The magic of the Masters, golf becomes jacket

The first to don the green jacket as Augusta champion was, in 1949, Sam Snead, and at that point, the organizers decided to award the garment to previous winners as well

by Andrea Gussoni
The magic of the Masters, golf becomes jacket
© Getty Images Sport - Isaiah Vazquez / Stringer

The importance, for some elusive, of the Green Jacket awarded to the winner of the Augusta Masters golf tournament can be explained by borrowing from the "cerulean monologue" staged by Miranda (Meryl Streep) in "The Devil Wears Prada", where the fashion director explains with meticulous cruelty to the unsuspecting subordinate Andy (Anne Hathaway) why the shade of blue she was dismissing would represent the featured color of the upcoming season.

Masters, story

All this to say that, yes, aesthetically the Green Jacket may appear unwearable to most, particularly to those unfamiliar with golf; its Pantone 342 green (a shade of rye, appropriately named Masters Green) is undeniably challenging, not only for style purists.

Yet, we are talking about the most famous garment in sports, because while white is the totem of Wimbledon and the uniforms of major cycling events, from the pink jersey to the yellow jersey, are technical, the Green Jacket tells a story of a ritual now spanning 90 years (the first edition dates back to 1934), where symbolism, tradition, and prestige blend across the 18 holes of the only major tournament with a single and unchanging venue: Augusta National.

At the Masters, scheduled this year from April 11th to 14th, the victor is bestowed not only with a trophy or medals like in any other competition. The prize and glory are represented by that jacket there, with the club emblem sewn on the pocket and, after the games, the name and surname of the number one player embroidered inside.

Sergio Garcia, the winner in Georgia in 2017, in the following months had the audacity to appear sporting the green jacket both in the stands at Wimbledon (not very well received in the presence of the impeccable David Beckham...) and then at the Bernabeu for a Real Madrid-Barcelona match.

Before this affront to tradition, the jacket was only worn by the champion and strictly within the club, never on other "public" occasions. Such as weddings, the third event where Garcia chose to wear the Green Jacket... Before him, special permissions were granted to Jack Nicklaus in 1978 for the cover photo of "Sports Illustrated" and to José María Olazábal for a reception hosted in his honor by King Juan Carlos after his victory in 1994.

The first to don the green jacket as Augusta champion was, in 1949, Sam Snead, and at that point, the organizers decided to award the garment to previous winners as well. But the saga began in 1930, in England. To be precise, at Hoylake, the venue of the Open Championship where Bobby Jones, the first to complete the Grand Slam that year, was attending a dinner at the Royal Liverpool.

At the banquet, he noticed that fifteen guests were wearing a red jacket with brass buttons: they were the most influential members of the club, and only they were entitled to wear it. The following year, Jones began to build Augusta National alongside Clifford Roberts, designed by architect Alistair McKenzie.

The club was inaugurated two years later, and in 1937, the founders decided to provide the members with a green jacket so that guests could easily identify whom to ask for reliable information. In '49, with Snead's dressing, the epic of the Green Jacket began.

At the end of the rounds, the winner of the previous tournament assists the new champion in putting it on, unless the two figures coincide, as in the case of Nicklaus (1966), Nick Faldo (1990), and Tiger Woods (2002). Since 1960, the regulations stipulate that the winner can only keep the jacket for one year, then it must be returned.

However, there are those who, evidently, have not complied with this obligation, as discovered by the fortunate gentleman who, in 1994, in Canada, found an official green jacket at a Toronto thrift market (dating back to the fifties, but whose owner was unknown).

He decided to buy it, paying $5. Then, once its authenticity was verified, he put it up for auction. After 35 bids, it was sold for nearly $140,000.