AUGUSTA, Ga. » A tree doesn’t grow in Augusta anymore. Make that on Magnolia Lane at Augusta National.
There’s a gap in the stately row of trees that line one of the most famous drives in America, the aftermath of thunderstorms that swept through Augusta early Tuesday and damaged other parts of the course, too. Workers quickly cleaned up most of the mess, but even the meticulous caretakers at the course can’t replace a tree planted before the Civil War.
Certainly not on a few days’ notice.
“One-hundred-and-fifty-year-old magnolias are in short supply for transplanting,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said yesterday, a day before the start of the 75th Masters. “We were all very much saddened by that, and we will make the best out of a difficult situation. We will deal with it somehow, but we just haven’t decided how to do it yet.”
Augusta National was built on 365 acres that was once the Fruitland Nurseries. Baron Louis Mathieu Edouard Berckmans and his son filled the property with plants and trees from all over the world, including two long rows of magnolias alongside the drive leading to what is now the clubhouse.
The hardy tree is native to the South, able to withstand heat, drought and flooding, said Scott Aker, the head of horticulture at the U.S. National Arboretum.
“They were one of the trees settlers admired and would plant in home gardens before the nursery industry,” Aker said.
Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts bought the land after the Berckmans died and, as the Masters grew in stature, Magnolia Lane became its signature.
The greatest names in golf all have passed beneath the canopy of statuesque trees.
“I drove down Magnolia Lane the first time in 1959 and I thought that was pretty neat,” Jack Nicklaus said Tuesday. “I get the same thrill of driving in every time. To me that’s the entrance to Augusta National and the Masters, driving down Magnolia Lane.”
The storm, which produced winds of about 50 mph, downed trees and power lines and littered Augusta National with debris.