This Day in Golf History
Golf and the month of March may not be tied together like the World Series and October, or hot dogs and the Fourth of July, but it is the month when the PGA TOUR makes its traditional “Florida Swing” and when winter officially turns to spring.
As it happens, March is also the month when some of the game’s deepest foundations took root. Here’s a look at what happened in March in golf history.
March 7, 1744 – When George Washington was 12 years old, a group of men across the Atlantic in Edinburgh, Scotland, decided that the time had come to standardize the game of golf and set rules all players could abide by, marking the creation of the oldest surviving rules of golf.
Today, we still know that association as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the world’s oldest golf club, which has resided at Muirfield since the 1790s. The Honourable’s place in the game’s history is equal to that of St. Andrews, known as the home of golf.
Those who have had the chance to spend a day there cherish its tradition: Four-ball matches in the morning (best ball of the two-man teams), followed by its famed lunch in the storied museum-of-golf clubhouse (coat and tie, no exceptions) followed by a two-ball match (alternate shot) in the afternoon. And for a pedigree, Old Tom Morris is the course architect.
March 22, 1934 – This day was the first round of the very first “Augusta National Invitational” Tournament, which we now call The Masters. Horton Smith went on to win the inaugural event that is now golf’s first major championship of the year. Of course, in the tournament’s early years, it helped that founder Robert Tyre Jones made overtures to New York-based sports writers to stop by the club on their way back from Florida spring training.
March 21, 1982 – After carding a 5-under 67 in the final round of the Tournament Player’s Championship – now known as THE PLAYERS Championship – in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Jerry Pate decided to go for a swim. He also gave PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman and course architect Pete Dye a push into the lagoon adjacent to the 18th fairway before diving in himself to commemorate his victory.
What caused the Pate to go all aquatic on two storied names in the annals of golf? Well, that was the first year Dye’s TPC Sawgrass course was used for the tournament. Beman wanted a course worthy of testing the world’s best golfers, so Dye complied, designing huge wasteland bunkers and railroad ties to edge off fairways and hazards. It inaugurated a distinct trend in “modern golf design.”
In the 30-plus years, the course has been softened some and pros now accept it as the Tour’s major. It traditionally has the best field of all professional tournaments.
Since this day in 1982, Pate’s dive has been remembered as one of the most iconic celebration moments in golf history.