The late Art Wall Jr.’s greatest claim to golfing fame was his finishing kick at the 1959 Masters, in which he birdied five of the last six holes to overtake Cary Middlecoff and Arnold Palmer for the green jacket.
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As questions about who should be called the rightful owner of a Masters green jacket and where those jackets belong are pondered in court, what about the man who won more Masters jackets than anyone?
Jack Nicklaus owns six Masters championships (1963, ’65, ’66, ’72, ’75, ’86). Might he have green jackets strewn all over his Florida home?
Quite the contrary. For the longest time, he was jacketless Nicklaus.
Scott Tolley, the vice president of communications for the Nicklaus Companies, tells the tale:
“Until 1998 — 35 years after he won the first of his record-six Masters — Jack never owned one of the green jackets made for the club by Cincinnati-based Hamilton Tailoring Co. When Jack won his first Masters in 1963, the defending champion, Arnold Palmer, slipped on him an oversized green jacket. The size was a 46 long.
“The jacket was merely for show at the awards presentation. Club officials promised to have a jacket made for their newest honorary member, but when he returned in ’64 he found no authentic three-buttoned, single-vented blazer awaiting him. Unperturbed, he borrowed a jacket from Thomas Dewey, the former governor of New York.
“In the early 1970s, after having won his fourth Masters title, Jack still did not own a green jacket, and Dewey’s was becoming a bit worn. Jack tried to have one made for him by his clothing partner, Hart, Schaffner and Marx. But it was not even the same material or really the right color.
“Again after winning two more ‘jackets’ in 1975 and ’86, Jack borrowed from a series of other members. For another decade, he told no one at the club about the jacket mix-up until 1997, when he kidded then-club chairman Jack Stephens. Stunned, Stephens ordered Jack to get immediately fitted. But Jack said, ‘It’s such a great story, I don’t want to ruin it.’
“When Jack returned in 1998, he found a note from Stephens in his locker. A jacket fitting was scheduled. So, almost 40 years after making his first visit to Augusta National, Jack donned his very own green jacket — size 44 regular.”