Tales of the green jacket, a prize that’s fit for a champion
AUGUSTA, Ga. - A lot of times when we talk about the green jacket that goes to Masters winners, we’re speaking of what it stands for: Membership in an elite club.
Twice this week, a reporter has asked questions at news conferences about the actual, physical green jacket in literal and very specific terms.
The first time was Wednesday during the chairman’s news conference, and the second was Thursday during the honorary starters’ news conference.
The reporter asked the honorary starters: “The green jacket specifically, could each of you share a story about your green jacket, the actual jacket.”
Honorary starter Tom Watson said: “When I first won the tournament in 1977, they donned the green jacket on me down there in Butler Cabin, and it was a 44 long. It came down below my fingertips like this. Did I care? Not in the least. I’d wear a tent, as long as it’s the green jacket. That’s my story.”
Honorary starter Jack Nicklaus told of how he didn’t have his very own green jacket for quite a while.
“Well, most of you’ve heard my story. I had a 46 long they put on me, and I was a 43 regular. The next year I came back and Tom Dewey, former governor of New York that ran for presidency, his was in my locker, and fit me perfectly. I won the Masters a few times after that, and I kept wearing Tom Dewey’s coat,” he said.
“Finally in 1998 a week before the tournament, I was having lunch with Jack Stevens, and I told him the story that I didn’t have a green jacket and never had a green jacket.
“He said ‘What?’
“I said, ‘No, I’ve won the tournament five times, six times, and nobody has ever given me a green jacket.’”
“So I went home, came back over the weekend, and there was a note in my locker that said: ‘You will go to the pro shop and you will be fit for your green jacket.’”
Gary Player told of much different times than now.
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“In 1961, I win the tournament, and obviously being the first international player to win it, I was extremely excited, to say the least. And so I take the jacket, I’m going back to South Africa the next day, and I take it with me. Now, in those days, unlike today, they go to ‘Good Morning America’ and go out to dinner with the jacket, etc., etc.,” he said.
“I took the jacket back home. Three days later, the phone goes, ‘Good morning, Gary, this is Clifford Roberts. Did you take the jacket back home?’
“I said, ‘I did, Mr. Roberts.’
“‘Well, nobody ever takes the jacket off the grounds.’”
“I thought very quickly. I said, ‘Mr. Roberts, why don’t you come and fetch it.’
“He did see the funny side of it. He said to me, ‘But don’t ever wear it in public.’
“I said, ‘I promise you, I won’t.’ And I put it in a plastic bag. And it’s certainly changed today. Of course, change is the price of survival. It’s a vastly different story today.”
Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley, when asked about the green jacket, said:
“We are here this week, these 88 players, that’s all that’s on their mind is playing for that green jacket. It’s a great symbol of celebration of this game, and we’re looking forward to seeing someone donning it on Sunday afternoon.”
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