Since its inception in 1934, the Masters Tournament – it was called the Augusta National Invitational until 1939 – has always invited top amateurs. It’s a tradition initiated by the club’s co-founder, Bob Jones, a nine-time USGA champion and career amateur who is considered one of the game’s greatest players.
Even after the professional game gained prominence in the post-World War II era, Jones and fellow co-founder Clifford Roberts always ensured that the best amateurs teed it up in the Masters. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods teed it up as amateurs before going on to garner a combined 10 green jackets.
While over the years, the number of amateur invitees has dwindled, the Masters still annually invites amateurs from premier competitions. The finalists from the previous year’s U.S. Amateur – the winner becomes a lifetime honorary invitee – as well as the champions of The Amateur Championship conducted by The R&A, the U.S. Mid-Amateur, the Asia-Pacific Amateur and the Latin America Amateur all receive invitations. The U.S. Amateur Public Links champion also received an invitation before the championship was retired in 2014, and members of the USA Teams for the Walker Cup Match and the World Amateur Team Championship were also invited for many years (along with the quarterfinalists from the previous year’s U.S. Amateur).
Besides the amateur invitees, the U.S. Open champion earns a five-year exemption into the field, along with the top four finishers (including ties) from the previous year’s U.S. Open.
This year, there are 19 current or past USGA champions in the field, four of whom earned their invitation based solely on performances in USGA championships.