Masters Countdown: First Hole

Augusta National's first green in the early 1930s, when it was still the tenth. The bunker was later removed and a different bunker was added, closer to the green. The putting-surface contours haven't changed much, however.

In Augusta National’s early years, a small creek ran across the first fairway, at the bottom of the hill, less than a hundred yards from the tee. The carry over the ditch was so short that few players even noticed the hazard, but a member named Clarence J. Schoo—who ran a boxboard manufacturing company in Springfield, Massachusetts, and was a close friend of the club’s chairman and co-founder, Clifford Roberts—drove into it so often that it came to be known as Schooie’s Gulch. After topping yet another drive into the creek one day, Schoo said to Roberts, “I wish you’d fill in that damn ditch.” Roberts did fill in the ditch, during the summer of 1951—and sent the bill to Schoo.

That, at any rate, is how the story is usually told. The real reason for eliminating the ditch was that the club wanted to replace its old press tent with a Quonset hut, on a site to the right of the first fairway, and the ditch was in the way of the planned foundation. The ditch also constituted a maintenance headache that Roberts wanted to eliminate. Schoo, who later became a vice president of the club, did gladly pay for part of the alteration, but he almost certainly wasn’t surprised when he opened his bill.

Schoo was such a poor golfer that when he one day made a natural birdie Roberts decreed that he should be paid the same cash pot that was ordinarily given to golfers who made holes-in-one, on the theory that Schooie was never going to come any closer. Another time, while playing the seventh hole in a foursome that also included Roberts and former President Dwight Eisenhower, Schoo hit a dreadful drive that traveled just a few yards, into a clump of pampas grass to the left of the tee. Schoo said, “Well, in all the years I’ve been playing here, that’s the first time I’ve done that.” That summer, the grounds crew cut back the pampas grass and found several balls with his name imprinted on them. On another occasion, Schoo declared with exasperation that he must be the worst golfer in the club. His caddie, who had been around long enough to hear stories but not long enough to recognize individual members, said, “No, sir. The worst golfer in this club is Mr. Schoo.”

8 thoughts on “Masters Countdown: First Hole

  1. I’m impressed, I must say. Actually rarely do I encounter a blog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you may have hit the nail on the head. Your thought is outstanding; the issue is one thing that not sufficient people are speaking intelligently about. I am very blissful that I stumbled throughout this in my search for something relating to this.

      • Not much to tell, David. Clarence was my grandfathers older brother and my father was his only male heir and favored as such. Clarence and Grace never had children. Your stories were frequently repeated at family gatherings. He was a very popular member of Augusta, as you might have learned …….in spite of his lack of golfing ability. Thanks for your treatment back in 2012.

    • John,

      I am avid collector of items from Cypress Point Club and have the privilege to play there several times a year. CPC is usually ranked No.2 just behind Augusta. I found this website while researching an item related to CPC I purchased a number of years ago which is associated with your great granduncle. It is a CPC Privilege Card issued on August 24, 1956 at the request of President Eisenhower for Mr. and Mrs. Clarence J. Schoo and signed by the Secretary of CPC. I would be glad to send you a picture of the card if you have an interest. Great stories of your great granduncle. Perhaps he was not a very good golfer but I beat he was great to play with.

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