Each year at The Masters I look forward to seeing whatever new innovations the members at Augusta National come up with to improve the tournament. This year, Rules Officials were greeted with a revised packet of information that was much more condensed. Included was a 2013 Masters Tournament Handbook and it contained some interesting historical data that I wanted to share with you.
The name Amen Corner refers to Holes 11, 12 and 13. Amen Corner was first coined in a 1958 Sports Illustrated article by Herbert Warren Wind, who wrote that it was composed of the second half of hole No. 11, hole No. 12 and the first half of hole No. 13. Wind was searching for an appropriate name for the location where the critical action had taken place that year.
Saturday evening in 1958, heavy rains soaked the course. For Sunday’s round, a local rule was adopted allowing a player whose ball was embedded to lift and drop without penalty. Sunday on No. 12, Arnold Palmer hit his ball over the green and the ball embedded in the steep bank behind it.
Being uncertain about the applicability of the local rule, the official on the hole and Palmer agreed the ball should be played as it lay and that Palmer could play a second ball which he dropped. Palmer holed out for a 5 with the original ball and a 3 with the second ball. The committee was asked to decide if the local rule was applicable and if so, which score would count.
At No. 13, still unsure of what his core was at 12, Palmer sank an 18-foot putt for eagle 3. When he was playing No. 15, Palmer was told his drop at 12 was proper and that his score on the hole was 3, virtually assuring him of his first major victory.
Named after John Rae, who died in 1789, Rae’s Creek flows at the back of No. 11 green and runs in front of No. 12 green and No. 13 tee. It was Rae’s house that was the farthest fortress up the Savannah River from Fort Augusta. The house kept residents safe during Indian attacks when the fort was out or reach.
Located at hole No. 17, the Eisenhower Tree is approximately 210 yards from the Masters tee and left- center of the fairway. The loblolly pine is approximately 65 feet high and about 100 to 125 years old. The former President of the U.S. and Club member hit into the tree so often he campaigned to have it removed. At a Club’s governors meeting in 1956, Eisenhower proposed cutting the tree down. Clifford Roberts promptly ruled him out of order and adjourned the meeting. The pine has been linked to Eisenhower since then.
“The big oak tree” on the golf course side of the Clubhouse is a live oak. It was planted when the building was completed in the late 1850’s, making the tree approximately 145-150 years old. Part of the current clubhouse was the office of the Fruitland Nursery. Several other live oaks were planted on the grounds about the same time. The ‘big oak” is one of the favorite gathering places during the Masters Tournament.
The private hedge at the Club was developed from plants imported from France by the Berckman’s of Augusta who owned the Fruitland Nursery, now the site of the golf course. The wisteria vine, most noticeable on the tree next to the clubhouse is reported to be the first of its kind in the U.S. It is also believed to be the largest vine of its type in the country.
Surprisingly, there is one palm tree on the golf course and it rests right of the green on hole No. 4. The pine tree is the most abundant tree at Augusta National. There are over 30 varieties of azaleas, along with numerous dogwoods. The color at The Masters should be fabulous this year.
On Wednesday, Chairman Billy Payne held his annual press conference. He informed the media that the number of players to make the cut this year will be expanded from 44 to 50. As always, any player within 10 shots of the leader after 36 holes will also make the cut.
Payne was also asked about the position of Augusta National Golf Club on the controversial proposed ban on anchored putters. Payne’s response was that ANGC is a club and not a governing body. He said it was inappropriate to express an opinion on anchored putters. But, he added he hopes that for the good of the game golf’s governing bodies would come to some agreement on the issue.
My week has included the announcement of the Drive, Chip and Putt contest supported by the PGA of America, Augusta National Golf Club and the USGA. It was an honor to sit with Chairman Payne and Glen Nager, President of the USGA and make this historic announcement.
On Wednesday night, I was privileged to attend Chairman Payne’s Reception and then go to the Golf Writers’ of America dinner and present John Hopkins from the London Times with the PGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in journalism.
These are truly days that create memories of a lifetime.