“Seven Days in Augusta: Behind the Scenes at the Masters” (Triumph) by Post golf writer Mark Cannizzaro, who has covered the past 25 Masters, is on bookshelves now. It dives into everything from the par-3 contest to the lengths some will go to get tickets to the tournament’s history. This is an excerpt, from the chapter The Green Jacket.
It’s not the most fashionable garment you’ve ever seen. It’s not even worth that much money, believed to be valued at about $250. It’s just a green jacket. And who wears green jackets, anyway?
Augusta National members do. So do Masters champions. The green jacket is to golf what the Lombardi Trophy is to the NFL or the Stanley Cup is to the NHL. It’s the pinnacle of awards for golfers, the most iconic trophy in the sport.
The Pantone 342–colored green jacket was first awarded to Masters winners in 1949, the 15th Masters. Augusta National members were the first to wear the green jacket; it was introduced as a means for members of the public to spot them amongst the crowd during tournament week.
Bobby Jones, the co-designer of Augusta National, attended a dinner at Royal Liverpool Golf Club where club captains were all wearing matching club jackets. That’s where the idea of the green jackets was born.
The first were bought from Brooks Uniform Company in New York, but the members found them to be uncomfortable, made of too-thick material.
Since 1967, the jackets have been made by Hamilton Tailoring Company out of Cincinnati, with the tropical-weight wool material sourced from Dublin, Georgia. The brass buttons are made in Massachusetts. The breast-pocket patch, with the club’s logo, is sewn in North Carolina.
The jacket belonging to the winner of the first ever tournament, Horton Smith in 1934, was sold at auction by family members for $600,000.
Each Masters winner is given a jacket. Regardless of how many Masters they’ve won, though, they have one jacket, and it resides in their locker at the club. For example, Jack Nicklaus has won a record six Masters, but he doesn’t have six green jackets.
Green jacket holders are forbidden from taking them from the grounds of Augusta National. The only exception is the current winner, and he can only have it off the premises for the year after he’s won it.
Tournament winners are given a temporary jacket when they win before having a customized fit delivered in the weeks following their victory. Then they’re required to return it to the club upon their return to defend the title.
Gary Player is the only player to have broken the rule. After his 1961 win, Player returned from South Africa with his green jacket and then lost in a playoff to Arnold Palmer in 1962 and went back home with it to South Africa.
“I win the tournament and I assume when they put the jacket on you, that’s your jacket,” Player said. “I’m so excited; I leave and I go home to South Africa with the jacket. Three days later, I hear this call, ‘Gary, this is Clifford Roberts here.’ I said, ‘I hope you’re not calling me reverse charges,’ because you know, you had to make him laugh a little bit because he was quite a dour man. He said, ‘I believe, Gary, you’ve taken the jacket home to South Africa.’
“I said, ‘I did, Mr. Roberts.’ He said, ‘Nobody ever takes the jacket off these grounds whatsoever.’ So, I thought very quickly, and I said, ‘Mr. Roberts, if you want it, come and fetch it.’ He saw the lighter side of things and he said, ‘Please don’t ever wear it in public.’
“It’s not like today. If you win today, you can wear it in public for one year. That didn’t apply then. I put a plastic cover over it and never used it again until I came back.”
Nicklaus joked, “Can you imagine in those days Clifford Roberts going to South Africa to fetch Gary’s jacket?”
“Only a 40-hour flight in those days with no jets,” Player joked.
Tom Watson recalled the first time he won the Masters, in 1977, the jacket he received wasn’t his size of 42 regular. Augusta National usually sizes up potential champions, but instead gave him a 46 long. “They didn’t assess my size very well,” Watson said. “It didn’t matter to me.”
Nicklaus, too, had a size snafu. His first was a 46 long and his size is 43 regular.
“The next year when I came back, they didn’t ask me to go get a jacket, never mentioned my jacket,” Nicklaus recalled. “Tom Dewey had a jacket, former governor who lost to Truman in the presidency. His jacket fit me, and I wore his jacket for probably 15 years, maybe longer. Nobody ever mentioned, ‘Do you have your green jacket?’ I had Tom Dewey’s. I never got a green jacket. Finally, I won six Masters and still nobody had ever given me a green jacket.
“I told the story to [then club chairman] Jack Stephens in 1998 and Jack Stephens said, ‘What? You’ve never been given a green jacket?’ I said, ‘No. Nobody’s ever mentioned it.’ So, I got back the week of the tournament and he says, ‘You will go down to the pro shop and you will be fit for your green jacket,’ which is the one I wear now.”
Tiger Woods, writing about his 1997 Masters win in his book Unprecedented: The Masters and Me, recalled: “After much celebration, I fell asleep fully clothed and hugging the green jacket like a blanket.”
Over the years, some players have had some fun with the jacket in their year as champion. Sergio García, the 2017 winner, seemingly wore it every place he went.
“If I told you everywhere I took it, I will probably miss my tee time on Thursday,” García joked when he returned to Augusta in 2018.
The most important place García wore the jacket was at his wedding to Angela Akins three months after his victory.
He also wore it to the “El Clasico” soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona, to Wimbledon for a Rafael Nadal match, to the New York Stock Exchange, and to numerous television studios for numerous guest appearances.
At one of the TV appearances, he hugged a stagehand who apparently had oil or grease on his shirt, which stained the jacket. “I’m thinking, ‘My God, I’ve had the jacket for a day-and-a-half and I already have two massive stains on it,’” García recalled, saying he took it to a dry cleaner. “I think people know I’ve worn it and I don’t like to show off and wear it left and right. At the end of the day, you’ve got to respect how iconic the jacket is. It’s not just a piece of clothing. It means so much more than that. You have to be very respectful of it and wear it when you should, not all the time.”
Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner, recalled the feeling he had once he realized the jacket was his to wear for the year.
“It’s once you leave the property, that’s when it really hits you,” Spieth said. “When you stand on the green it’s one thing, but you’re kind of thinking about what you want to say and how you want to thank everybody who made it possible. It’s not until I left the property that I truly kind of felt what it was like to wear the jacket, and wear the jacket I did, for a year. It didn’t leave my side.”
Phil Mickelson was photographed wearing the jacket to a Krispy Kreme doughnut drive-thru in 2010. He, too, once joked that he would put the jacket in his golf bag and pull it out if it was chilly on the course.
Three-time winner Mickelson, ever the needler and practical jokester to friends, said, “I wouldn’t carry three jackets around with me but I would say, ‘I’ve got two more, if you’re cold as well.’ ”
Patrick Reed, the 2018 winner, was asked about his favorite memory with the jacket.
“It would have had to have been right after we won and right after I got done talking in the press conference, right after we finished,” he recalled. “I went back to Butler Cabin, and my daughter was there, and she just came over and gave me a big hug and told me I did it and told me she loved me. That is by far the best experience I’ve ever had with the green jacket.
“That’s a memory and a moment that I’ll never forget, no matter if I were to win multiple other green jackets. It’s going to be hard to be able to top a moment like that that I was able to cherish with the little one.”
He did have a funny exchange while wearing the jacket to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.
“It was on a Monday night, [my wife] Justine and I were at the Knicks game and were sitting courtside for the first time,” Reed recalled. “I had Chris Rock right next to us. A couple seats down is 2 Chainz. He just kind of keeps looking down, and you can tell he’s kind of looking down like, ‘All right, this isn’t the normal guy that sits in these seats; who is that?’
“And then when they announced me during one of the timeouts, then a couple minutes later there was a timeout and he just kind of reaches over, and he kind of touches the jacket, and he goes, ‘So that’s the real thing, huh?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, sir, yes, it is.’ It’s pretty cool to see just kind of the wide variety of people no matter what their background is, no matter what their age is or anything, how many people recognize the green jacket. I just think it’s such a cool thing how many people recognize what the green jacket is and what it actually stands for.”
This excerpt of “Seven Days in Augusta: Behind the Scenes at the Masters,” by Mark Cannizzaro, is presented with permission from Triumph Books. For more information or to order a copy please visit triumphbooks.com/sevendaysinaugusta.