Little Bits of History

Elite Golf

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 22, 2014
Augusta National Invitational Tournament in 1934

Augusta National Invitational Tournament in 1934

March 22, 1934: The first Augusta National Invitational Tournament is held. This was the original name for what is today called the Masters Tournament. It is one fo the four major championships in professional golf with the other three being: the US Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. Prior to this, the majors were four tournaments: two British – The Open Championship and The Amateur Championship; and two American – the US Open and the US Amateur. There was a substantial rise in the number of golfers in the 1940s and 50s and eventually the “major championships” came to mean those first listed above.

There is no real definitive line for the change, but it was around Arnold Palmer’s 1960 season. He won both the Masters and the US Open and claimed if he could win the Open Championship and the PGA Championship to finish, he would have won a grand slam that would rival Bobby Jones’ 1930 wins. Other serious games were also considered “big” wins, such as the Western Open and the North and South Open as well as the British PGA Matchplay Championship. During the 1950s the World Championship of Golf was also considered a big win and the first place purse was nearly ten times any other event. However, the sponsor pulled the plug and the last game was held in 1957.

Bobby Jones built Augusta National after he retired from golf. He and Clifford Roberts found a spot in Augusta, Georgia which had been an indigo plantation in the early 1800s and plant nursery since 1857. Alister MacKenzie was hired to help with the design and work began in 1931 with the course formally opening in 1933. The course was sensitively designed in MacKenzie’s signature style and the 18 holes have a 72 par rating, measuring 7,435 yards today (6,800  yards when built). Since 1949, a green jacket has been awarded to the winner who must return it to the clubhouse one year after his victory. Usually only first-time winners remove the jacket from the club’s grounds and repeat winners usually use the same jacket from previous wins.

Horton Smith won the first championship in 1934 at four under par. Jack Nicklaus has won the most Masters (six) as well as being the oldest player to win when he took the jacket in 1986. Tiger Woods has been the youngest player to win and in that initial game he also had the widest winning margin and the lowest winning score. His score of 270 was eighteen under par and twelve strokes ahead of the second place golfer. Gary Player has made the most appearances at the Masters with 52 and made the most successive cuts at 23. Nick Price and Greg Norman share with lowest round scores of 63. There have been three times when a winning score was actually one above par: 1954, Sam Snead; 1956, Jack Burke, Jr.; and 2007, Zack Johnson. The current champion is Adam Scott who had a nine under score in 2013. This year’s tournament is scheduled for April 10 through the 13.

I guess there is nothing that will get your mind off everything like golf. I have never been depressed enough to take up the game, but they say you get so sore at yourself you forget to hate your enemies. – Will Rogers

It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf. – H. L. Mencken

If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron. – Lee Trevino

Don’t force your kids into sports. I never was. To this day, my dad has never asked me to go play golf. I ask him. It’s the child’s desire to play that matters, not the parent’s desire to have the child play. Fun. Keep it fun. – Tiger Woods

Also on this day: Laser – In 1960, the laser was patented.
Hockey is Rough – In 1989, Clint Malarchuk was hurt during a hockey game.
Flying Wallendas – In 1978, Karl Wallenda died from a fall.
Preschool Predicament – In 1984, the McMartin Preschool indictments were brought.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 17, 2013
Prestwick Golf Club

Prestwick Golf Club

October 17, 1860: The Open Championship is first played. Also called The Open or the British Open outside the UK, it is the oldest of the four major championships in men’s golf. The tournament is currently held over the weekend of the third Friday in July. Both The Masters and the US Open are played earlier in the season and The PGA Championship follows. The event takes place on one of nine historic courses in the UK. The prize fund, one time the lowest of the four major events, is now the highest at £4.2 million (about €6.2 million or $8.6 million).

Prestwick Golf Club hosted the first Open only for professional golfers the first year. The field of eight played three rounds on the 12-hole course all in one day. They completed their 36-hole rounds with Willie Park, Sr. taking the title. He beat the favored Old Tom Morris by two strokes with a final score of 174. The winner was awarded the Champion’s Belt – a red leather belt with a silver buckle. There was no prize money. A purse of £10 was added in 1863 but the monies were shared by the second, third, and fourth placed professionals while the leader was given the belt – for a year. If a player won three consecutive years, he got to keep the belt.

The Open was played only at Prestwick until 1873 when the venue changed to St. Andrews. To date, there have been 14 different courses hosting the event. Seven are located in Scotland, six in England, and one in Northern Ireland. Prestwick is no longer used, but St Andrews is along with Carnoustie, Muirfield, Turnberry, Royal Troon, Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St Annes, and Royal Liverpool. The field is open to 156 players. Two-thirds are pre-qualified as leading players while the remaining third must successfully complete “Local Qualifying” or “International Qualifying” rounds.

The oldest winner was Old Tom Morris (age 46 years and 99 days), the champion in 1867. His son, Young Tom Morris (age 17 years, 181 days) was the youngest winner, taking home the belt in 1868. Harry Varton has won the most – 6 times (1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, and 1914). Greg Norman shot the lowest 72-hole score in 1993 with an ending score of 267. Tiger Woods came in with a 19 under par (best relative score) in 2000. The lowest 18-hole score record is held by seven players, each shot 63 for a round. Scotland has taken the title 42 times with 22 different winners while the US has 41 titles and 26 winners. Third place is England with 27 titles taken by 14 winners.

“Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at.” – Jimmy Demaret

“Golf isn’t a game, it’s a choice that one makes with one’s life.” – Charles Rosin

“If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play at it, it’s recreation. If you work at it, it’s golf.” – Bob Hope

“If I had my way, any man guilty of golf would be ineligible for any office of trust in the United States.” – H. L. Mencken

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Challenge Belt was used between 1860 and 1870 when Young Tom Morris won for the third consecutive time and got to keep the belt. Beginning in 1873, the Golf Champion Trophy, also called the Claret Jug, replaced the Belt. The year before, when the trophy wasn’t yet ready, a Gold Medal was awarded to the winner. It has been used ever since. A Silver Medal is awarded to the winning amateur and has been since 1949. Beginning in 1972, a Bronze Medal is a given to all amateurs playing in the final round. The Professional Golfers’ Association of Great Britain and Ireland also have three awards for their own members. The Ryle Memorial Medal is awarded if the winner is a PGA member. It was begun in 1901. Since 1966, the highest finishing PGA member is awarded the Braid Taylor Memorial Medal. Since 1924 the Tooting Bec Cup has gone to the player with the lowest round. The last two are only available if the participant or his parents were born in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.

Also on this day: National Geographic – In 1888, the National Geographic Society began publishing a new magazine.
War on Poverty – In 1993, the UN sponsored its first International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Tornado – In 1091, the London Tornado struck.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 17, 2011

Rodman Wanamaker

January 17, 1916: The US Professional Golfers’ Association [PGA] is formed by Rodman Wanamaker and seven others. The PGA was formed with former British PGA Secretary James Hepburn as head and elected an original 82 members to the fold. The PGA today is headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida even though it began in New York City at the Taplow Club. The PGA claims to be the largest working sports organization with more than 28,000 members. There is a separate association for women, the LPGA. Tournaments have been run by PGA Tour since 1968.

The origins of golf are lost in the mists of time. There was a similar game played at the time of Caesar in ancient Rome. There are pictures of Dutchmen playing a comparable game on the frozen canals dated from the 1400s. The official beginnings of the game we know today were less auspicious.

King James II of Scotland on March 6, 1457 banned “ye golf” in order to encourage the practice of archery, a much more useful endeavor. His son, James III, followed in his footsteps and issued his own ban in 1471. The next generation, James IV, also banned the game in 1491. Something happened however, because the official records of expenditures show that James IV changed his mind. In 1502 the king paid a bow maker 14 shillings for golf clubs. The castle and capitol at the time were located in Perth and that is where the king played the game. Later records show that he purchased equipment in Edinburgh and at St. Andrews.

The first set of 13 written rules for the game dates from 1744. Of course, there must have already been rules or no one could play and know who won. At the time, courses varied in size with any number of holes. St. Andrews, the famous, oldest operating course issued a new set of rules in 1858 listing the number of holes at 18. The first British Open was played in 1860. The first permanent golf club in North America was founded in 1873 at Montreal, Canada. The British PGA was formed in 1901.

“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.” – Dave Barry

“Golf is an exercise in Scottish pointlessness for people who are no longer able to throw telephone poles at each other.” – Florence King

“According to locker room lore, the name golf arose by default – all the other four-letter words had already been taken.” – George Peper

“Golf can best be defined as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle.” – unknown

Also on this day:
Heading for the Hills in Minnesota – In 1950, the Great Brinks Robbery took place.
Popeye – In 1929, Popeye made his cartoon debut.


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