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