Former head of the USGA and R&A shares memories from Augusta
It's not so obvious today, but amateur participation is central to the Masters, in accordance with the wishes of Bobby Jones, the tournament's cofounder.
Jack Nicklaus first played in the Masters as an amateur, as did Tiger Woods. Ken Venturi nearly won the Masters as an amateur.
Most years a handful of amateurs play. There used to be many more. Bill Campbell played in 18 Masters as an amateur over a span of 26 years. No amateur alive has played in more.
"Quantity," says Campbell, "not quality."
He's a truly modest man. Campbell, the only person to serve as president of the USGA and as captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, is 84 and one of golf's grand old men, not that he'd ever own up to the title.
"What I am," he says, "is about the last man standing."
He played in his first U.S. Amateur in 1938 and in his last U.S. Senior Open in 1992. In his Masters years, as a competitor or rules official or honorary invitee, he met Jones in his Augusta National cabin, was paired with Gene Sarazen and ate at the same Amateur Dinner as Woods.
Through the people Campbell has known, a long sweep of Masters play lies in the memory of one man. His college years, along with his amateur golf career, were interrupted by the 42 months he served in the Army during World War II. When he returned to the golf team at Princeton, he was a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. When he finally won the U.S. Amateur, in 1964, he was 41, with a Main Street insurance business, a wife, six children and a game that received only sporadic attention.
Yes, that mold's broken. Michael Bamberger
1. Mr. Roberts
As a semifinalist in the 1949 U.S. Amateur, I played in my first Masters in '50 and my second a year later, when my father and I flew from Huntington, W.Va., to Augusta together in our small plane, my clubs on the back-seat.
It was the Saturday before the tournament, and he accompanied me to the course, which was nearly empty. I asked my father, a lawyer and an 80s shooter, if he wanted to join me for my practice round, which he naturally did. We had only the one set of clubs, so the caddie master found a set for my father.
We played our round, and my father headed home. Inside the clubhouse Helen Harris, the club's office manager, said to me, "Mr. Roberts would like to see you in his apartment." She was referring to Clifford Roberts, the Augusta National chairman who started the tournament with Bobby Jones in 1934. I didn't know Mr. Roberts, but I knew, as many in golf did, of his reputation for being stern. I couldn't imagine why he wanted to see me.
He said, "Who were you playing golf with today?"
"My father," I answered. I was 27, a businessman and a member of the West Virginia State Legislature.
"Whose guest was he?"
"Mine," I said.
"But you're not a member, are you?"
"No, sir. I'm not."
"He wasn't entitled to be out there, Bill," Mr. Roberts said. "I could have sent him off the course and off the club property." There was most likely a pause. "You won't do that again, will you?"
"Then that's over and done with. Now, will you stay here and join me for dinner?"
From that day forward I had a friendly relationship with Mr. Roberts. He could be stern, but there was more to him than that, much more.
2. The Winner's Dinner
On the afternoon of Masters Sunday in 1984, one of my favorite people, Ben Crenshaw, won. Later I was invited by a club member to one of the charming Augusta National traditions that until then I had never experienced: the Sunday club dinner with the new winner, at that time held in the Trophy Room, a large, first-floor dining room.
Hord Hardin, a good friend of mine and then the chairman of the club, announced the dinner's ground rules before the soup course: There would be no speeches, and everyone was to leave the champion alone so that he might enjoy his dinner.
I am one to follow rules, but when I found myself 30 feet away from Ben with a clear line to him, I could not help myself. I walked over, put out my hand and congratulated him.
Hord saw me and was not pleased. He came over and said, "You shouldn't be doing this." I said, "I'm sorry, Hord, but I couldn't not do it."
Ben observed this exchange and looked amused. The rest of the dinner, I'm glad to say, unfolded without incident.
3. Bobby Jones
The greatest delight of playing in the Masters when I did was getting to know Robert Tyre Jones Jr. (He was Bobby on the sports page, Bob to his close friends and Mr. Jones to most everybody else. I called him Mr. Jones.) I would occasionally visit him in his cabin, which is where he spent most of Masters week, more so after he was confined to a wheelchair.
One April I went to call on Mr. Jones in his cabin. Gene Sarazen was visiting with him. They were discussing how you identify the best player ever. Mr. Jones said, "All you can be is the best player of your era. You can't compare players of different eras." Gene said, "I agree, Bob."
It wasn't an epiphany, but I've remembered the comment all these years because there's a lot to it. It's useful to remember when the discussion turns to, Who is the greatest golfer of all time? To my thinking, shaped by what Mr. Jones said that day, you have to consider Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods separately. They are golfers of two different eras.
4. The Crow's Nest
A few amateurs in the Masters are allowed each year to stay in the Crow's Nest, five small cubicles each with a bed and one shared bathroom, on the third, and top, floor of the clubhouse, above the champions' locker room. You can't find a more reasonably priced bed in Augusta during Masters week, or a more convenient one. And it gave us a special "insiders" sense of things, with our full-time exposure from the epicenter of golf's ultimate celebratory week.
In 1954 I played four rounds and then went out with some local friends on Sunday night in their car. When they returned me to the club, around midnight, the front gate was locked. I climbed over the gate and walked down Magnolia Lane. (I'd never seen anybody walk down Magnolia Lane, and haven't since.) I got to the clubhouse and found that all the doors, front and back, were locked. So were the windows. Such security precautions were unusual in those days. I took the outside steps to the second floor porch and found one unlocked window, in the shoeshine room. I crawled through it and slipped into my bed in the Crow's Nest.
Later, I think I figured out why the clubhouse was so secure that night. President Eisenhower was supposed to come to the club on the Monday after the tournament for a visit and some golf. But he didn't. The course was busy that day, for an 18-hole playoff, with Snead defeating Hogan. I heard it on the radio of my plane, flying home.
I was a teenager in Huntington when Byron Nelson won his first Masters, in 1937, and I was a freshman in college and about to join the Army when he won his second, in '42. The way I saw golf in those days, there was Denny Shute, who was from Huntington; there was Bobby Jones, a native Georgian; there was Sam Snead, from the Virginia hill country; and there was Nelson, a Texan. (You didn't hear as much about Ben Hogan back then.)
By '42 the Masters had established itself as one of the prestigious American pro tournaments, along with the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. Those older events were played in summer and typically held in the Northeast or the Midwest. The South could claim Snead, Nelson, Jones and the Masters. I never played with Byron, but I was lucky enough to know him. I went to visit him in Texas, at his Fairway Ranch, in '50. He was modest, but not unduly so. Sitting in his kitchen, he admitted that in his prime he expected to hit 18 greens per round and often did.
We both played in the Chicago National Victory event in 1946, a sort of golfing celebration of the end of the war. I saw Byron at breakfast before the final round, eating alone. He was leading, and I asked him how he felt. He said, "I feel like I'm going into a torture chamber." By the end of the day he had won the tournament and retired from the stressful life of a leading touring pro. After that, he played only in select events, most notably the Masters.
6. The 4th Tee
In 1972, in the second round, I was paired with Don January, the lanky pro from Texas. On the 4th, a longish par-3, I pushed my four-wood tee shot to the right of the green. When I got down there, I saw that my ball was in a bamboo thicket. I went back to the tee with two balls and two clubs, a four-wood and a one-iron. My second ball finished where the first did. I decided I'd try something different for my third attempt and used the one-iron. That shot finished in the bamboo thicket too.
Billy Casper and Gary Player, among other players, were waiting. Mr. Roberts was watching. Justin Stanley, the official standing on the 4th tee, asked me, "What are your intentions, Bill?"
My three balls were out of play, and I was out of balls.
"I'm going to do something I've never done before and take myself out of play," I said.
Mr. Stanley smiled; he would get the field moving again. I walked fast to the green where Don was waiting patiently, along with both caddies.
I asked, "What would you like me to do?"
He said, "Play on, like it never happened." It was a kind thing for him to say. It was an embarrassing episode, but I survived.
For years the club held a long-drive contest on the Wednesday before the tournament, until it was replaced by the Par-3 contest in 1960. The long-drive event was for bragging rights and a gold money clip with the Augusta National logo on it.
In the '51 contest Sam Snead hit a 325-yard drive. I was a late entry, and my winning drive was 328. I was seldom as long as Sam but happened to catch one. The results were announced over a P.A. system while Snead was on the practice putting green. I walked by.
"Hey, boy, come over here," he said to me.
Snead represented the Greenbrier, the West Virginia resort, and we knew each other well. He was 11 years older than I.
"How'd you do that?" he asked.
"Easy, Sam," I said, "I used one of your drivers."
It was a literal answer. One of the Greenbrier assistant pros had given me, on a loaner basis, one of Sam's drivers from his bulging arsenal. It had a persimmon head, eight degrees of loft and an extrastiff shaft. I added an inch of length to the handle.
Snead said, "I want it back!"
He got it back, eventually. I still have the money clip. The club logo fell off years ago, but I still use it every day.
8. The Pond at 15
Things always change at Augusta National. Mr. Roberts used to refer to the changes as "improvements."
There used to be rough terrain on the edges of some of the fairways. Then everything became fairway, until the club began growing its "second cut."
On 15, spectators used to stand behind the green and would sometimes backstop balls that might otherwise go into the water behind them. There are no spectators there anymore, and now players cannot safely overclub when approaching the 15th green.
As for the pond in front of the green, there used to be a narrow rock-and-grass causeway, as I thought of it, which separated the pond into two parts. I paid no attention to this little path until the round in which my approach shot came to rest right on it.
I'd never heard of that happening to anybody else. I could make only a lefthanded swing at the ball, which I did with a wedge held upside-down. Standing unsteadily on rocks in unfamiliar terrain, with water all around you, making a swing you seldom make, is a recipe for failure. But I struck the ball cleanly and nearly holed the shot. If I were to compile a list of the best shots I played at the Masters from places that no longer exist, it would be first.
In fact, of the shots I hit in the Masters, I regard it as the most memorable.
When Ben Hogan died in 1997, the obituaries made reference to his nickname, the Wee Ice Mon.
I wrote to his widow, Valerie, to say that was not the person I knew. I was paired with Ben and Jimmy Demaret in the 1952 Colonial Invitational. I had just lost a Democratic primary race for Congress, and I was playing like it.
My first tee shot was right off the heel of my driver and nearly hit a woman. My progress on the 2nd and 3rd holes was modest. On the 4th hole Ben put his arm around me and said, "Bill, you have as much right to be out here as Jimmy or myself." Hogan won the tournament, and I was low amateur.
Hogan would prepare for the Masters by playing at Seminole, in South Florida, where I started playing as a guest in the early 1950s and which I joined in '69. I played several times with him there.
Once I brought my children to the club to watch him practice. As you'd imagine, he was preparing shots that he would play at Augusta. I told my kids, "Don't ask him anything. Just watch. You don't have to have a good time. Just remember it."
10. The Upstairs Dining Room
My favorite place to eat lunch during the Masters was in an often-crowded dining room on the second floor of the clubhouse, where there were TVs carrying the golf and the tables were filled with golf people talking about golf and eating peach cobbler. A nice combination.
One day during the 1975 tournament, Joe Wolfe, a well-liked and respected Tour rep and executive for Wilson Sporting Goods, came into that dining room. West Virginia was Wilson country because Denny Shute and Sam Snead played Wilson. Joe would get me clubs (for which I paid) made to my unusual specifications. I played with very heavy clubs, an E-5 swingweight all through the bag.
In my day golfers often had a personal connection to their clubs and the people who made them and sold them. I saw my old Wilson friend across that second-floor dining room and said, "Joe, how are you?" He said, "Bill, didn't you hear? I'm dying."
The room went silent briefly until I managed to react to the surprise of this terrible news. I said, "Joe, we all are. It's just a question of how much time we have left and how we use it."
Sadly, a month later, Joe Wolfe was dead. At Augusta the golf world gets together for a week, and you see some people there and nowhere else. At the Masters, whenever you say hello, you might be saying a final goodbye too. At least you are doing it in a beautiful place.
It's hard to imagine a more charismatic person than Arnold Palmer. You saw his charisma most especially at the Masters, where Arnie's Army originated. He had the rare knack, when looking into a gallery, of giving the impression that he was looking right at you.
One year, when Arnold was past his prime but still a force, I was the rules official assigned to the 7th hole, stationed behind the green. In those days the 7th was considered a potential birdie hole, but on this occasion Arnold made a bogey. He could not have been happy. But as he came off the green he looked up and saw two women in their mid-30s watching him. He smiled and winked. The ladies were swooning. One turned to the other and said, "I'd give my right arm for 45 minutes with him."
Men, of course, have always responded to him too. To this day, if you ask male golfers to fill out their dream foursome, Arnie is in the group again and again.
12. The Short 12th
Augusta National is the best spectator course I've ever walked. My favorite hole for watching is 12, the short par-3 fronted by Rae's Creek.
From the tee you can see everything that happens on 12, the approach shots to 11 green and the drives from 13 tee. Twice, I was a rules official assigned to the 12th hole. In the first round of the 1978 Masters, 17 players on my watch hit it in the water on 12. In the first round of the '79 Masters, 18 players found the water. It's odd, I admit, the things a golfer will remember, but that's a hole where more bad things seem to happen than good. Gary Player made a bogey on 12 on Thursday in '78 and went on to win. In '79, Fuzzy Zoeller made a 5 there and he went on to win too.
No amateur has ever won the Masters, but between 1947 and '61, four were runners-up or close to it.
Frank Stranahan had a second in '47, as did Kenny Venturi in '56 and Charlie Coe in '61. Billy Joe Patton was a stroke out of the Snead-Hogan playoff in '54. Harvie Ward, a good friend and an immense talent, never played his best in the Masters, but he still had a solo fourth in '57.
We amateurs were a small group and knew one another well. I traveled with Frank to a few tournaments. He was an heir to the Champion Spark Plug fortune, Hollywood handsome and a fitness enthusiast. Billy Joe was smart and also a blithe and amusing spirit. Knowing how frugal I was about using new golf balls, he'd sometimes say, "You know, Bill, there's no ball washer on the 1st tee at Augusta National." (And there's not.)
Charlie Coe's tie for second was even more remarkable when you consider that Arnold Palmer, then the reigning U.S. Open champion and the game's dominant player, shot the same score that Coe did.
Venturi Ward's partner in the famous match against Hogan and Nelson captured in Mark Frost's book The Match had the best chance of them all, but he closed with an 80.
The tradition then was for the 54-hole leader to play the last round with Byron Nelson. But Byron was Kenny's teacher, and Mr. Jones and Mr. Roberts felt it wouldn't be fair to put them out together. They invited Venturi to name his playing partner, and he chose Snead. People have often said that Sam did nothing to help Ken that day, but Ken has said otherwise. Sam was respectful, not chatty, and gave Ken room.
I know from experience that it's hard for an amateur golfer to play his usual game when competing in the Masters, especially when paired with a pro in the first round or in Ken's case, as the 54-hole leader. You're playing in front of big crowds on a demanding course with the best players in the world in the field. Ken was enduring all that, plus trying to become the first amateur to win the Masters. A tall order.
14. The Driving Range
My favorite place at Augusta National off the course is the driving range. I'd watch all the greats there: Snead, Nelson, Hogan and Nicklaus in my playing days; Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer when I returned later in one role or another.
The spectator is close to the players at the range, and you can make a study, as I did, of the player's transition from backswing to downswing, or whatever particular thing that may interest you.
One year Snead tried to change Moe Norman's grip on that driving range, and Norman stayed out there until his hands were raw. The Masters is the most intimate of the four majors, in part because the field is small and also because the club is not immense or sprawling.
On the practice tee you see players stand near one another, sometimes chirping away happily, like spring birds. Part of that chatter is nerves, a way to release tension. And part of it is just the opposite: They're playing in the Masters; they're playing at Augusta National; it's the colorful spring of a new season. Why fight it?
I think it's fitting that Jack Nicklaus, of all golfers, has accomplished the most at Augusta National, with his six titles, because he's been so loyal to the amateur ideals of the game that Mr. Jones held dear. That might sound strange, as Jack's wins at Augusta were all as a pro, but I believe it. Jack's father, Charlie, admired Bob Jones, and he raised Jack to follow Mr. Jones's example of sportsmanship.
As a young man Jack expected he would play golf only as an amateur. I knew Jack then, and I had something to do with his turning pro. In 1961, when Jack was still at Ohio State, I had dinner with him and his college coach, Bob Kepler. I told Jack, who had recently won his second U.S. Amateur, that if he turned pro he could become a dominating and great golfer, but that if he remained an amateur, he would never realize his potential as a golfer or as a businessman.
His employers would want to use his golf skill in the name of building relationships, and that would prevent him from ever really learning a business from the inside. And his golf would suffer because he wouldn't have enough time or concentration to devote to it.
"Playing golf as a pro is the only way you'll really be able to call your life your own," I said.
Coach Kepler said, "Jack, he's right."
Some of my USGA friends were critical of my position; they had hoped that Jack would become another Bobby Jones. My feeling is that he did.
16. The Fairway Bunker on 3
I watched Jeff Maggert play the 3rd hole of the fourth round of the 2003 Masters with keen interest. He was the tournament leader when his tee shot finished in the left fairway bunker. On his second shot the ball caught the top of the bunker and came flying back at him. He tried to avoid it, but the ball hit him, and he knew the penalty: two shots. He didn't fuss about it, but it brought him down. He made a 7 on that hole and an 8 on the par-3 12th, and he finished five shots out of the Mike Weir-Len Mattiace playoff.
I had felt the rule was unfair since 1946, when I incurred something similar in the U.S. Amateur qualifier at Baltusrol. My feeling, then and now, is that there should be no penalty.
Thereafter, I started to lobby the USGA to try to get the rule changed to no strokes. Joe Dey, the USGA executive director, once said to me, "Why don't you compromise?" That is, make it a one-shot penalty in match play or stroke play. So I took up the cause.
My first thought while watching Maggert was sympathy for him. My second thought was, This will be seen by millions of people maybe it will bring about a change. This year Rule 19-2 has been amended. If your ball hits you or your caddie or your equipment, it's a one-shot penalty, in match or stroke play. Yes, it took 62 years for the change to be made, but it was worth it.
Over the years I have happily attended more than 40 Amateur Dinners at the Masters, speaking at some of them.
It was at one of the dinners that I first saw Tiger up close, when he was the U.S. Amateur champion. He was a young man with a beautiful smile who looked you in the eye when he spoke to you. Like everybody else, I've been fascinated to watch his career unfold.
His commitment to fitness is extraordinary, as is his concentration. But his greatest talent, I think, is on the greens and around them. At Augusta that's especially useful. His most amazing Masters shot to me was the pitch shot he played away from the hole from over the 16th green, in the fourth round in 2005. The ball practically came to a stop before it finally fell. Incredible drama and pure genius. I probably would have tried to putt the ball from where he was. It's counterintuitive to play a shot away from your target.
I've watched many come and go. Tiger's a one-off.
18. The Bag Room
My rounds at Augusta National began at the bag room, where your club caddie would be waiting for you in a laundered white jumpsuit, your bag leaning against a wall. Every day was a fresh start.
In my Masters years all the players were required to use club caddies. In my last eight or nine tournaments, my caddie was a smallish man, not young even when we started together, named Willie Perteet.
In the first round in 1976, I played with Bob Goalby, winner of the '68 Masters, and behind Raymond Floyd. Every time Willie or Bob or I looked up, Floyd seemed to be holing another putt. The next day I played with Bobby Nichols. That turned out to be my final round in the Masters. Willie had to be near his end too. He was very likable, and what he knew, he knew. He didn't use a yardage book and didn't need one. If I wanted a yardage, and I seldom did, I'd say, "Cemetery, what do you think it is?" He'd eyeball it. Cemetery was his nickname, given to him in the 1950s by a well-known Augusta National member.
As a young man so the story went he got knifed to death in a bar fight and was taken to the morgue. But he rose from the table and walked out, and after that everybody began calling him Dead Man.
When he started caddying for President Eisenhower, the President said, "I can't have a caddie called Dead Man," and he started calling him Cemetery.
Cemetery did fine by me. We parted ways for the final time, without ceremony, where our days had begun, in front of the bag room.