A History of The Masters Not Held in April

The Masters

This week, the 2020 Masters will take place.

No, it’s not in April. No, there won’t be any azaleas blossoming.

There won’t be any patrons. It will be eerily silent and quiet.

Like anything in 2020, The Masters adjusted, taking place in November. It’s different and strange, no doubt, but at least golf has one of its most iconic events.

Augusta National Golf Club remains the host. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will open the tournament with their ceremonial tee shots. On Sunday, immortalized with the presentation of the Green Jacket, a winner will be crowned.

2020 Masters Is one of A few not held in April

36 of the top-40 golfers will participate in this year’s Masters. Despite the November date, normally an off-period for golfers, there is no dearth of motivation.

Whenever there’s a major championship, players are ready to tee it up.

“The way I see it, every hole at Augusta will be like what we experience on the 12th green,” four-time major champion Rory McIlroy said. “You hole a putt, people can’t see if it goes in. Every year we experience one hole like that. But not the other 17.”

***

While April is a staple calendar date for the Masters, there is precedence for the tournament not occurring in its normal spot. The very first Masters tournament in 1934 took place at the end of March.

This event, known as the “Augusta National Invitation Tournament” for the first five editions, was the brainchild of Atlanta native Bobby Jones and investment banker Clifford Roberts. After becoming an amateur champion, Jones purchased Augusta National (a former plant nursery) and collaborated with golf architect Alister MacKenzie to design the course.

Despite Jones’ ascension in the golf ranks, he finished 10 strokes back of the eventual winner in the inaugural Masters. Springfield, Missouri native Horton Smith became the first-ever Masters champion, thanks to his 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, which is now the par-5 8th. Smith turned pro in 1926 and two years later, won the first professional tournament he played in the Oklahoma City Open.

Horton Smith

Throughout his career, which included stepping away from golf to serve in the United States Air Force in World War II, Smith recorded 30 PGA Tour victories. Two of those were Masters wins.

Winning the first-ever Masters with a score of four-under-par, Smith only received $1,500 for the victory. When Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters and 15th major championship in 2019, he received $2.07 million in earnings. While Augusta National was a par-72 in 1934, the length of the course was only 6,700 yards. 7,475 yards is the 2020 course length.

***

Ralph Guldahl is the other golfer associated with a Masters tournament happening in March. In 1939, after finishing runner-up the previous two years, Guldahl won his first and only Green Jacket, finishing one stroke ahead of 82-time PGA Tour winner Sam Snead.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Guldahl won his first PGA Tour event before the age of 20. But after a few heartbreaking defeats in tournaments, Guldahl left the game of golf to become a car salesman in 1935.

It didn’t take long for Guldahl to make a comeback, entering the Western Open in 1936. After his hiatus from golf, Guldahl won three major championships, including the 1939 Masters. While this tournament is historic for being the second time the Masters occurred in March, it also marked the first time two rounds took place on Sunday, due to inclement weather. Guldahl stymied Snead, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, and 1934 Masters champion Horton Smith to win this historic tournament in front of 10,000 patrons.

The 2020 Masters will feel different. Even amidst the adversity of the COVID-19 pandemic, credit Augusta National and the PGA Tour for making this tournament happen. Three times in the history of the Masters the tournament was cancelled, all in the 1940s due to World War II.

There will be no roars reverberating around Augusta National this year. But as history demonstrates, Masters tournaments not held in April have produced stellar leaderboards and winners.

Hopefully on Sunday, the same can be said about the 2020 rendition of the “tradition unlike any other.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.