Few phrases in sports evoke as strong an image as “the Amen Corner.” Coined in 1958 by golf writer Herbert Warren Wind, it refers specifically to the second half of the 11th, the 12th, and the first half of the 13th holes at Augusta National, site of the Masters Tournament.
Wind, who was writing for Sports Illustrated, used the phrase to describe the scene of the critical action of the 1958 Masters, when Arnold Palmer earned his first major Championship.
On the afternoon before the start of the recent Masters golf tournament, a wonderfully evocative ceremony took place at the farthest reach of the Augusta National course —down in the Amen Corner where Rae’s Creek intersects the 13th fairway near the tee, then parallels the front edge of the green on the short 12th and finally swirls alongside the 11th green.
Wind later said that he was looking for a phrase like “coffin corner” in football, or baseball’s “hot corner”, but that all he could come up with was the title of the song, “Shouting At The Amen Corner,” by Milton (Mezz) Mezzrow.
Palmer’s win has been controversial because of a drop and a second ball that he played on number 12. There had been a heavy rainfall on Saturday night, and local rules allowed a player whose ball was embedded to lift and drop. But when Palmer hit his shot over the green and embedded it on 12, he was unsure of what to do. After consulting with a rules official, he played the original ball for a five, and then dropped and played a second ball for a three. The tournament committee later decided that it was the second ball that would count.
Nearly fifty years later, runner up Ken Venturi still thinks the whole thing was done improperly. In his 2004 book, Venturi says that Palmer did not declare that he would play a second until AFTER he had taken a double bogey on the first.
But Wind felt that it was Palmer’s play on those holes that decided the issue.
Herbert Warren Wind ranks in that rare panthenon of sports writers whose work transcends their genre. Golf has had its share of such authors, including Bernard Darwin and Dan Jenkins
I have a collection of Wind’s articles called Following Through and have enjoyed reading and rereading them. I got it at a yard sale, but you can get one at Amazon: Following Through