Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 8, 1956. At center amid the sea of jubilant faces is Jack Burke Jr., the new Masters champion, dispatching a kiss to his wife, Ielene. The lack of self-consciousness by the Burkes is understandable. Moments earlier, Jackie had come from eight shots behind to beat then-amateur Ken Venturi by one and 1955 winner Cary Middlecoff (right of Jackie) by two. To Ielene’s right is ANGC chairman Clifford Roberts, his usually taciturn countenance suddenly beaming. Whatever was said must have been hilarious. Even the Pinkerton security agents are smiling.
Burke, at 97 the oldest living Masters champion, today is thriving at Champions Golf Club, the famed club in Houston he cofounded with Jimmy Demaret a year after Burke donned his green jacket. “The wind was blowing so hard that last day, I was just trying to survive,” he says. “My 71 was tied for low round, and I passed guys like they were standing still. On the [par-3] fourth, I needed a driver and then a pretty good wedge to get to the green.”
What about that kiss, Jackie? “I’d have kissed my caddie at that point,” he says. “I couldn’t believe I won. You just have no idea what winning the Masters can mean to a guy.”