Like a family’s reverence for old traditions, Augusta holds sacred its memories of the Masters Tournament.
Witnesses to history of golf’s grand event shared their stories of Augusta National Golf Club with The Augusta Chronicle.
Bernard Mulherin remembers when patrons packed a picnic and blanket for lunchtime at Augusta National. He doesn’t recall any concession stands during the tournament’s early days and through the 1940s.
“Families sat around and had a picnic and then went back to watching golf,” he said.
Jean Strickland was a teenager in the early 1950s. She attended the practice rounds with her father, William Bowe, and remembers patrons using periscopes made from cardboard to see the golf action.
“Daddy would have bought gadgets like that,” she said. “They were rectangular, like a shoebox maybe three inches by four inches at the end, and about 15 or 18 inches long.”
Strickland said the periscopes, which are prohibited now, were likely sold by a street vendor outside the course. They were lightweight and worked well for young patrons who could not otherwise see over tall crowds.
Many Augustans have fond memories of close-up encounters with famous golfers.
In the late 1940s, Gene Hampton said, he was a lucky one, watching the presentation of the green jacket. Someone in the crowd played a practical joke on Masters champion Sam Snead, pulling off his hat and throwing it into the crowd.
The hat landed on Hampton’s stomach. He waved the hat high in the air, and Snead came over to retrieve it.
“Few people, if anybody, knew Sam was completely bald-headed,” Hampton said.
Chip Atkins, a 1962 Academy of Richmond County graduate who led the golf team for two years, remembers sneaking across the fence that separated the Augusta Country Club and Augusta National near the 12th and 13th holes. Knowing that area of the course paid off at the 1959 tournament.
On Sunday, Palmer hit his ball into the water on the 12th hole. Atkins watched the ball land in a muddy bank of Rae’s Creek. After the crowds left, he found the mud-covered ball.
“All the players had finished, and I just walked over the (Hogan) bridge,” Atkins said.
He put the ball in his pocket and cleaned it the next day at the country club. Atkins played golf with Palmer’s ball until he lost it.
“I should’ve kept it. That shot cost Arnold the ’59 Masters,” he said.
Charles Cason, a 1964 ARC graduate, was one of many cadets in the school’s ROTC program who was asked to serve as a gallery guard. The guards held ropes to show patrons where and when to cross the fairways.
“After a pairing finished their tee shots, we would surround the … balls with a rope in order to control the fans,” he said.
The gallery guards were paid $6 a day in 1963 and 1964, when Cason volunteered. They wore green and khaki ROTC uniforms and worked 12-hour shifts, beginning at 7 a.m.