Each year that this thing called the Masters Tournament reemerges as such a scented and luxuriant success, it strengthens the notion that God must have been a two-handicapper from Georgia. At least it encourages the legend of how it all seems to get started every spring: either Bobby Jones or Clifford Roberts, who co-founded the tournament 34 years ago, goes outside the Augusta National clubhouse upon a certain divine morning in April, does a verónica with one of those green blazers and, all at once, wonders occur. Grandiloquent pines rise up. Acres of emerald turf appear. Obedient servants begin stirring around. And suddenly great swarms of happy people are encircling Arnold Palmer, who happens to be threshing about in a million or so fresh-blooming azaleas.
But the Masters does not happen quite like this, of course. It evolved painstakingly, year by year since 1934, building its traditions, its distinctions and its own unwritten history. It was caressed, loved, patted and prodded into shape until it finally bloomed as the most glorious scene that golf has to offer. Because it grew slowly and mellowed quietly, there is much to the Masters—and Augusta National—that goes unseen by the swarming galleries, and even unappreciated by the players, who are the people this particular tournament was made for.
Subtle sounds and sudden glimpses help reveal this hidden Masters. It might be the clinking of ice in a cocktail glass as a green-jacketed member moves through the white portals and multicolored umbrellas on the terrace, or a quick look toward a row of cottages along the 10th fairway, with the knowledge that one of them was built for a President. It might be the way the sun drifts through the dark row of magnolias on the avenue leading up to the clubhouse entrance, or Valerie Hogan sitting on the lawn with a handful of cables and letters of congratulation for Ben. It could be a gathering of caddies, lounging in a fenced-off yard, weary from trudging over the course's valleys and too tired to play pool at the table provided for them in the caddie house, or the clacking of typewriters from inside the massive Quonset hut that serves the press. It might be nothing more than the glow of the club at night during a private dinner of the past champions, or something as remarkably simple as a hand-lettered sign on a swinging door leading from the kitchen into a dining area called the Trophy Room where Jones's clubs are displayed on a wall, a sign that advises the waiters: "Please talk just a little louder than a whisper." Perhaps, most of all, it is a devastating orderliness and a Southern loyalty that almost hurls you back to the veranda at Twelve Oaks where the Tarleton twins are giggling with Scarlett O'Hara.
A behind-the-scenes look at the Masters can well begin with the man who put up the sign to the kitchen help, Bowman Milligan, the club steward. Bowman is a big fellow with a smudge of gray at his temples and a baritonish voice who has probably heard his name called out more than anyone in the history of Augusta National. But un-rattled and dutiful, he maintains the carriage and aplomb of one who has spent a lifetime catering to millionaires. Primarily, Bowman is in charge of hiring and overseeing the Negro employees at the club—the waiters, bartenders, chauffeurs, maids and others. But if during Masters week Claude Harmon cannot get a glass of iced tea fast enough, or if Ben Hogan does not like the look of the lettuce on his sandwich, a holler of "Bowman!" is heard, and somehow Bowman is always nearby. "I work from can't to can't," he says of Masters week. "I try to rise to the occasion. My main job is remembering—trying to remember everything there is to be done."
April 8, 1968
Bowman, whose father was a groundkeeper on the Harry Payne Whitney estate in Aiken, S.C., came to Augusta National in 1930, before the golf course was built. He cooked, washed dishes and shined shoes for Roberts and Jones and began to learn the things that have to be remembered for a Masters (there is now a 67-page notebook of single-spaced printed instructions called a Masters Tournament Checklist that spells out literally thousands of details of club operation during tournament time). At one point Bowman even earned himself some personal prestige by managing Beau Jack, an Augusta National shoeshine boy who fought his way to the world lightweight championship. In the old days, it is said, battle royals were staged in the ballrooms of the Bon Air Hotel for Augusta National people, affairs in which five boxers were in the ring at once, and there Bowman's Beau Jack reportedly won many a fight that does not show on his record.
Today Bowman gets into the spotlight, too, but in a different way. He is official custodian of the green coat, that cherished piece of either gabardine or Palm Beach fabric (the player gets his choice) that goes to the Masters champion. Those who have witnessed a prizegiving at the 18th green after a Masters may have wondered about the identity of the Negro gentleman in the dark suit, the one who marched, almost to an imaginary drum roll, from the clubhouse out to the course, carrying the green jacket and handing it to the past champion who, in ceremonial turn, slipped it on the new champion. It is Bowman Milligan who carries the coat.
"This is my favorite part of the Masters," says Bowman. "I like to take the coat out and see the new champion crowned."
Augusta National did not invent the idea of wearing blazers, even green ones, but it did start the custom of presenting one to its champion back in 1949, a ceremony that some other tournaments since have copied. However, in the case of the Masters, the champion may leave town, but the green coat rarely does. All the green coats are stored in lockers under the care of a houseman named William Tillman. There is an unwritten rule that the coats of the past champions and those of members are to be worn only at the club. No one knows exactly what would happen if a man walked into "21" wearing his Masters coat and Cliff Roberts were there, but one hates to guess.
The green coat and the winner's check for $20,000 or so are the most publicized of Augusta's rewards to the golfers, but there are many, many others. The champion receives a sterling-silver replica mounted on pine of the permanent Masters trophy. The permanent trophy is just that, permanent, principally because no one could lift it. Made in England of 900 separate pieces of sterling, it weighs some 125 pounds. The winner also gets a gold medal, a silver cigarette box and, finally, a year later at the dinner for the champions, a gold locket (Cartier) made like a book, with the club symbol—a map of the U.S. with a flagpin where Augusta might be—on the front and a photo of Bobby Jones on the inside of the back cover.
Augusta National gives away almost as many prizes as it serves thin steak sandwiches on toast, a basic part of the club menu that Jimmy Demaret once described as "the back nine of Bowman's cuisine." The pro runner-up gets a medal, the low amateur and runner-up get medals, each day's low scorer gets a Steuben crystal vase, the maker of a hole in one gets a Steuben vase, the maker of an eagle gets a Steuben highball glass, the winner of the Wednesday par-3 tournament gets a silver tea service (Reed and Barton, Hampton Court design) or 12 Wedgwood bone-china plates decorated with an etching of the clubhouse, the par-3 runner-up gets one piece of a tea service or two plates, the third-place finisher gets two plates and anyone who scores a hole in one in the par-3 event gets six plates. There is one other prize for the competitors that may be tougher to win than the championship. The newest addition to the award list, it is a giant Steuben bowl given for scoring a double eagle. There have only been two—Gene Sarazen's back in 1935 at the 15th hole and Bruce Devlin's last year at the 8th hole. Devlin's led to the establishment of the prize.
In addition to all of the above, the Masters gives away to hundreds of officials, volunteer workers, players' wives and members of the press some different kind of remembrance every year. Almost every idea for a gift has been exhausted, but Cliff Roberts always hopes to better an ashtray, a billfold, a card case, a tool kit or whatever. It must be something green—Masters green—and monogrammed. Those are the only requirements.
One of the reasons why the Masters comes off so beautifully, no doubt, is the presence of all of the volunteer workers, who labor for a green billfold under a total of 22 committee chairmen. The personnel on these committees rarely changes. For instance, it takes 140 men to operate the scoreboards and bulletin boards, but last year there was a turnover of only five people. Of the 125 men signed up by the Gallery Guards Committee, there will be only 10 working next week who were not working last year. The waiting list for such jobs is formidable. The volunteers are rarely Augusta National members—indeed most of them will never even get to play the course—but their loyalty and affection for the Masters seem limitless.
In a quite different way, one Augusta National member has made a considerable contribution to the Masters. That is Dwight D. Eisenhower. The former President has given the tournament a lift that would be impossible to overestimate and prestige it could not otherwise have achieved. For example, several cottages—"cabins" is what they are officially called, and a club employee remembers how confused he was at first when he walked around trying to find anything that looked like a cabin—seemed to have been sitting over in the woods by the 10th hole for years, but not until 1952 when some anonymous members built one for Eisenhower, which they first named "Mamie's Cabin," did cottage row become a tourist attraction for Masters spectators. It is an attraction seen only from the outside, needless to say.
There are seven cottages in all. Besides Eisenhower's and Jones's, there is Tennessee, built by a group of members from Tennessee; Firestone, which was certainly not built by Goodyear; Peek, built by a late member named Burton Peek and now owned in part by John Hay Whitney; one called Butler, the latest, built by member Thomas Butler and three friends, and one un-excitingly named Duplex, which consists of four compact, identical apartments that were originally used by the club to house guests when clubhouse space was full.
The cabins all appear to be small as one gazes at them from, say the 10th tee, which is about as close as nonresidents ever get. Inside they are large, however, for they tumble off down a hill in the rear. Butler, the new one. has eight bedrooms on three levels, each with a bath. No one would ever, really, want to sneak into Butler cottage for a look around. It is, naturally, the Eisenhower cottage that attracts the gallery's attention. It is golf's equivalent of the LBJ Ranch.
Eisenhower's cottage is three-storied, with the basement available for Secret Service men, Eisenhower's cook-orderly and Mamie's maid. On the main floor is Mamie's all-pink bedroom, a dressing room and bath suite, a living room with card tables, a spare suite just like Mamie's, a screened-in porch and a butler's pantry. Over a fireplace hangs a painting by Ike of the 16th hole. Eisenhower's bedroom is on the second floor along with a small office, a large paneled sitting room with more card tables and another bedroom suite. The walls are adorned with photographs of Mamie (dated from 1911 to 1928), pictures of houses the Eisenhowers have lived in at various Army posts, five Remington prints and an oil by Ike of his grandson David. Naturally, David is in a golfing stance.
One of the most interesting things about the cottages is that ownership does not mean exclusive use, even by Eisenhower. Any of the club's accommodations are available to any member and his wife. This includes the cottages and five suites in the clubhouse. During Masters week another group is also eligible to live at the club: amateur participants in the tournament.
The amateur's felicity at Augusta, which certainly harkens back to Bobby Jones, is shown in another way. The week of the tournament three dinners are given for competitors. There is the one for the previous champions, which is held on Tuesday night, and one for the foreign golfers in the field on Wednesday night. But first of all, on Monday night, is a dinner given by the club for the amateur participants.
Of these occasions, and, indeed, of all the things from Ike's cottage to Bowman's omniscience, nothing typifies the hidden Masters any better than the dinner for past winners, a tradition started in 1952 by Ben Hogan. No gathering in golf can rival it. On Tuesday night, April 9, they will be meeting again in the Lower Grill Room at Augusta National—Hogan, Snead, Sarazen, Nelson, Palmer, Nicklaus and all the rest, along with Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts. But nobody else. Absolutely nobody. This is, after all, how the Masters started, a little get-together for Bobby and his friends. A fine wine will be selected—usually a 1945 or' 47 Ch√¢teau Lafite-Rothschild. Gay Brewer, who as host must also pick up the tab this year, will be responsible for the menu, and like as not out will come the strip steak again, hash browns and those peaches that Cliff Roberts likes. "I think Roberts owns a lot of peach orchards instead of Wall Street," one of the champions joked a while back.
The evening will begin with cocktails and reunions, for some of the oldtimers will just have arrived, and a 30-minute business meeting of the Masters Club, during which a group photograph is taken, a process that shortens some tempers. Then comes the very carefully seated dinner; Hogan always in the same chair, a few others, for various reasons, always a safe distance apart. Everybody will discuss everybody's health and current activities, the defender will speak briefly and with consummate modesty about how he happened to win last year and, according to another ex-champion, no one has ever been able to prevent Sam Snead from telling a few hillbilly stories. Ultimately, the group will enter into a somewhat sacrilegious discussion of how the course and the tournament can still be improved. This bunker will have to go, one will say, that fairway will have to be narrowed, another will point out, this tee is too low, that one is too elevated—all of the talk being somewhat colored by personal experiences with the bunker, or what have you, involved. At some point it will certainly be mentioned, while Gary Player busily looks the other way, that there are too many foreign players in the field. It will be said that there seem to be too many amateurs. Contemplating the size of the dinner check, Gay Brewer may even decide that there are too many Masters champions.
Slowly the opinionated discussion will subside, the last bite of Nectar peach will be eaten with the last piece of Brie cheese and the group will move to the Upper Locker Room where Brewer gets his money's worth, because everybody watches a movie that shows him winning the Masters last year.
By 10 p.m. the bar is closing, the retired champions, with their thoughts of the past, are headed to the homes that they have rented for the week, and the younger champions with some real work ahead of them—Brewer, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player—are off to reflect on their private tensions, for tee-off time is near. The Augusta National clubhouse is now strangely quiet. Only Bowman and his people are moving through it—talking, of course, just above a whisper.