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The Making of the Masters: Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament Hardcover – April 5, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Analyzing the legend and lore of golf's most celebrated tournament has become something of a cottage industry of late, but Owen, who displayed his personal golfing affections, frustrations, and obsessions so marvelously in My Usual Game, now goes where his competition hasn't gained access: to the source--via access to Augusta National's archives, records, and membership. The result is a sympathetic, yet still critical and complex portrait of the club and its founder, Clifford Roberts, to whom golf history has not been particularly kind. Indeed, for better--and for worse--Roberts and Augusta remain linked throughout what is essentially a volume that weaves biography with social history played against a sporting canvas. Naturally, finance, ego, Bobby Jones, television, and President Eisenhower figure into the tale, but Eisenhower's not the only leader of the free world to use the club's exclusivity to his benefit; Owen uncovers the delicious bit that Ronald Reagan and George Schultz helped finalize the invasion of Grenada there.

Of course, there is also some great golf. Augusta National would be just another golf club with a fancy pedigree and history of exclusion were it not for the remarkable tournament that it hosts every year. Owen, a graceful writer, tees up plenty of detail and anecdote in a hole-by-hole tour of the track, lined with perspective. Owen explains,

If the Masters seems older than it is, that's largely because the tournament, alone among the majors, is conducted year after year on the same course. Every important shot is played against a backdrop that consists of every other important shot, all the way back to 1934. Every key drive, approach, chip, and putt is footnoted and cross-referenced across decades of championship play. Every swing--good or bad--has a context.
The context that Owen provides makes The Making of the Masters as indispensable as a hot putter. --Jeff Silverman

From Publishers Weekly

Revered today as the most prestigious and tradition-rich tournament in American golf, the Masters, like the Augusta National Golf Club at which it is played, sprang from humble beginnings. As every ardent golf fan knows, Augusta National was the brainchild of legendary golfer Bobby Jones Jr., who teamed with stockbroker Cliff Roberts to build what is considered to be the cathedral of American golf courses on the site of a former flower nursery in Georgia. What is less well known is that financial problems nearly prevented the course from ever being built, and that Roberts conceived of the Masters as a way to promote the club, which was having trouble attracting members during the Depression. In describing the growth of the tournament, New Yorker staff writer Owen (My Usual Game) centers his story on Roberts, the hard-driving "benevolent dictator" who served as chairman of both the Masters and Augusta National from their inception until he committed suicide in 1971 at age 77. Owen portrays the often controversial Roberts in the most favorable light possible. In particular, he defends the Masters' (and by extension Roberts's) record of not having the first black golfer participate in the tournament until Lee Elder broke the barrier in 1975. Indeed, Owen treats everything connected with Roberts and the Masters in reverential terms, dismissing critics as ill informed. Despite this shortcoming, Owen has unearthed enough details and colorful anecdotes about the tournament and its playersAboth on the course and behind the scenesAto make this nearly irresistible reading for devoted golfers and weekend duffers. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (April 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684857294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684857299
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Owen is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a contributing editor of Golf Digest, and he is the author of a dozen books. He lives in northwest Connecticut with his wife, the writer Ann Hodgman. Learn more at or (if you're a golfer) at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Conner on July 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Picked this up by chance at the library...and realized I was reading the book that is the Yin to the Yang of the Curt Sampson book The Masters : Golf, Money, and Power in Augusta, Georgia.

Both books look at the same event. Owens focuses only on the beauty spots, while Sampson goes out of his way to find the warts. Owens keeps his story within the walls of the country club, while Sampson traces the development of the golf course and the town and how each impacts the other.

I can't help but feel that Owens book was written as a rebuttal to Sampson's book...and even there it seems to be a surgical strike method rather than a massive refutation type of rebuttal. Example: Sampson quotes specific sums of money in regard to Roberts worth, but is seemingly talking about the sums after factoring inflation...Owens takes these same numbers, uses what appears to be the original number without considering inflation, and then says Sampsons numbers are wrong. Example: Frank Stranahan finishes #2 in the Masters, then is banned the next year for taking multiple practice shots from the same spot (despite warnings). Owens focuses on the action, and says Cliff Roberts action in punishing Stranahan was appropriate. Sampson takes the issue and focuses on the fact that other people did the same thing, but were never punished. Example: Owens examines Roberts marvelous relations with Jones, Eisenhower, and the like, and asks how could a person that had the trust of such great men be the curmudgeon that Sampson and others have made him out to be? Sampson notes how Roberts treated people over whom he had power very poorly but worked hard to get into the good graces of people who could advance his goals.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The book was quite interesting and the author apparently researched it very thoroughly. Time after time, Owen refutes (quite convincingly) a number of well-known stories about Augusta National and Clifford Roberts.
The problem with the book is that Owen seems to have written the book to support the following hypotheses: (1) members at Augusta National have not been nor are the racists (in the context of their times) that they have been portrayed as in the mass media, (2) Cliff Roberts was the most misunderstood man in modern history, (3) Without Roberts, TV golf coverage would have been set back 30 years.
The book's one redeeming quality is the way that Owen methodically refutes what have become generally accepted facts over time (for example, that Jack Whitaker was banned from Augusta for 15 years for describing the fans (whoops, patrons) of the Masters as a mob. After reading this, I'm convinced that it didn't happen that way). But Owen adds little new material that you could not find in the Samson or Eubanks books. Owen often goes out of his way to contradict much of what is in Samson's book, and while he claims he is not trying to "pick on Samson," it sure sounds that way to me.
What Owen ends up with is a PR piece for Augusta, which is too bad, because the book is well-written and well paced.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It's as if the author was handed a list by the Augusta members of all the things they wanted clarified or addressed regarding Clifford Roberts, and the author was charged with clarifying the supposed misconceptions regarding this odd character. If you are looking for any sign that Bobby Jones was involved in the creation of the club and Masters, forget it. It's as if Jones was just lending his name to the place, like players do today as architects, and Roberts was everything about the club, in every way, shape or form. At least the pictures of the course are interesting and perhaps make it worthwhile to buy, but barely. The text is just a case laid out for making Cliff Roberts a saint. Who cares about that?
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderfully researched book and well written as you'd expect from Mr. Owen, and I enjoyed reading it. But wondered if I was the only one who thought it was ruined by the obsessive desire to defend Cliff Roberts, even on matters that really seem pointless. So I came here to read reviews and I couldn't help but notice that many of the glowing reviews here on Amazon appeared to be written by the same person, but I was glad to see some agreed with me about the format of the book. I suppose it's a must for the pictures if you want to see the course the way it once was, but I recommend avoiding it if you get irritated with a book that has an agenda and seems to go out of its way to not just tell the story, but to address issues that someone wanted addressed.
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Format: Paperback
Every April at a small club in a small Georgia town, a golf tournament called The Masters captivates the hearts and attention of fans all over the world.

From Cape Town to Seoul, Berlin to Vancouver, Tupelo to San Francisco-every year people from all over the globe adjust their schedules at all hours of their day to find a television set (or now- thanks to Augusta's partnership with IBM- type in into their web browser) to get their annual look at the manicured, green-sloping fairways, pink and white azaleas, swaying, forest green loblolly pines, and bright yellow flag sticks of the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. What is it about this place, this event that captures the hearts and minds of so many?

What perhaps is most amazing about this "tradition unlike any other" is that it began in the thick of the Great Depression, when new enterprise was about as rare as grass in the desert, as the quixotic dream of essentially two men: Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones.

"The Making of the Masters" tells the story of how The Masters, born as a dream, grew out of the untilled beds of a former indigo plantation, and into the preeminent sporting event it is today.

Nothing and no one deserves more credit for this than the meticulous, fanatical care and vision of the club's President, Clifford Roberts, and the star power and class of his partner, the Champion Amateur golfer, Bobby Jones.

Legend now are the ways in which Roberts, an ex-Wall Street banker in the 1920's turned Augusta National founding President, crafted The Masters viewing experience over his some forty years at the helm- first, for patrons at Augusta, and ultimately also for television viewers.
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