Amateurs have always been welcome in Augusta
It’s no secret that Bobby Jones dearly wanted an amateur to win the Masters Tournament.
After all, Jones was the greatest amateur golfer of all time. He retired after winning the Grand Slam in 1930, and soon set out to build his dream course in Augusta.
When the inaugural Augusta National Invitation Tournament was held in 1934, Jones made sure amateurs were well represented.
Jones played in the first 12 Masters, but never did better than the tie for 13th he achieved in the first one.
After World War II, amateurs continued to come to Augusta in large numbers, and a few even challenged the top pros of the day.
In 1947, Frank Stranahan closed with 68 to finish two shots behind winner Jimmy Demaret. He tied for second.
A few years later, in 1954, Billy Joe Patton finished one stroke out of a playoff between Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.
Patton found the water on Nos. 13 and 15 in the final round, and it cost him dearly. But he kept a sense of humor about his near-miss.
“If I’d won that tournament, I’d had difficulty handling the money, the liquor would have been a problem, and with the women I didn’t have a chance,” he once said with a laugh.
Ken Venturi dominated the 1956 Masters for three rounds. He led after each of the first three rounds, but he skied to an 80 on the final day in gusty conditions. He finished one shot behind Jack Burke Jr.
Charlie Coe, another career amateur, had three top-10 finishes from 1959 to 1962 and tied for second in 1961.
With the advent of televised golf in the late 1950s, prize money began to increase and career amateurs became fewer and fewer. Jones famously asked Jack Nicklaus to consider remaining an amateur, but Nicklaus felt that he needed to repay his father for supporting his golf career.
After reaching a high of 26 amateurs in the 1966 Masters, the numbers began to dwindle. The Masters did away with inviting Walker Cup players by the late 1980s, and in 1989 it revised the standards to just include the U.S. Amateur champion and runner-up, the British Amateur winner, the U.S. Public Links champion and the U.S. Mid-Amateur winner.
Since then, two more slots have been added for winners of the Asia-Pacific Amateur and Latin America Amateur, both created with help from Augusta National and the Masters.
2015 marked the final time the Public Links winner was invited; the tournament is no longer held by the USGA.