Once well known to large circles of Augusta teenagers and college students, giant hillsides near the 16th and sixth holes were ideal gathering places to lie back, sip a cold drink and enjoy good conversation.
“Sixteen was just the place to go,” said Robert Harn, of Augusta. “You could be off at (college) and come home, and that was where you knew to go to catch up and see everybody.”
Harn remembers heading to the hangout at the 16th hole with a friend from Savannah in the early 1970s. At sunset, the two headed to the 17th hole to catch their first glimpse of golf for the day.
“If I’ve come to the Masters, I’m gonna at least see one golf ball hit,” the friend said.
Starting in the late 1960s, the 16th hole was the official meeting place for Augustans, often escalating into a noisy and boisterous social gathering.
Locals couldn’t wait to turn 18, once the legal drinking age, and dally at the 16th. It was also the place to find out what houses were playing host to the biggest social parties of Masters Week.
Bill Harris, an Augustan with fond memories of the 16th hole, said fewer locals have attended the tournament in recent years. Seeing a familiar face at the 16th is rarer.
“All of a sudden the locals started leaving town,” Harris said. “Once upon a time, you didn’t dare leave, it was such a fun time.”
When things began to change at the 16th is debated. Some say the late 1980s or early ’90s.
Harn still finds himself gravitating toward the area, only to find the drink stand moved and the locals an anomaly out of place among out-of-town strangers.
“I miss it because my kids, who are 25 and 21 now, they don’t know that,” he said.
Brigid Pursley said she had enjoyed the 16th hole since she was 8 years old. Her father, Mackey Mulherin, was a volunteer for the tournament. In 1972, he was assigned as an announcer at the 16th green, some say to help control crowds.
“He wore the red coat and he’d put his hand up and everyone would get quiet,” she said. “It was amazing.”
Mulherin had a stack of index cards, each filled with interesting facts about the players. He would lay down a blanket on the grassy hillside for his daughter to sit on while he calmed the crowds.
“Daddy always took me. I was his little sidekick,” said Pursley, who continued to tarry at the 16th when she was a young adult. Her father wore the red coat at the 16th hole until 1988.
A famous painting of the 16th hole, Sunday in Augusta by artist Ted Hamlin, hangs in Harn’s office. The painting, a copy of a photograph, depicts crowds surrounding the 16th hole watching Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus tee off in 1980.
In the painting, a visible gap appears along the rope to the right-hand side of the tee box. Harn can point out three of his good friends watching the tee shot, but he said two people were missing.
“The little gap should have been myself and my friend Allen Searson. We were betting closest to the hole and we lost,” Harn said. “We were getting beers when they came through, and we didn’t make the portrait.”