When 18-year-old Ed Bailey scored a ticket to the inaugural Masters, in 1934, it wasn’t the Masters. It was the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. “I didn’t have any idea the tournament would become what it is today,” says Bailey, 93, a retired pediatrician and Augusta native. “But I knew it had potential.” So did Bailey — as a spectator. As far as anybody can tell, Bailey is the only person to have strolled the grounds at all 72 Masters. Gene Sarazen’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World?” Bailey actually heard it. Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones? Bailey shook his hand. Greg Norman and Nick Price? Bailey calls them pals. Hey, Billy Payne — give this man a green jacket already!
You’ve really never missed one? Not one?
No. I’m sure there are others who’ve been to every Masters, but I don’t know who they are.
What did it sound like when Gene Sarazen holed out for double-eagle on the 15th hole in 1935, the famous 'Shot Heard ‘Round the World'?
I was standing on No. 17, and you could have heard a pin drop. Then came a thunderous roar from the crowd — Sarazen had made a double-eagle. I didn’t see him hit the ball, but I heard the commotion. I looked over and saw him get his ball from the cup.
You appeared in a photograph in the first issue of Sports Illustrated, in 1954. How did you learn you were in SI?
I subscribed to the new magazine and saw my picture. But I was not aware of the photographer taking the photo at the time.
You’ve played Augusta National, right?
I played many times until 1998, when my legs would no longer allow me to walk the course. My best round was an 80.
You even hit balls on the developing fairways when the course was being converted from a nursery. What did the layout look like then?
My neighbor was working on the course. He took me out to play. It was pretty rough because they were working on the greens and growing the fairways. But there was such anticipation from the community when Bobby Jones bought the nursery.
If you could re-watch a Masters, which would it be?
I’d say 1967. That was Ben Hogan’s last Masters. He shot a 66 in the third round to tie for 10th at the age of 54. I talked to him once. He was something else. There’ll never be anyone else like him.
When did you realize you had a perfect attendance record?
I found out in 1991. I was going to take a break but my children wouldn’t let me. These days I can no longer walk the course, so I sit in the practice stands and watch. It’s become a tradition that can’t be broken.