A short walk through the black history of The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club
FYI - this is an opinion piece and is not intended to be a historical record. Please feel free to Google and/or research on your own.
For most golfers, The Masters marks the beginning of golf season. This highly anticipated event sends golfers from around the world on a pilgrimage to Augusta National Golf Club. This golf club is rich in golf history and tradition that is revered by golf enthusiasts. However, the greens and competitions that bring golfers so much joy has also been the source of pain and humiliation for golfers who look like me. I do love the game of golf and I am a traditionalist at heart, but some of the traditions tell a very different story no one is talking about.
Black golf history, if left untold, will perpetuate the stereotypes that keep golf stuck in its exclusive past, a past in which Augusta National has played a major part. Augusta National and the Masters Tournament is the United States’ most visible bastion of all white golf. Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters represents everything people don’t like about golf - exclusivity, old Southern traditions, and lack of diversity. The closely held traditions of The Masters underscores the fact that there is so much work yet to be done in this game if we are going to ever see a field of professional golfers that mirrors the society in which we live.
The first Masters Invitational was played in 1934. No black player played in the tournament until Lee Elder in 1975. And until 1982, when the competitors were allowed for the first time to bring their regular tour caddies, all the caddies in the tournament were Black. Augusta National had a rule that required players in the tournament to use local caddies – a club policy remnant of the Jim Crow South.
It is rumored that the club co-founder, Clifford Roberts, once said “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be White and all the caddies will be Black.” I’m not sure how many Black folks you’ll see at The Masters this year, maybe enough to pepper the crowd, and hopefully ol' Cliff Roberts is rolling over in his grave because of it. He certainly would have been upset about the beloved Carl Jackson being honored at the Annual Augusta Mayor's Masters Reception. Carl caddied in his first Masters in 1961 at the age of 14. He caddied every Masters until he retired in 2015.
AUGUSTA'S FIRST BLACK MEMBER AND ITS FIRST WOMAN
It wasn’t until 1990 that this ultra exclusive, private club invited its first Black member, Ronald Townsend. Townsend was the president of the Gannett Television Group based in Potomac, Va. The club didn’t invite it’s first women until 2012 when it extended membership to Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore on August 20, 2012. Condoleezza is the first Black woman to be invited to join Augusta National. You think Shelia Johnson will ever be invited? Maybe Michelle Obama. A girl can dream can't she?
THE TIGER EFFECT
Of course we can't talk about Masters history without talking about Tiger Woods. I'm sure this weekend, he's blow his Black Boy Magic over golf's ratings and make this Masters the most viewed EVER. Although an appearance in the Masters field is nothing new for Tiger. In 1997, Tiger became the youngest player to ever win the Masters. He would go on to win three more at Augusta National - 2001, 2002 and 2005.
MUST WATCH GOLF
Don't be the only person in the office Monday who can't talk about the Masters. Click the link below to download our Girls Guide to Watching Golf and join the conversation that's sure to happen at the office Monday.
Girl's Guide To Watching Golf