Bobby Jones, co-founder with Clifford Roberts of the Augusta National Golf Club, lives to this day as the consummate amateur golf figure. Blessed with inordinate grace, skill, concentration and enthusiasm, Jones assembled the finest life amateur record of any male golfer. Cursed with a degenerative disease, his last years were spent at his beloved fruit nursery-turned-golf club. When his Augusta Spring Invitational got off the ground in the mid 1930s, Jones personally showed disdain for efforts to call it “The Masters,” but the name stuck and the tournament is what it is.
All that lead in is important, for The Masters was once a bit more about the amateur golfer than it is today. While it is true that the great majority of the membership of the Augusta National Golf Club maintains amateur status, the tournament has whittled away at the number of invitations for the non-professional over the years. At one time, members and alternates of the US and GB&I Walker Cup teams were extended the opportunity to play in the event. Now, neither group gets in without additional qualification. Until 2009, champions of the USGA amateur, public links & midamateur events, the British amateur and the runner-up in the USGA amateur were extended invitations. In 2009, the tournament decided to add an additional slot for the winner of the Asian Amateur.
Folks from the Buffalo-Niagara region who happened on the Niagara Falls Country Club and its Porter Cup last summer saw a resonating performance from David Chung. A masterful Saturday brought Chung a green Porter Cup champions’ jacket, serving as a springboard toward a Western amateur title and a USGA amateur, second-place finish. Chung is at Augusta this week, along with the Porter Cup runner-up and USGA amateur champion, Peter Uihlein, and four other amateurs. David Chung is writing a daily blog entry from Augusta; he has a solid, erudite writing style and is worth more than one look.
Come Thursday morning, the amateur participants will descend the ladder from the Crow’s Nest (the only on-site lodging at the course during Masters week) and seek to emulate the competitive success of the guardian spirit of the Augusta National golf club. You may follow their efforts all week on the official Masters tournament website.