‘A Month of Masters’ on Golf Connections presented by East Coast Golf Management begins with an extraordinary guest, photographer Frank Christian, a man who connects us all to Augusta National, the Masters, and to legendary figures like Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, and so many more in a truly unique way. After thanking Billy Mac for his stirring rendition of ‘Augusta, Sweet Augusta’ off his ‘Tee It Up’ CD, host Mitch Laurance also thanks Howard Schickler of the Golf History with Peter Alliss iPad app for connecting Mitch with Frank Christian, and begins A Month of Masters with an introduction to the amazing journey of the Christian family in Augusta, explaining that Frank is the 3rd generation of a family that will be connected forever to The Masters. Noting that the great Gene Sarazen wrote the introduction to Frank’s book (in collaboration with Cal Brown, who edited it), “Augusta National and The Masters”, Mitch begins the conversation by asking Frank to talk about the beginning of his family’s connection to Augusta, which started in 1897 and Frank’s great uncle Juan Montell. Listen as Frank details Montell’s trip from Italy to start a photography business, and how Frank, Sr. joined Montell in 1927 at the age of 17 as an apprentice. Flash forward to a seminal moment in the Christian family, and listen to Frank describe his father’s first meeting with Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, while covering the 1930 Southeastern Open in Augusta. Hear how that meeting would produce a friendship and working relationship that led to Frank, Sr. becoming the official Augusta National photographer in its earliest stages, which included covering the inaugural Masters tournament in 1934.
Mitch then asks Frank about his personal connection to Bobby Jones, to Augusta National as a child, and how a hickory club that Mr. Jones gave him, and a first lesson from the Masters’ founder, was the beginning of an ongoing relationship that would last years. Frank begins with intimate memories of summers spent during World War II swimming in Rae’s Creek, jumping off the 12th green, and then talks about that first meeting with Mr. Jones, at age 6, one that would form the basis of a the warmest of remembrances about the great Bobby Jones. Frank’s description of the kind of man Mr. Jones was, how he always checked on Frank’s life and game, will have you smiling, listening to the kind of memory only a child deeply touched by the legendary man can have.
Mitch then asks Frank about his book, “Augusta National and The Masters”, and Frank first describes how his book came to be, through the prodding of golf writer Cal Brown. He details the amazing effort and time put it by Brown to go through the thousands of images and stories that had been collected for decades, a story that serves to remind us not only of the one-of-a-kind history collected, but of the work necessary to give us all the gift of Frank’s legacy.
Mitch then asks Frank about his relationship with Gene Sarazen, the second champion of the Masters, and about his impact on the tournament and on Frank’s life. With the kind of detail known only to one who shared so many moments with the legends of the game, Frank describes that relationship, and hearing his stories about cooking Mr. Sarazen an Italian dinner every Wednesday of Masters’ week at his home, and listening to Mr. Sarazen tell stories until the wee hours of the morning, will amaze you. Another insight into history that only Frank can provide.
Mitch then asks Frank about his own career covering the Masters, and Frank follows with great stories about his father and Ben Hogan at Augusta, how he would photograph Mr. Hogan around the course before the tournament, and the last meeting Frank had with Mr. Hogan, in which he gave Frank a lesson in a hotel lobby, and the impact all of them had on Frank, not only as a child but as an adult. Mitch mentions lessons from Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan. Frank then adds a story and lesson from Byron Nelson. Truly wonderful stuff.
Mitch then asks Frank about a favorite moment/shot from his career, and Frank recalls taking a picture of Clifford Roberts, co-founder of Augusta National and the Masters, and Hall of Famer Jock Hutchison, first American player to win the Open Championship in 1921. He describes another inside-only story with Mr. Roberts involving Jock Hutchison, that demonstrates the intensity of feeling Mr. Roberts already had about the Masters from the beginning. It’s the kind of story only someone like Frank can tell, one whose memory is totally vivid and capable of perfect recall.
In closing, Frank thanks Howard Schickler once again, for his continuing work in preserving the archival photographic history of the game at MasterworksOfGolf.com and through the Golf History with Peter Alliss iPad app at golfhistoryapp.com, and Mitch thanks Frank for all he has given the game and its fans over the years.
Golf Connections is produced and broadcast by the Zeus Radio Network for TheGolfDirector.com