The Making of the Masters: Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf’s Most Prestigious Tournament

December 10, 2013 - Comment

The Masters. For any golf fan, the words evoke the immortal greats of the game and their quest for the most prized trophy of all — the green jacket of Augusta National Golf Club. But behind the legendary links and timeless traditions is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood figures in the history of

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The Masters. For any golf fan, the words evoke the immortal greats of the game and their quest for the most prized trophy of all — the green jacket of Augusta National Golf Club.
But behind the legendary links and timeless traditions is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood figures in the history of the Masters and Augusta National: Clifford Roberts, the club’s chairman from its founding in 1931 until shortly before his death in 1977. Roberts’ meticulous attention to detail, his firm authoritarian hand, and his refusal to settle — even for perfection — helped build the Masters into the tournament it is today, and Augusta National into every golfer’s idea of heaven on earth.
David Owen was granted unprecedented access to the archives and records of Augusta National Golf Club. He has produced an honest and affectionate chronicle of the Masters, from its conception to its modern greatness, and a fascinating portrayal of Clifford Roberts — whose perseverance and pride forged the Augusta National we know today.Analyzing the legend and lore of golf’s most celebrated tournament has become something of a cottage industry of late, but Owen, who displayed his personal golfing affections, frustrations, and obsessions so marvelously in My Usual Game, now goes where his competition hasn’t gained access: to the source–via access to Augusta National’s archives, records, and membership. The result is a sympathetic, yet still critical and complex portrait of the club and its founder, Clifford Roberts, to whom golf history has not been particularly kind. Indeed, for better–and for worse–Roberts and Augusta remain linked throughout what is essentially a volume that weaves biography with social history played against a sporting canvas. Naturally, finance, ego, Bobby Jones, television, and President Eisenhower figure into the tale, but Eisenhower’s not the only leader of the free world to use the club’s exclusivity to his benefit; Owen uncovers the delicious bit that Ronald Reagan and George Schultz helped finalize the invasion of Grenada there.

Of course, there is also some great golf. Augusta National would be just another golf club with a fancy pedigree and history of exclusion were it not for the remarkable tournament that it hosts every year. Owen, a graceful writer, tees up plenty of detail and anecdote in a hole-by-hole tour of the track, lined with perspective. Owen explains, If the Masters seems older than it is, that’s largely because the tournament, alone among the majors, is conducted year after year on the same course. Every important shot is played against a backdrop that consists of every other important shot, all the way back to 1934. Every key drive, approach, chip, and putt is footnoted and cross-referenced across decades of championship play. Every swing–good or bad–has a context. The context that Owen provides makes The Making of the Masters as indispensable as a hot putter. –Jeff Silverman

Comments

S. Conner says:

Are Cliff Roberts and David Owen related? This is a wonderfully researched book and well written as you’d expect from Mr. Owen, and I enjoyed reading it. But wondered if I was the only one who thought it was ruined by the obsessive desire to defend Cliff Roberts, even on matters that really seem pointless. So I came here to read reviews and I couldn’t help but notice that many of the glowing reviews here on Amazon appeared to be written by the same person, but I was glad to see some agreed with me about the format of the book. I suppose it’s a must for the pictures if you want to see the course the way it once was, but I recommend avoiding it if you get irritated with a book that has an agenda and seems to go out of its way to not just tell the story, but to address issues that someone wanted addressed.

Anonymous says:

Fairly Good-is the “Yin” to Sampson’s “Yang” Picked this up by chance at the library…and realized I was reading the book that is the Yin to the Yang of the Curt Sampson book The Masters : Golf, Money, and Power in Augusta, Georgia.Both books look at the same event. Owens focuses only on the beauty spots, while Sampson goes out of his way to find the warts. Owens keeps his story within the walls of the country club, while Sampson traces the development of the golf course and the town and how each impacts the other.I can’t help but feel that Owens book was written as a rebuttal to Sampson’s book…and even there it seems to be a surgical strike method rather than a massive refutation type of rebuttal. Example: Sampson quotes specific sums of money in regard to Roberts worth, but is seemingly talking about the sums after factoring inflation…Owens takes these same numbers, uses what appears to be the original number without considering inflation, and then says Sampsons numbers are wrong. Example:…

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