Monday, April 6
Q&A: Walker Inman Jr., First Augusta Native to Play in Masters
In 1956 Walker Inman Jr. made a memorable trip down
Magnolia Lane. (Pocketwiley/Flickr)
“He put his hand on my head, and he said, ‘Walker, are you going to be a golfer like your Daddy?’ I said, ‘No sir, Mr. Jones. I want to be a golfer like you.’”
−Walker Inman Jr.
Walker Inman Jr. was a 1950s PGA Tour pro and longtime club professional. This is an excerpt from my 2007 interview with Walker and a part of my free 44-page 2009 Masters Tournament Guide (link at bottom).
ARMCHAIR GOLF: I think I read that your father met Bobby Jones.
WALKER INMAN JR.: They were fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech together. When I was 7 or 8 years old, he took me over to the Masters and in those days that was the only place Jones played. They started the Masters in ‘34 and he invited a bunch of his friends to come play a tournament, and that’s how the Masters got started. It was an invitational tournament. Of course, all the best players in the world were his friends, so he invited them all to come play. That’s the only time Bob Jones played in front of the public – he retired in 1930 – in the Masters.
So my Daddy wanted me to go over there and watch him play. I’ve got movies of my Dad playing with him when he would come to town and play at the country club before Augusta National was even built. So my Dad takes me over there, and we watch him playing the 8th hole. I know exactly where he was standing when I first saw him. He said to my Dad, “Is this your son, Walker?” My Dad introduced me and he said say hello to Mr. Jones, and I did. He put his hand on my head, and he said, “Walker, are you going to be a golfer like your Daddy?” I said, “No sir, Mr. Jones. I want to be a golfer like you.” I can remember that just like it was today. He was swinging his fairway wood hitting pine cones. He said to my Dad if he could hit the golf ball as good as he can hit these pine cones, he could still win.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: How old did you say you were – 7?
WALKER INMAN JR.: I was 7 or 8. I was born in ‘29, so that was about 1938. I guess I was about 9 years old.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Was your dad a pretty good player?
WALKER INMAN JR.: He was about a 3 handicap player. He played with Jones when they were in college together and that kind of thing. That’s where his friendship and golf came from that.
When I qualified for the Masters, he [Jones] welcomed me there and was very excited about having me play. I teed off the first hole − I was as nervous as a cat on a tin roof − finally hit the ball up the fairway, managed to hit a 6-iron in the middle of the green and holed about a 30-footer. And I thought, shoot, there’s nothing to this. I said, “This is easy. I thought this was going to be hard.”
Walk over to the second tee, and as I’m going through the ropes, there’s Mr. Roberts and Mr. Jones sitting on a golf cart on the side of the tee. Mr. Roberts comes over to me and says, “Walker, Mr. Jones and I are very happy to have an Augusta boy playing in our tournament for the first time, and Mr. Jones is a good friend of your Dad’s, and Mr. Jones would like to watch you play a few holes. Do you mind?”
Now all of a sudden my nervousness comes back and I got to perform for the best player that’s ever walked around. That was quite an experience. They drove the cart around nine holes and watched me play. I wish I had a picture of that, but no cameras on the golf course so I don’t have a picture.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: From what I read, you had a pretty good day that day and then it sounded like in that last round, they had weather like this year.
WALKER INMAN JR.: The wind was blowing between 45-50 mph gusts.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: That must have been brutal.
WALKER INMAN JR.: You couldn’t stand up to putt.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: And on those greens – I can’t even imagine how you could play those greens.
WALKER INMAN JR.: Well, you couldn’t. And the greens in those days weren’t as fast as they are today because they didn’t have Bentgrass on them. But they still were fast because of the undulations. You couldn’t stand still the wind was blowing so hard. It made putting more difficult than hitting a full shot.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Well, I’m sure at that point in your career you thought you’d…
WALKER INMAN JR.: I thought I’d be there many more times, and of course it never happened any more.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: It’s a good thing you did get to play in the Masters, though.
WALKER INMAN JR.: That was kind of a goal of mine when I first turned pro. Get in the Masters and play in front of my hometown friends and I did it, so that’s a memory I’ll always have.
−The Armchair Golfer
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