By Aimee Serafin
Photos by Jane Kortright
Augusta National Golf Club co-founder Clifford Roberts was on to something when he coined a new term for fans attending the Masters in the 1930s. The tournament referred to today by many golfers as the “mecca” of golf has earned the reputation of being holy grounds, and by default, continues to employ a different lens when considering its guests.
Roberts viewed golf fans as consumers of a curated experience — much like eating at a nice restaurant or attending a theatrical play. The vision for that experience at the Masters has been maintained for years through the event’s rules of etiquette, which largely benefit the patrons. The focus — from unbelievably low-priced food to the civility of the gallery rules and education of proper terms — is something that sets Augusta National apart in the world of sports.
“Roberts really did feel that it was the spectators who made the Masters possible — hence patron,” says David Owen, author of The Making of The Masters. “He wanted to remind everyone involved in the tournament that the focus had to be on constantly improving the experience for the people watching.”
Since the tournament and club standards still define the golf world at large, it’s arguable that Roberts’ sentiments set the tone. In a letter written to a golf patron Roberts stated, “Any time our studies indicate that the present policies can be improved, we will be quick to act. And please believe me when I say letters such as the one you wrote are very helpful. Many of the changes adopted in the past were suggested by our loyal and keenly interested patrons.” (2022 Masters Media Guide)
For “the event” with a long history of spectator attention, there is a mutual level of fan loyalty. Local Dan LaSure attended his first Masters in 1952; this year will mark his 71st year of consecutive attendance. “I went for over 50 years without missing a day (of tournament play),” says LaSure. “Sometimes I’d come seven straight days. I just love the place. It’s like being in heaven.”
LaSure remembers when the $10 badge included the practice and tournament rounds, parking and an event program — like the year legendary golfer Sam Snead battled strong winds the final two days on the course to receive the winner’s purse of $4,000, making it his second Masters championship.
The same year Ben Hogan hosted the first Masters Club dinner, also known as the Champions dinner, where the previous year’s winner has the honor of choosing the menu. There is no official record of the food Hogan chose that year, but his formal invitation stipulated that guests wear “your green coat,” the first of yet another decades-long tradition.
The modifications to the course and sporting event that LaSure saw in his first decade of attendance are still recognizable today. Three bridges were built — Hogan (No.12), Nelson (No. 13) and Sarazen (No. 15) — as well as the Record Fountain (marking the 25th anniversary of the Masters), and the Par 3 Course was first played in 1960.
Scoring changed the same year when Frank Chirkinian introduced it with par instead of strokes, making the game much less confusing to follow and more watchable for those at home. Roberts ran with the idea and in 1961 the Masters’ scoreboards were coded according to under-par (red), over-par (green) and even-par scores (zeroes).
At 18, LaSure worked at the pro shop under the club’s first head professional Ed Dudley, hired by golf legend Bobby Jones. At that time, the pro shop had apparel supplied by Cullum’s Department Store on Broad Street downtown where LaSure was employed during high school. “There weren’t the brand labels in the shop back then like there are today,” says LaSure.
He continued to work at the Masters and for more than 25 years, starting in the ‘70s, he scored the 13th hole and still thinks it is the “most beautiful hole today.” He rattled off numerous memorable moments including Tiger Woods ’ chip-in on No. 16 in 2005 and Bubba Watson’s “skilled shot” on No. 10, possibly the most famous rope hook in golf history, to win a playoff in 2012.
As for the titleholders, LaSure’s favorite, Larry Mize (1987), is directly tied to his affinity for Augusta as his hometown. “My favorite winner was Larry Mize because he is an Augusta native,” he says proudly.
But the 89-year-old Augustan remembers one special moment at the Masters with his grandson years ago. “When we arrived on the course, he turned to me and said, ‘I really like this place, I could get used to this place,’” recalls LaSure.
Looking into his grandson’s eyes, LaSure understood the impression — it’s the same one he has year after year when his feet hit the sacred grounds. After all these years, he says, the high standards have remained.
Appears in the April 2023 issue of Augusta Magazine.
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