Which Golfers Have Served as Honorary Starters at The Masters?

Bryon Nelson, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead as honorary starters at The Masters
Gene Sarazen is flanked by Byron Nelson (left) and Sam Snead (right) in 1999, the final time the three of them were honorary starters together at The Masters. Stephen Munday/Getty Images

Over the years at Augusta National, it has usually been the role of veteran golfers to hit a ceremonial opening drive at The Masters, signifying the start of another tournament. These golfers have become known as the "honorary starters" of The Masters, and serving in that role is a considered a huge honor.

So which golfers have served in that role? Below is the list of every golfer who has been a Masters honorary starter (sometimes called a "ceremonial starter"), and the years they served in the role. That part of the list required an update in 2016 when Arnold Palmer announced he was retiring from the role.

The 9 Golfers Who've Been Masters Honorary Starters

Nine golfers have been honorary starters at The Masters. Here is the list, along with the years in which each served in that role:

  • Jock Hutchison, 1963-73
  • Fred McLeod, 1963-76
  • Gene Sarazen, 1981-99
  • Byron Nelson, 1981-82 and 1984-2001
  • Ken Venturi, 1983
  • Sam Snead, 1984-2002
  • Arnold Palmer, 2007-2015
  • Jack Nicklaus, 2010-
  • Gary Player, 2012-

Hutchison and McLeod were the first honorary starters in 1963. But why those two? Neither man won The Masters. But each did win another important tournament at Augusta. Bobby Jones was an organizer of the PGA championship for senior golfers, what today is called the Senior PGA Championship. And the first two Senior PGAs were played at Augusta National Golf Club. Hutchison won the first one in 1937, and McCleod won the second one in 1938.

Masters Honorary Starters by Year

Here's a different way of organizing the list — year first, with golfers who served in those years:

  • 1963-73: Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod
  • 1974-76: Fred McLeod
  • 1977-80: No honorary starter
  • 1981-82: Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson
  • 1983: Gene Sarazen and Ken Venturi
  • 1984-1999: Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead
  • 2000-2001: Byron Nelson and Sam Snead
  • 2002: Sam Snead
  • 2003-2006: No honorary starter
  • 2007-2009: Arnold Palmer
  • 2010-2011: Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus
  • 2012-2015: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player
  • 2016-: Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player

Venturi filled in for Nelson in 1983 at Nelson's request; Nelson was unable to attend The Masters that year because of his wife's illness.