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Making himself heard

Hutchison's idea for announcers put him on 18th

Thursday, April 10, 2008

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Sandy Hutchison is one of the few people who know how the tradition started of stationing announcers on the ninth and 18th greens at the Masters Tournament.

Hutchison (right) served as an assistant pro at Augusta National under Ed Dudley (left) and Jones from 1932-35 and later returned to compete in the 1946 Masters. (Special)

The principals involved -- Masters and Augusta National Golf Club co-founder Bobby Jones and Sandy's father, Ralph Hutchison -- are dead, but Sandy Hutchison knows the story from his father.

Ralph Hutchison had been an Augusta National assistant pro under Ed Dudley for the first three winters of the club (1932-35) before becoming the head pro at Saucon Valley Country Club near Philadelphia in the spring of 1935.

While at Augusta National, Hutchison would often play nine-hole warm-up rounds in the morning with Jones, according to Sandy Hutchison. Jones would then play with members in the afternoon.

In 1946, Ralph Hutchison, by then a nationally known teaching club pro, qualified for the Masters for the first time by virtue of a quarterfinal finish in the PGA Championship.

At the Masters that year, Jones asked Hutchison what he thought Augusta National could do to improve the tournament for spectators.

"Dad recommended announcers on 9 and 18 and said they should be PGA of America members so they'd know the rules and the players would know them and feel comfortable," Sandy Hutchison said.

Club founders Bobby Jones (in cart) and Clifford Roberts speak with Ralph Hutchison, the first 18th-green announcer. (File)

Jones liked the idea and told Hutchison he wanted him to work the 18th hole. Because Hutchison was playing in the Masters that year, he took his place beside the 18th green starting in 1947, Sandy Hutchison said.

Thus began the tradition of announcers on Nos. 9 and 18. It will enter its 62nd year when the Masters begins today.

Jimmy Thompson, who played in nine Masters, was the first announcer on the ninth hole. Like Hutchison, Thompson's final Masters was in 1946 and he started announcing the following year.

Over the years, Hutchison focused on his announcer duties, keeping boxes of index cards with biographical information on the players.

"When he died in 1993, I found five boxes of those 3-by-5 index cards," his son said.

After the players putted out, Hutchison would announce what they shot for that day and for the tournament.

Hutchison was also on the rules and the pairings committees.

"He enjoyed being a tournament official," Sandy Hutchison said. "It was more than just being the announcer."

Hutchison worked the 18th green through the 1971 tournament, when he stepped aside because of throat problems, his son said. Leo Beckmann called the shots from 1972-98, and Johnny Paulk has done it ever since.

The Hutchison name might ring a bell for longtime Masters fans. Ralph's great-uncle, Jock Hutchison, played in 12 Masters and was one of the original honorary starters, from 1963-73.

"When I was a little kid, Bowman Milligan (the club's original steward) told me that when my dad played well, Jock would say he was his son, and when he didn't, he didn't know him," Sandy Hutchison said.

Sandy Hutchison, who was born in 1941, went with his father and family to the Masters from 1946 through 1968.

"It was home," he said. "It was the nicest, cleanest event. I've been to 15 U.S. Opens, but I tell people there is no place like Augusta. There was no pushing or shoving and the gallery knew what the game was about. I can't put it into words."

Sandy Hutchison, who is 67 and lives in Tampa, Fla., will be back at the Masters this week. It's been 40 years since his last visit.

When his son-in-law called three weeks ago to say he had a Saturday and Sunday ticket for him, "tears welled up" in his eyes, Hutchison said.

"Augusta was always something special; something you looked forward to," he said. "If you're a golfer, it's like Christmas."

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

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