If someone stopped you on the street and said, “Tell me what you think of when I say The Masters,” what would you say?
Maybe it would be Jack Nicklaus the six-time Masters Champion, or Arnold Palmer the four-time green jacket winner lovingly referred to as “The King.” If you don’t follow golf you might remember the beautiful azaleas and trees on the 12th and 13th holes, or the white plantation style clubhouse.
Today there are many things that are associated with Augusta, but what was the inaugural tournament like? If you were somehow able to track down a spectator from the 1934 “Augusta National Invitational Tournament” what would they say? What would they remember?
The competitors were vastly different. The big names of the day were the likes of Walter Hagan, Henry Picard, Bobby Jones and eventual champion Horton Smith. The field didn’t have the international flair that it does today, with the overwhelming majority of players being American.
The galleries were small, not even appearing to be more than 50 in some photos. People couldn’t travel long distances by airplane and with the ineffective American train system most people had to come by automobile. This meant the gallery was mainly made up of friends and locals.
The towering trees and beautiful flowers that are normally associated with Augusta had not matured yet. The grounds looked more like a links course than a wooded haven of golf.
The scenes of TV towers, sideline reporters and commentators boxes were pleasantly absent. TV as a sports viewing technology didn’t come into play until some 20 years later. The grounds must have been quiet and players’ voices able to be heard as they chatted with each other in between shots.
The first Augusta National Invitational was golf in a purer form. Bobby Jones brought together a group of his friends and competitors in one place and hosted a playing event.
No matter how you look at it the US Masters is still a beautiful and beloved tournament, but during its humble beginnings, who thought it would become the cathedral of golf we know and love.