Masters Starter Harison Dies at 82

If you’re not going to make it in sport then the next best thing is to have a ringside seat as the drama unfolds.

That was certainly true of Phil Harison, one of the most famous voices in golf. Harison, who has died at the age of 82, was the starter at The Masters for 60 years. In that time he introduced every post war great the game has seen.

From Ben Hogan through Jack Nicklaus to the arrival of Tiger Woods, Harison was there. The quiet Southern accent bringing an understated dignity to the opening hole of America’s most famous course: “Fore please, Jack Nicklaus now driving.” For Jack Nicklaus you can substitute any of the game’s greats.

No mean golfer himself, he scored a hole in one in a match with President Eisenhower and another in a match with Jack Nicklaus, Harison attended every Masters since 1932. As a link with the game’s past they don’t come much bigger than Phil Harison: not only did he see Bobby Jones play, he actually played with him.

Recalling one such round with golf’s finest amateur and the father of The Masters Harison said:

”I kept making putts from here across the room. I wasn’t nervous I was enjoying the day so much. Toward the end, Mr. Jones said, ‘You have a good round going. I’m proud of you.’ After that, I didn’t finish so well. Shot 75.”

In 2007 Harison, recovering from a car accident, summoned the strength to start the tournament for the last time, guiding the first two groups off the first tee.

Phil Harison’s grandfather, Dr William Harison, was one of the men who introduced golf to Augusta in 1897. The nine hole course he helped create was built on ground that would later form part of Augusta National. Harison’s childhood home stood behind the first green at Augusta. At the age of eight he was a patron at the first Masters, at the age of 21 he joined his father and brother as a member of the club.

In the wider community Harison was a devoted family man who gave countless hours of service to his church and community. He raised millions of dollars for health charities, perhaps inspired by his grandfather who worked as a doctor for the poor of the area.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Phil Harison. Phil was a cherished member who made significant contributions to the Masters. As the starter on the first tee, he was the face of the Masters to many patrons. He did a wonderful job in that role.”

Not just the world of golf but the wider Augusta community will this week be mourning the passing of a true Southern gent.

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