MANY milestones are being marked in the 78th Masters.
It’s 80 years, for instance, since Horton Smith won the first Augusta National Invitational tournament. It was also ten years ago that Phil Mickelson made his Masters breakthrough - the first of three victories here.
Most significant of all, though, is that it was 50 years ago this week that Arnold Palmer won his fourth Masters and, fittingly, the great man celebrated the occasion with a visit to the media centre to recall some of his magical memories from the event.
“I came here first in 1955, that was my first Masters,” he recalled. “I parked a trailer with my wife on the other side of Daniel Field just off the railroad tracks.
“I drove over to the club and the feeling was so overwhelming that I felt like I had died and gone to heaven - and I mean that. It was so wonderful that I felt like I was walking on a cloud.
“Arriving at the Masters was something that I talked to my father about when I was growing up and driving a tractor cutting fairways and greens and tees.”
Palmer claimed his first Green Jacket in 1958 then won the season’s first major again in 1960, 1962 and 1964.
“Winning here for the first time was probably the biggest and most exciting thing that had happened to me in my life and in my game of golf,” he added.
“I had won the national amateur. I had played a lot of tournaments and I played some good golf. But there was a feeling that is very difficult to tell you what that feeling was like to be here at Augusta and at the Masters.”
His one disappointment is that the victories in this event dried up sooner than he’d anticipated. “I played some of the best golf I ever played in major championships after the ‘64 Masters,” he admitted.
“I played good here a few times, and my short game didn’t hold up to the standards that I had set for myself.”
Palmer’s contribution to the event was praised by Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, who recalled that 1964 win with passion.
“His Army was in full force, his talent unmatched and his famous charge relentless,” he said. “He remains today a hero to so many of us, me included.
“He should be everybody’s role model,” added Payne. “He has time for everyone. Incredibly unselfish, just a magnificent man. None of us meet that standard, but it sure is a good one to aspire to.”