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GOLF NEWS – Tom Watson named Honorary Starter at Masters

by archysport

Tom Watson named Honorary Starter at the Masters.

The figure of the honorary starter atAugusta Masters it was officially born in 1963 to celebrate, as happens in other sports (think baseball with the first pitch or football with the toss of a coin) the great champions.

The first two players called to fill this role were Jock Hutchison (winner of the PGA Championship in 1920 and the British Open in 1921) and Fred McLeod (USOpen Chanpion of 1908).

At the time they were 79 and 80 years old, respectively.

Neither had ever won the Masters.

So why them? Why did Bobby Jones choose two “any” majors?

First of all it must be considered that when the Masters Tournament was held for the first time, in 1934, both were close to 50 years old, and were never invited.

The real reason that prompted Jones to call the two champions of yesteryear and another.

The Atlanta champion made a substantial contribution to the birth of the over 50 professional tournament we now know as the Senior PGA Championship.

The first two editions were held in 1937 and 1938 on the “young” course of the Augusta National.

And the winners were, respectively, Hutchinson and McLeod.

In 1963 it was the 25th anniversary of the second victory, and Jones decided to celebrate the anniversary by inviting them to open the Masters.

Hutchinson attended the ceremony until 1973, while McLeod continued until 1976.

After them, the fledgling tradition was suspended until the 1980s.

Between 1981 and 2002 three great champions, all Masters Champions, alternately held the honorary position: Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson.

Only in 1983, due to an injury suffered by Nelson, did Ken Venturi take his place, of which the Texan was coach in the early years of his career.

Venturi won the Silver Cup in 1956, a trophy reserved for the best amateur of the tournament (who has passed the cut).

In 2002 there was a new stop, which lasted until 2007. When Arnold Palmer appeared on the Tea Olive tee for the first time.

Jack Nicklaus joined him in 2010, and in 2012 Gary Player arrived.

From 2012 to 2015 the “Big Three” were the masters of the inauguration ceremony of the Masters.

Arnie’s illness in 2016 prevented him from taking the tee shot, but not from attending alongside his lifelong rival friends.

In the following years Nicklaus and Player carried on the tradition until last year, when the Board also called Lee Elder, the first African-American to participate in the Masters in 1975.

Elder also participated in a symbolic way, given his health conditions.

But let’s get to today.

The day before yesterday Augusta National Golf Club announced that two-time Masters Champion (1977-1981) Tom Watson has accepted an invitation to hold the position of Honorary Starter alongside Player and Nicklaus.

Fred Ridley, chairman of the board, said:

“I am honored that Tom has accepted our invitation”

“I am looking forward to celebrating his love for the game of golf and the impact on the Masters and the millions of fans around the world of his inaugural tee shot alongside two other great historic players in the tournament.”

Watson, for his part, said instead:

“Augusta National in April is one of my favorite places”

“They are very fond of the memories of both when I attended the Masters as a child and when I attended it for many years”

“On the occasion of both of my victories, Jack was hot on my heels, and when Gary won his third title in 1978 I was there to help him wear the Green Jacket”

“Those moments stand out in my career and the opportunity to share the tradition of being Honorary Starter with Jack, Gary and the Masters Patrons will be a very special moment.”

(fonte CT Insider 11-01-2022)

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