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Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament

by David Owen

Pub Date: April 5th, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85729-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

An involving and thorough look at pro golf’s crown jewel and the driven individual who created it. Clifford Roberts, the martinet co-founder and chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, pursued his vision of excellence with a single-mindedness that would have impressed Captain Ahab. As Owen (My Usual Game, 1995) tells it, however, there was a more human side to the Masters” steely cynosure. Tracing Roberts’s childhood during the financially unsteady 1890s and his coming-of-age in the Roaring ’20s, Owen reveals the emotional underpinnings of a man best known as a control freak. The son of an impractical father and a chronically ill mother, Roberts learned early how to do things for himself. In New York during the heady 1920s, he quickly insinuated himself into a fast crowd on Wall Street, where his passion for golf cemented many important business and personal relationships. One crucial bond was with the immortal Georgia-bred golfer Robert Jones, to whom Owen credits the idea for the course; the rest, he contends, was Roberts’s doing. In 1931, Jones and Roberts acquired property near Augusta, Ga., with the latter securing financing and arranging construction. At first, owing to the Depression, Augusta National foundered. Before long, however, the club established itself, mostly as a result of the Masters’ growing prominence. The tournament is unique among tour majors in being run by a private club rather than a national body, which enabled Roberts and his successors to impose their high standards on every element, from the contestants’ attire to the amount and type of broadcast advertising. While severe, this regimentation has created an event beloved by all. This sort of warmth arising from a cold adherence to discipline, Owen suggests, was the very core of Roberts’s personality. Yes, he craved control, but he also was warm, generous, and loyal; former employees interviewed fondly recall Roberts’s fairness and genuine concern for their welfare. A most enjoyable, and surprisingly moving portrait of a man and the institution he crafted in his own image. (32 pages color photos, not seen) (Author to ur)