The Masters Honorary Starters

The Masters Honorary Starters

In 1963, 30 years after the first playing, The Masters inaugurated a practice which has now become part of the tradition of the tournament, that of asking one or more former Champions or distinguished players to hit the first shots of the week as 'Honorary Starters'.

Masters Honorary Starters

• Jock Hutchison, 1963 - 73
• Fred McLeod, 1963 - 76
• Gene Sarazen, 1981 - 99
• Byron Nelson, 1981 - 2001
• Ken Venturi, 1983
• Sam Snead, 1984 - 2002
• Arnold Palmer, 2007 -
• Jack Nicklaus, 2010 -
• Gary Player , 2012 -

The first Honorary Starters were not in fact past Masters Champions. Neither Jock Hutchison nor Fred McLeod won The Masters itself, but both had won an important event organised at Augusta National by Masters founder Bobby Jones - the PGA championship for senior golfers, now known as the Senior PGA Championship, one of the Senior Majors. Hutchison won the first in 1937, and McLeod was the winner in 1938.

Hutchison, born in St Andrews, but who became a US citizen in 1920, had already won two of what are now the Major Championships: the 1920 US PGA and the 1921 (British) Open Championship. McLeod, another Scottish-American, born in North Berwick, had won one: the 1908 US Open. The pair would continue as Starters until 1973 and 1976 respectively.

From 1977 to 1980 there was no Honorary Starter. Then in 1981, Gene Sarazen (the 1935 Champion) and Byron Nelson (Champion in 1937 & '42) took over the role. Ken Venturi (runner-up in 1956 & '60) joined the pair briefly in 1983, then in 1984 Sam Snead (Champion in 1949, '52 & '54) made it an enduring trio until Sarazen, who had faithfully fulfilled his role in 1999, died just weeks afterwards.

Byron Nelson hit his final drive in 2001, and Snead in 2002, creating another vacuum until Arnold Palmer (1958, '60, '62 & '64) took on the role in 2007, to be joined by his old friend and nemesis Jack Nicklaus (1963, '65, '66, '72, '75 & '86) in 2010.

The Palmer/Nicklaus pair is being joined in 2012 by Gary Player (1961, '74 & '78), reforming what was known in the 1960s as the "Big Three" of golf. Between them, these three past Champions have 13 Green Jackets to their names - a record unlikely to be equalled.

Updated: April 2012

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