August 31, 2009

Palmer and Nicklaus Paired Together As Masters Starters

Let's hope they play the whole 18. That would a big treat for the patrons.

Two of modern golf's biggest icons will serve as honorary starters for the next Masters Tournament in Augusta next April, as Jack Nicklaus has agreed to join Arnold Palmer for the ceremonial first tee shot at the year's first major.

"I have had such a long-standing appreciation and love affair with Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, and this honor is a wonderful way for me to say thank you to the many patrons who have supported me over the decades," Nicklaus said in a prepared statement.

"I am honored that Jack Nicklaus has accepted our invitation," National Golf Club and Masters chairman Billy Payne said in his prepared statement. "[H]aving Jack join Arnold on the first tee next April will be a special thrill for his many loyal fans around the world."

And a fitting capstone to two of the greatest careers in golf history. Nicklaus, for winning the most professional majors; Palmer, for ushering golf into the era of television and setting the stage for the growth it saw as a result of the exposure. Both were and still are compelling characters, and seeing them start what is generally the most anticipated golf tournament of the year a great way to remember how much current professionals owe the two men.

One has to wonder how many years it will be until Gary Player joins them on the tee, thus reuniting the entire Big Three of the 1960s. Player was in last season's field for his 52nd Masters Tournament, which was his last, he said.

Previous Honorary starters
Jock Hutchison 1963-73
Fred McLeod 1963-76
Byron Nelson 1981-2001*
Gene Sarazen 1981-99
Ken Venturi 1983
Sam Snead 1984-2002
Arnold Palmer 2007-09

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