Horton “Who” and Adam Scott
If you watched The Masters Golf Tournament this past April, you and I, along with millions of other golfers (and those spouses that only had only one TV) were hanging on every shot by Aussie Adam Scott and Venezuelan Angel Cabrera in the sudden death playoff.
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As we all know by now, in the rain and fading daylight, Scott defeated Cabrera on the second playoff hole to win The Masters finishing at nine under par. What you may not know, is that any winners’ total share of the purse is banned by The Master’s committee from being announced on TV during the event (just for the record Scott’s share was $1,440,000). They also do not announce at any time the attendance or total gate receipt for the week-long event, which includes a past champions dinner on Tuesday night and a nine hole par three event on Wednesday.
As for Horton “Who,” I will get to him in a few more paragraphs and this will give him more importance at the end of his 18 holes of glory.
So let’s start at the beginning, after Bobby Jones retired (and, some would argue, as the best golfer in the world at age twenty-eight), he and a group of rich golfing friends decided to buy 365 acres outside Augusta, Georgia and build their “dream golf course.”
The intent in 1931 was to create an exclusive golf club for “high-class” members by invitation only. Those members would include VIPs, lawyers, politicians, company CEOs, or basically the upper crust of male society, working or retired, but no women.
Built on the grounds of a plant nursery dating back to the 1850s, the grounds already had a head start on flowers, azaleas and magnolia trees. When it opened in 1933, it had the feel of an established golf course built long ago and “looked like a museum replica of plantation days in the Old South.”
Since money was no object, Jones and his cronies hired Dr. Alister Mackenzie, world renowned English golf course architect to work his magic on the course. And to this day the landscaping at Augusta has become an art form. It was good news, bad news for Mackenzie though. He had created a masterpiece for generations of golfers to enjoy, but he died before he could witness the first Master’s Tournament in 1934.
The Masters Tournament began almost by accident, or better yet fate, due to the fact that Jones and his buddies wanted to host a major tournament. They wanted the U.S. Open to be played at Augusta in 1933, but the deal fell through. Over the course of the next year, he used his celebrity to convince the game’s greatest players to be part of the first Augusta National Invitational Tournament (the name Masters didn’t come about until 1939).
So, now you might be curious about who won the first tournament held at Augusta, no matter what it was called. Well it turns out that a pro golfer, (unknown to many modern fans today) named Horton Smith was the first to claim the title.
He did not receive a green jacket (more on that in a moment), but did receive a prize purse of $1,500, shooting one under par for the tournament. Smith was no hacker, but had a great career in golf during his lifetime. He finished with 32 PGA wins; won a second Masters in 1936 and was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.
Why no green jacket for Smith? Simple, in 1937, members of Augusta started wearing green jackets to distinguish themselves from the common fans, but it wasn’t until 1949, when Sam Snead won his first Masters that the jacket became an add-on to the prize money of $2,700. Some will argue that the “Green Jacket” means more to the winner than the prize money.
If you want to attend the Masters next year as a patron (the term fan is not allowed to be used on TV as stated by the Masters committee), you better bring your checkbook. A four day ticket to be in the gallery was going for $9,775 on stub hub this past April.
Trivial Masters facts
Jack Nicklaus holds the record for most wins at 6.
Rae’s Creek is dyed blue every April for the Masters and TV viewers.
During WWII, play was suspended and the course was used to graze cattle.
Augusta currently has accepted two women members.
For more golf course photos, fine art photography and Bleile's blog, go to genebleilephotography.com.