Next week the Masters Tournament celebrates its silver anniversary at the Augusta National Golf Club, where Robert T. Jones and Clifford Roberts performed the obstetrics during the second month of the second year of the first term of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Consider the year it was! John Dillinger was gunned down by the FBI in 1934. President Von Hindenburg died, and Adolf Hitler assumed the title of Reichs f�hrer. Max Baer knocked out Primo Camera for the heavyweight championship. Cavalcade won the Derby. Lawson Little first won both the U.S. and British amateur golf championships.
Now the tournament that began so modestly amid all these notable events has become one of the two summits of our golfing year. The other is, of course, the Open. But in many ways the Masters has already overshadowed the Open. It is played, year in and year out, on a very special course that is a far subtler, more devious and more versatile opponent than most of the doctored landscapes used for the Open.
The beauty of the rolling Georgian hills and their springtime tapestry of tall pines and bursting azaleas provide the Masters with a priceless setting.
Even the gallery at the Masters is something special—quietly respectful of the players' problems, cameraless, uncomplainingly confined to the nonplaying areas of the course, where its members can watch comfortably without stampeding either themselves or the contestants. A few weeks ago Jimmy Demaret, a three-time winner at Augusta, summed up the feelings of many of the more mature golfers when he said, with a touch of hyperbole, "Compared to the Masters, the Open is Tobacco Road."
The Augusta National course is invariably in superb condition at Masters time, as the aerial color photographs opposite and on the following page so verdantly testify. It is no accident that this is so. Jones and Roberts first planned the tournament for a time of year when the climate of northern Georgia is friendliest toward the grass and foliage of the local countryside. On the morning of each day's play—and not the night before, as is the custom at so many other tournaments—the Bermuda and Italian rye grass of the fairways and greens receive the last-minute loving attention of the greenkeepers' tools.
It's no wonder, then, that the Masters does something for and to the contestants long before the first Thursday in April. Early this March, for instance, Mike Souchak, who has firmly established himself in the front rank of modern golfers, was hitting some practice shots before playing a round at the Pensacola Open. Souchak had been away from the winter tour for a few weeks, and he didn't yet feel he was hitting the ball with the power and precision that he would like. "It's all right," Souchak was telling a bystander who had asked him how he was playing. "I've still got four weeks to get ready."
"Four weeks? Four weeks to get ready for what?"
"Four weeks before the Masters," Souchak said, punching out another seven-iron. "I always begin to feel the Masters about now—right here." He patted his stomach.
"They're all beginning to feel it," Souchak went on. "Palmer's in there filing down the edges of his clubs. Hogan's at Seminole sharpening up. Notice how all the boys are out practicing a little more each day. Everybody's beginning to feel it coming."