Masters stories: The legends behind the famous green jacket

Devil Ball Golf

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Late Sunday afternoon, on the putting green just past Augusta’s 18th green, Bubba Watson will perpetuate one of the great traditions in sports when he slips Augusta National’s fabled green jacket onto the shoulders of the 2013 Masters winner. It’s a fine piece of clothing, this green jacket, and you can’t have one any more than you can have a Super Bowl ring or the Stanley Cup trophy. But where did the jacket come from? What are its legends? And is there a way you actually could get your hands on one? Read on:

Where did the green jacket come from?
The single-breasted, brass-buttoned jacket dates to 1937, when Augusta National purchased the jackets in bulk from the Brooks Uniform Company in New York City. The idea was to give club members an easily-identifiable visual style during the tournament.

How are current jackets made?
Hamilton Tailoring Co. has made the jackets for the last 40 years. Each jacket takes about a month to produce and uses about 2 ½ yards of cloth. The estimated (though not publicized) cost for each jacket is $250. Several club members have chosen to use the tailor Henry Poole of Savile Row, London, for specially tailored jackets.

When did the winners begin receiving the jacket?
Sam Snead was the first winner of the tournament to receive a green jacket in 1949. As each year’s tournament winds down, the club selects several potential jackets for the winner to use in the ceremony, and then the club fits a jacket to their measurements later. Multiple winners usually only have one jacket unless their size changes dramatically.

What can winners do with the green jacket?
Winners are permitted to take the jacket with them for a single year, can wear them to “significant social and golfing events,” and then must return the jacket to the club. That’s almost always the case. Gary Player, for one, took his to South Africa and apparently got into a fight with late club chairman Clifford Roberts after leaving the jacket behind. (It's now on display in the World Golf Hall of Fame.) But most treat the jacket with reverence and respect. Bubba Watson only wrapped his young son in it. Phil Mickelson once wore his to a Krispy Kreme the morning after his Masters win, but hey, that’s Phil.

Can I buy a green jacket?
You can, but it’s tricky. In 2012, Stephen Pyles, a Florida anesthesiologist, bought 1959 champion Art Wall’s green jacket for the low, low price of $62,000. Pyles has sought to re-sell it, but Augusta National has managed so far to block the resale by claiming that the jacket was stolen, one of four that remains unaccounted for. That case is pending. In another sale, 1957 champion Doug Ford’s jacket went for $63,000. And Bobby Jones’ jacket brought in $95,000 in a late-1990s sale. Oh, and you must read this account of walking around Augusta National wearing a green jacket bought from a Goodwill store. There's more than one way to get a green jacket.

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