Ralph Stonehouse, Golfer Who Hit First Shot in Masters History

Ralph Stonehouse was a highly respected PGA golf professional. He won on the PGA Tour. Today, he is largely forgotten by PGA Tour golf fans, however, except for one thing: Stonehouse played the very first stroke in the history of The Masters Tournament.

Born: September 19, 1904 in Indiana

Died: December 30, 1980 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

PGA Tour Wins: 1

The First Shot in Masters History

At 9:45 a.m. on March 22, 1934, the 1934 Masters Tournament — the first Masters, although it was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament at the time — teed off.

And the golfer who hit the first drive, who played the first stroke, who hit the first shot in Masters history? It was Ralph Stonehouse.

At the time, Stonehouse was a 29-year-old pro who worked at Coffin Golf Club in Indianapolis. A couple months earlier, Stonehouse won his first, and only, PGA Tour event, the Miami Open.

On this day, a little before 10 a.m., he played a stroke that has gone down in history. The first shot in Masters history was a good drive that curled back to the center of the fairway. Stonehouse then hit a 5-iron onto the green and two-putted for par.

(The hole that Stonehouse teed off from was, obviously, the No. 1 hole at Augusta National Golf Club at that time. But it is the No. 10 hole today. The nines were opposite from today when Augusta National opened, but the club switched the nines in 1935. So if you want to stand on the tee where the first stroke in Masters history was played, you must stand on today's No. 10 tee.)

Stonehouse went on to post rounds of 74, 70, 75 and 76 for a 7-over-par total of 295. He finished 16th.

Was any thought put into who teed off first that year? It's possible that Stonehouse was given the honor of hitting the first shot because he had won 1934's first PGA tournament. But there's no evidence that much thought (perhaps any thought) was given to the possibility that the first shot would some day be remembered and become a trivia question.

Stonehouse, probably, was simply in the right place at the right time — it was probably just luck that he got to hit that first shot.

"While I was very serious, dedicated to making a good showing, I still remember the atmosphere as very informal. Some of the fellows made a big party out of it. There was nothing like the pressure there is today." — Ralph Stonehouse on the 1935 Masters

More Notes About Ralph Stonehouse

Was inducted into the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame in 1976. ... According to the Hall, when Stonehouse won the Miami Open in 1934 he was the first golfer born in Indiana to win a national pro tournament. ... Also won the 1937 Indiana Open, and finished runner-up in that tournament six times. ... He served in the Army during World War II.

His playing partner in the 1934 Masters was Jim Foulis Jr., whose uncle, James Foulis, won the 1896 U.S. Open. Foulis, playing after Stonehouse's inaugural drive, hit the second shot in Masters history.

Stonehouse played in The Masters twice, the U.S. Open twice and the PGA Championship four times. His best finish in a major was at the 1932 PGA Championship, where he reached the quarterfinals.

Ralph's brother Russell Stonehouse was himself a 55-year-member of the PGA of America. Ralph and Russell often traveled across Indiana to play pro tournaments together. ... Among the golf courses where Stonehouse served as pro over the years were Coffin Golf Club in Indianapolis, Ind.; Forest Park Golf Course in Indiana; Timber Creek Golf Course in Dixon, Ill.; and Niagara Orleans Golf Club in Middleport, New York.

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