1894. A skilled investment banker, Roberts made his mark on Wall Street as a Partner with Reynolds & Company.
With Bobby Jones, Roberts co-founded Augusta National Golf Club and served as Chairman of the club from 1931 until his death in 1977 after which he was named Chairman in Memoriam.
He was also Chairman of the Masters Tournament from 1934 until 1976. Since then this position has been held by William Lane (1976 to 1980), Hord Hardin (1980 to 1991), Jackson T. Stephens (1991 to 1998), Hootie Johnson (1998 to 2006) and Billy Payne, the current chairman of the club.
Under Roberts’s direction, the Masters introduced many innovations that are now standard practice in golf.
-He changed the locations of perimeter mounds to improve gallery viewing.
-He was the first to use a series of Leader Boards in strategic positions around the course.
-He also devised a system for showing the cumulative scores of each player using red numbers for under par scores, a green zero for par, and green numbers for over par scores.
Roberts also played a key role in negotiating TV rights and in the setting up of the first Masters television broadcast on CBS in 1956. He carried on working closely with the network until just before his death..
It was Roberts, who, in 1948, invited General Dwight Eisenhower to visit Augusta National and saw Eisenhower became an active member of the Club.
Roberts, in turn, become a political and financial advisor to the President.
During his lifetime, Roberts received many awards and honors.
He served on the PGA Advisory Committee from its inception in 1943 until his death and he was appointed by the USGA to serve on the Bobby Jones Award Selection Committee.
He was made a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978, a year after his death.
Like Jones, he wrote about the club and the game he loved and featured in books about himself and the Masters..
He was the author of ‘The Story of the Augusta National Golf Club’, published in 1976 and a subject of ‘The Making of the Masters: Cliff Roberts’ and ‘Golf’s Most Prestigious Tournament, published in 1999.
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