It’s not too much to suggest that the hold a green jacket has on the sport of golf is a mystical one. Players spend their entire careers chasing one, and all it takes is one to confer immortality.
Whether they’ve got enough green jackets for every day of the week or happened to have the best week of their life at the best possible time, every player who’s donned the green jacket is a member of golf’s most exclusive fraternity. It’s one whose bonds extend even beyond the grip of the grave.
It’s been 50 years since Billy Casper won his Masters, a victory over Gene Littler in the final 18-hole playoff ever held. (Ties at the end of 72 holes now go to sudden death.) The Augusta Chronicle brings us the story of just how much he loved Augusta National, even if the victory was a touch bittersweet.
Casper and Littler were the best of friends from the time they were teenagers; their families remained close for the rest of both men’s lives. The only topic they never discussed: Casper’s never-in-doubt five-shot victory.
Casper died in 2015, and his widow Shirley asked — and received — permission from Augusta National for Casper to be buried in his green jacket.
Custom at Augusta National is for jackets to remain on club grounds after each champion’s one-year celebration period. Rare is the green jacket that’s made its way off the property; Augusta National has shut down attempts to sell jackets at auction. But Casper, clearly, had earned the honor of keeping his forever.
Casper, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, never really got his due as a pro, mainly because he came of age in the era of Palmer/Nicklaus/Player. He won 51 tournaments, ranking seventh all-time, and still holds the American record for most Ryder Cup points won. It took him 14 attempts to win the Masters, not exactly surprising given that the Big Three won eight over that span.
“From the first time I played at Augusta I felt I could win,” Casper later said. “I guess it took me a few years. Of course when they put the green jacket on you there’s nothing like it.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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