Masters Tournament

How did the Masters begin? A look back at the start of golf's most prestigious tournament

The tradition continues at Augusta National Golf Club this week with the playing of the 88th Masters Tournament.

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It’s a tradition unlike any other. 

The Masters, arguably the most prestigious of golf’s four major tournaments, will begin Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. It will be the 88th edition of the tournament, which of course will conclude with the iconic green jacket being placed upon the shoulders of its newest winner. 

But when, and how, did that tradition begin?

Here’s a look back at the very start of golf’s preeminent event.

When did Augusta open? 

Augusta National Golf Club was founded by 13-time major winner Bobby Jones, who sought to fulfill a dream by building a golf course after his retirement, and investment banker Clifford Roberts.

Construction on the 365-acre property, formerly known as Fruitland Nurseries, began in 1931, according to the Masters website. The course opened with limited member play in 1932 and had its formal opening in January of the following year.  

When did the Masters begin?

Co-founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts decided to hold an annual event beginning in 1934.

The first Masters Tournament was held on March 22, 1934 – but it wasn’t called “The Masters” just yet due to a disagreement between the two. 

Roberts suggested “The Masters” but Jones thought the name was too presumptuous, according to the Masters website. So, for the first five years of the event, it was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. Jones acquiesced, and in 1939, the tournament became the Masters. 

Who won the first Masters?

Horton Smith won the first Masters Tournament by one stroke – again, when the tournament was still under its original name of the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. The 25-year-old birdied his second-to-last hole of the tournament to pull ahead of Craig Wood. Two years later, Smith captured his second Masters victory with another one-strike win. 

The winner of the 1939 tournament, the first to be played after the Masters name was adopted, was Ralph Guldahl.

When did the green jacket presentation begin?  

Long before Masters champions began receiving green jackets, they were given to Augusta National members. That membership perk began in 1937, three years after the club opened.

Who’s idea was it to go green at Augusta? There are two origin stories involving each of the club’s co-founders, per 

The first is that Bobby Jones attended a dinner in Liverpool, England, where club captains wore a green jacket to symbolize their position, which Jones was fond of.

The second is that Clifford Roberts viewed it as a way to identify club members as "reliable sources of information" to visiting guests who weren't members, as well as letting waiters "know who got the check at dinner."

Who won the first green jacket?

The first Masters champion to receive a green jacket for their victory was Sam Snead in 1949. Augusta National then retroactively awarded a jacket to each previous winner.

Where are the green jackets made?

Cincinnati...but that's a long story.

Who has won the most green jackets?

Jack Nicklaus, the sport’s all-time leading major winner with 18, has won the most Masters Tournaments with six victories. 

He is followed by Tiger Woods (5) and Arnold Palmer (4). 

With the 88th edition of the Masters Tournament looming, here's the list of who has won the most Masters Tournaments in history.
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