It’s not so obvious today,
but amateur participation
is central to the Masters,
wishes of Bobby Jones, the
first played in the Masters as an
amateur, as did Tiger Woods. Ken
Venturi nearly won the Masters as
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.
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.
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.
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
flew from Huntington, W.Va., to Augusta
in our small plane, my clubs on the back-seat.
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
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
Ben observed this exchange
and looked amused. The rest of the
dinner, I’m glad to say, unfolded
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
From the tee you can see everything
that happens on 12, the approach
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.)
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
did fine by me. We parted ways for the final
time, without ceremony, where our days
had begun, in front of the bag room.