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FIRST-PERSON: Welcome to the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (BP) — There’s nothing like springtime here in Augusta!

The vibrant appearance of variegated azaleas along with an explosion of blossoming trees and flowers make this city beautiful! Augusta is known as the Garden City, yet even the glory of the flowers is trumped each year with the return of the Masters Golf Tournament.

For eight days each spring, Augusta takes its place on the world stage as golf’s best amateurs and PGA professionals fulfill their life dream of walking the hallowed fairways of the Augusta National Golf Club. And as they come, so do throngs of people, press and promoters from all over the globe to share in the wonder of this Augusta tradition.

The Masters is the first of four major tournaments played on the PGA tour each year, and it is currently the only major tournament played in the same location year after year. A badge to watch the tournament is not just hard to obtain, it is one of the most elusive tickets to any sporting event in the world.

It all began when Robert “Bobby” Jones, golf’s greatest amateur, business partner Clifford Roberts and architect Alister Mackenzie transformed the 365-acre Fruitland Nursery into the Augusta National Golf Club.

Since the tournament’s beginning in 1934, the pursuit of a win at the Masters has become the “holy grail” of golf. Many describe what they see and share at this event as if talking of a religious experience. Even the course itself has a set of holes commonly called, Amen Corner.

The Masters is in its 82nd year and has the smallest field of qualifiers of any PGA event. This course intimidates and frustrates even the greatest players — maybe not Jack Nicklaus who reigns in Augusta with six Masters championships. However, few dominate, and many face the drama of this competition only to leave in defeat and despair.

In the end, only one Masters champion walks away with the high-paying purse, the distinct Masters Trophy and the most coveted prize of all, the Green Jacket.

One other note of interest: The Green Jacket cannot be taken from the grounds of the Augusta National Golf Club even though it is a possession of each club member and each champion. Only the prior year’s champion can take the Green Jacket beyond the exit gate on Magnolia Lane in the year after a win. This is just another part of the mystique and tradition of the Masters.

The championship round at the Masters is played on the second Sunday in April. The city bows and bends to make every accommodation for the world to come and experience the Masters and the beauty of Augusta. It is an extra holiday for Augusta residents as area schools and businesses share a common spring break, and people move out of their homes to make room for guests coming in. You could say our relationship to the Masters changes everything for us.

Interestingly, there is something else about the city of Augusta that binds together the experiences and commitments for many of us. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) began here in May 1845.

It was in Augusta that a vision for church planting, denominational partnership, ministerial training and global mission-impact was born in the hearts of a group of “amateurs” of the faith who aspired to be used of God to change the world.

It was from Augusta that a meeting of Christ-followers, bound by deep biblical convictions and a common doctrinal confession, launched a movement throughout the United States and around the world. While there were social and cultural factors that reflected the great national and moral controversies of their day, they formed the SBC by faith and for the advancement of the Gospel.

Today you are reading this article through the portal of Baptist Press, an entity that exists to provide testimony, commentary and documentary of the global outreach and activity of Southern Baptists. And today, God has blessed, expanded and distributed our influence for His glory.

The SBC has been blessed with a rich history and an ever-expanding ministry network of pastors, teachers, church members, cultures, races, missionaries, languages and even martyrs who loved the Gospel more than life itself and gathered, invested and distributed the Good News of Christ to the nations. Only eternity will reveal the glory of God’s grace through our lives together. And one day, we’ll be found, not in green jackets, but “clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne” because of Christ.

Yes, golf will bring the world to Augusta and I look forward to sharing in the drama of this year’s Masters Golf Tournament, but I am even more excited to be a part of a scattering in the world through our SBC network who bear the common brand of faith, hope and love because of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    About the Author

  • David H. McKinley