Augusta National has announced that Jack Nicklaus will join Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter at The 2010 Masters.
That’s great news, for it continues a tradition of honorary starters that began in 1963. The Masters is about nothing if not tradition.
The first Honorary Starters were Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod. Hutchison started from 1963 to 1973; McLeod until 1976. Byron Nelson did the honors from 1981 – 2001; Gene Sarazen from 1981 – 1999; Sam Snead from 1984 – 2002. Palmer began in 2007.
Billy Payne, Augusta Chairman said: “I am honored that Jack Nicklaus has accepted our invitation. We are delighted and fortunate to have such a great ambassador and icon of our sport take part in this tradition. He has inspired generations of golfers and having Jack join Arnold on the first tee next April will be a special thrill for his many loyal fans around the world.”
“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. “I am also delighted to join my longtime friend Arnold on the tee. I have always had great respect for Arnold and his legacy at the Masters, and I did not, in any way, want to infringe on the opportunity for Arnold to have and enjoy this Masters tradition for himself. He is so deserving of this honor, and thus I felt it was his time, not mine. Recently, I was invited by both Augusta National and Arnold to join him on the first tee, and because he enthusiastically supported the invitation, it became an easy decision for me.”
Nicklaus, of course, is the Master of the Masters, with six green jackets. He won at Augusta in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975 and 1986. Among his many remarkable records is his tie for most runner-up finishes (four) and his record as oldest champion (46 years, 2 months, 23 days) with his win in ’86.