The Masters Green Jacket: an Ohio tradition unlike any other

The Masters Green Jacket: an Ohio tradition unlike any other

This weekend, Tiger Woods stunned the nation when he won his first Masters in 14 years. It’s easy to think of The Masters Golf Tournament as a quintessential Georgia event. After all, the annual event practically created the golf mecca of Augusta, Ga., among its signature pink azaleas, sun-soaked skies and too-perfect-to-be-real turf of Augusta National Golf Club. The course–and the tournament itself–were founded by the legendary Georgian, Bobby Jones.

Yet the most iconic piece of Masters’ tradition­–the venerable Green Jacket–is purely an Ohio creation.
Tiger Woods dons the Green Jacket after winning the Masters Golf Tournament on April 14, 2019. Photo: USA Today

52 men have been presented the Green Jacket as the trophy for winning the Masters Tournament. And since 1967, each has been exclusively (and secretly) crafted in Cincinnati by Hamilton Tailoring.

It’s the same jacket worn by Augusta National’s nearly 300 members for club functions. And they’re rarely seen elsewhere. Augusta national has strict rules requiring all Green Jackets to always remain on the grounds of the club. The one exception is made for the current Masters Champion. He’s allowed to wear it in public for the one year following his victory. Then it must return to the club.

Augusta National steadfastly guards its traditions and secrets, so the folks at Hamilton Tailoring are tight-lipped about the making of the Green Jackets. Heck, they don’t even have a website.

What we do know is this:

  • The Green Jackets are painstakingly stitched in Hamilton Tailoring’s 150,000-square-foot building in Avondale, on Cincinnati’s northeast side.
  • It takes roughly a month to produce each three-button, single-breasted blazer.
  • It’s estimated that Green Jacket costs about $250 to make (unconfirmed, more secrecy) and is crafted from:
    • 2 1/2 yards of brilliant rye green (Pantone 342) tropical-weight wool
    • Custom brass buttons inscribed with the Augusta National logo
    • Official Masters patch
    • Hand stitched name label on the inside

The winner doesn’t keep the jacket he’s presented in Augusta National’s famed Butler Cabin on Sunday–he’s later given a bespoke Hamilton Tailoring-made version. Tournament officials have a few common sizes on hand and make an educated guess.

Sometimes they guess wrong.

Famously, in 1963, Buckeye native Jack Nicklaus was presented a ridiculously large 46-long which he said “looked like an overcoat. It just hung on me.”  Nicklaus often tells the story that when he came back a year later and the club still had not made a jacket that fit, he borrowed one from a club member — Thomas E. Dewey, the presidential candidate who lost to Truman. Nicklaus kept borrowing it for the annual Champions Dinner until 1972, when he eventually ordered one himself.

The Golden Bear at the Masters

That 1963 victory was the first of six Masters Championships Nicklaus would win–the most by any player in history. Hailing from Columbus suburb Upper Arlington, Nicklaus became the first champion to win the green jacket two years in a row with dominate victories in 1965 and 1966.

After winning again in 1972 and 1975, Nicklaus donned the Green jacket for one final, historic time in 1986, winning his sixth Masters title. The moment was famously captured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “One for the Ages” featuring the “Golden Bear” raising his putter in celebration.

If the Masters is the one tournament with a timeless quality, where legends are celebrated, Ohio is undeniably woven throughout the storylines and memories with graceful precision.

Learn more about Nicklaus and great Ohio athletes at Ohio–Champions of Sports, the ambitious new exhibit now open at the Ohio History Center.  #ohiohistory

Posted April 16, 2019

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