Masters: from humble beginnings to icon

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Unique among the four men's majors, the Masters is held on the same course every year, and is the hardest of the majors to gain entry to - for players and spectators alike.

These days it is impossible for the general public to acquire tickets for the four tournament days unless they have an inside connection or take the scalper route.

Augusta National closed the waiting list for patrons in 1978, six years after it stopped selling tickets to the general public.

While the other three majors do not always sell out (the British Open never caps its attendance), the Masters has created a culture of exclusivity that feeds on itself.

Along the way it has risen in stature to the point where, in the minds of many players and fans alike, it has become the premier golf tournament of all.

“Each of the tennis majors has its own permanent venue (and) consequently a unique history but in golf we only have one such tournament, which adds to the allure,” says Frank Nobilo, who finished fourth at the 1996 Masters.

“It's the grandfather clock that sits in your parents' house that every time you see it, a different part of your childhood comes flooding back along with a smile to your face.

“The Masters is your first broken bone, ticket to the prom and for a select few, validation.”

Dominated in the 1960s by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, the Masters became synonymous among Americans with the arrival of spring, and the Seve Ballesteros-led “foreign invasion” in the 1980s helped raise the tournament's international stature.

And an exciting back nine, with two par-fives that can yield dramatic eagles and disastrous double-bogeys, helped set the stage for a series of riveting finishes that cemented the tournament's exciting reputation in the public's psyche.

The advent of colour television, which so richly captured the carpet of green and the newly-bloomed dogwoods and azaleas, did not hurt, nor did its spot on the schedule as the year's first major.

Then there is the green jacket awarded to the champion, another unique factor that has helped differentiate the tournament from all others.

And unlike almost every other sporting event, the Masters does not gouge every last cent out of every sponsor it can find.

A limit on commercials to four minutes an hour by host U.S. broadcaster CBS makes the experience of watching on TV a welcome respite for the Americans raised on a diet of endless time-outs and advertisements on team sports telecasts.

From humble beginnings during the depression in 1934, when the tournament founded by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones was known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, the Masters has become the most anticipated event on the golf calendar.

Its status has reached a level Roberts and Jones no doubt hoped for, but even they probably would be a little surprised -and very, very proud.

Reuters

Original source: Masters: from humble beginnings to icon

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