Clifford Roberts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Clifford Roberts
Born(1894-03-06)March 6, 1894
DiedSeptember 29, 1977(1977-09-29) (aged 83)
Cause of deathSuicide
NationalityUnited States
OccupationInvestment banker,
golf administrator
Known forAugusta National Golf Club
Masters Tournament
widow: Betty Roberts[1]

Clifford Roberts (March 6, 1894 – September 29, 1977) was an American investment dealer and golf administrator.[2]

Early years[edit]

Born in Morning Sun, Iowa, Roberts had a financially troubled family life as a boy. He and older brother, John Darious Roberts, left school before graduation after beating up the school's principal. He worked as a successful, traveling clothing salesman, then as a promoter of speculative oil and gas leases and production. A large commission in the oil and gas industry, made in 1921, provided the financial means to become a Wall-Street stock broker, a career he followed for the remainder of his life.[3][4]

Augusta National Golf Club[edit]

Roberts served as Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club from 1931 through 1976, and was named "Chairman in Memoriam" after his death. He also served as Chairman of the Masters Tournament from 1934 through 1976.[5][6]

An investment banker on Wall Street from the late 1920s, Roberts was a partner with Reynolds & Company. He and Bobby Jones were co-founders of the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. In the early years, they personally extended invitations to the tournament. Roberts' friendship with President Dwight Eisenhower led to the Eisenhowers making Augusta National their retreat during the 1950s.

Roberts was sometimes described as a 'benevolent dictator'. Roberts received many awards and honors during his lifetime, including service on the PGA Advisory Committee from its inception in 1943 until his death, appointment by the United States Golf Association to serve on the Bob Jones Award Selection Committee, and election to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978. He was the author of The Story of the Augusta National Golf Club, published in 1976, and a subject of a book titled The Making of the Masters, Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament by David Owen, published in 1999.[4]

It was not until 1975 that tour pro Lee Elder became the first black person to play in the Masters Tournament (although he was not the first non-white person to compete; several Asian players performed in the event between 1958 and 1974). Roberts is quoted as saying "to make an exception would be practicing discrimination in reverse."[7] Lee Elder later said, "I don't want anything special. I will make it on my own."[7]

According to The New York Times, another comment attributed to Roberts is: "As long as I'm alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black."[8][9]

At the end of the Monday playoff in 1966, CBS commentator Jack Whitaker referred to the energetic crowd on the 18th fairway following the three players as a "mob" and he was banned by Roberts until 1972.[10][11]


At age 83, Roberts had been in ill health for several months with cancer and had a debilitating stroke. On September 29, 1977, a year after stepping down, Roberts killed himself via self-inflicted gunshots on the banks of Ike's Pond at Augusta.[12] [13][14] Both of his parents had also committed suicide.[2]

Several weeks later, a bronze plaque in his honor was unveiled at the clubhouse entrance.[2][1]



  1. ^ a b "Plaque honors Cliff Roberts". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. November 6, 1977. p. D8.
  2. ^ a b c Tidey, Will (April 9, 2011). "Wall Street to Amen Corner: The rollercoaster life of 'Mr Masters'". Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  3. ^ The Making of the Masters: Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament, by David Owen, Simon and Schuster, 1999, ISBN 0-684-85729-4
  4. ^ a b Diaz, Jaime (April 11, 1999). "The Master". New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  5. ^ "'Masters' of Masters retiring". Observer-Reporter. Washington, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. April 8, 1976. p. C8.
  6. ^ "Will Masters produce fitting farewell to oldtimer Roberts?". Lakeland Ledger. Florida. April 8, 1976. p. 3B.
  7. ^ a b "Roberts Man Of Mystery". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. Associated Press. April 1, 1973. p. 4D – via
  8. ^ Reilly, Rick (April 21, 1997). "Strokes of Genius". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 1, 2009.
  9. ^ Crouse, Karen (April 4, 2012). "Treasure of Golf's Sad Past, Black Caddies Vanish in Era of Riches". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  10. ^ Rothenberg, Fred (April 12, 1979). "Jack Whitaker's welcome now". Boca Raton News. Florida. Associated Press. p. 2B.
  11. ^ Sandomir, Richard (May 5, 2012). "Jack Whitaker was always camera ready". New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  12. ^ "Masters' Roberts commits suicide". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida. UPI. September 30, 1977. p. 1F.
  13. ^ Hodgkinson, Mark (April 9, 2004). "Highest standards applied even as Roberts took his life". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  14. ^ "Masters 'ruler' Roberts dead". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. September 30, 1977. p. 27. Retrieved August 2, 2012.

External links[edit]