Posted February 15, 2013, 12:00 am
The Par-3 Contest is held on the Wednesday before the Masters Tournament, and participation is optional. Players often invite their children, spouses or celebrities to be their caddies for a day. ESPN began televising the event in 2008.
Though most regular professional events hold pro-am tournaments, the Par-3 Contest is unique. It is open to tournament competitors, noncompeting past champions and honorary invitees.
"It's not as serious as you think it is," said Mike Weir, who won the Masters in 2003. "The tournament is obviously a major championship and one of the greatest tournaments we have, but there is a family atmosphere a little bit there, which I think is great."
Sam Snead won the inaugural event in 1960 with a score of 4-under-par 23. He edged Doug Sanders, Lew Worsham and Dick Knight by one stroke.
Success in the contest isn't an indicator of success on the big course: No one has won the Par-3 and the Masters in the same year, though several have come close.
The tournament was an instant success, a fact realized by Masters and Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts.
"Due to the indicated popularity of this new type of preliminary event with the patrons and players, it is likely that it will be staged again next year on the day preceding the first round of the Masters Tournament," Roberts said in The Augusta Chronicle.
The Par-3 Course was designed by architect George Cobb, with help from Clifford Roberts, and constructed in 1958.
The nine-hole course plays to a par of 27 and measures 1,060 yards, and it features the same quick bentgrass greens that are found on its more famous sibling.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, a member of Augusta National, gets credit for coming up with one of the key features in use today. While walking the property on one of his early visits, he suggested to Roberts that a dam could be built east of the big course if the club wanted to build a fish pond. Ike's Pond was built in 1949.
In 1986, architect Tom Fazio designed two new holes that play over Ike's Pond, and the course's original two holes were converted into viewing areas for the Par-3 Contest.
Seven of the original nine holes still are played around DeSoto Springs Pond.
- In 2016, Jimmy Walker won the Par-3 Contest with a score of 19, breaking the course record of 20, previously shared by Art Wall Jr. (1965) and Gay Brewer (1973).
- The winner of the contest receives a crystal bowl, and those closest to the pin on each hole receive prizes.
- A total of 94 holes-in-one have been recorded in the contest's history, including a record nine in 2016. Gary Player's 2016 ace at No. 7 makes him oldest player (80) to score at hole-in-one.
- The contest has been decided by sudden-death playoff 20 times, and 11 golfers have won both the Par-3 and the Masters in their careers.