We have reached an age when being able to watch sporting events on television takes up a lot of our time. Now it will be football, the World Series and then basketball. More recently it has been watching the professional golf tournaments, with the best golfers in the world, Tiger Wood, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, playing in a threesome, all trying to keep their status in the top ten. I can tape the various tournaments on the TV, fall asleep with one of many naps, wake up and back up the tape to the point where I went to sleep, and watch until the next nap. It is not easy explaining to my wife how a golf tournament can start at 10 a.m., and I can still be watching it at 8 p.m.
My brother Dale took me to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta Georgia, during the era when Arnie Palmer was “the” player. In recent years our nephew David Roberts, son of my brother Dale, has worked each Masters tournament as a volunteer. Not only has he had the thrill of being with the golfing elite, but all of the volunteers get to play on the course after the tournament is over.
I want to tell you about Clifford Roberts (no relation), Clifford was a young farm boy living on a farm near the small town of Morning Sun, Iowa. He dug potatoes and raised chickens and dogs to sell, to pay for his school books.
His father was constantly working to support the family or he was out looking for a better job. His mother became ill and was confined to her bed, Clifford, at age six, was the care giver for his Mother. The father moved the family to five states, each time the father had a better job. When Clifford was nineteen, his Mother had enough of her illness, which had handicapped her most of her life, and used a shot gun to kill herself. His father became terribly ill and depressed, and two years later he committed suicide by stepping in front of a train.
Clifford had quit school when he was a high school freshman, however he had read many biographies about successful business men and was determined to duplicate that success. He was a young adult now and he found success buying and selling oil leases. Eventually he earned enough to stake himself on Wall Street, where he enjoyed success as a stock broker and financial adviser.
It was in this capacity that he met Mr. Bobby Jones, a lawyer from Atlanta, who was considered the worlds top amateur golfer. The two of them became very close friends, and together they established the Augusta National Golf Club in 1931, with Jones providing the money and the prestige and Roberts being the driving force behind the construction of the course and the Master’s tournament.
Clifford Roberts became the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, serving until 1976, and was described as a “benevolent dictator”. He demanded his way and mistakenly once said: “As long as I am alive, all the golfers will be white, and all the caddies will be black” Augusta remained segregated until 1975 when Lee Elder became the first African American to play in the tournament. Roberts was married three times but none were very lovable affairs. For all his strengths, he seemed incapable of adapting to the changing society, and he was plagued by a declining health.
In 1977, at age 83, he hitched a plane ride from his home to Augusta. He arrived at the club early in the morning and walked onto the fairway of the third hole, then put a gun to his head. He died where he enjoyed his greatest successes but a long way from that farm in Morning Sun, Iowa.
He was proud of three things; 1, being the success of the Augusta Golf Club; 2, was a golf ball that he had hit a hole-in-one while playing with President Dwight Eisenhower, and 3, was a picture of David and Julie Eisenhower riding in a golf cart with him at Augusta.