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Former Masters champion Aarons exhibit opens at history center
Tommy Aaron waves to fans on Green Street during his welcome home parade after he won the 1973 Masters. - photo by Times file photo


Tommy Aaron talks about his career as a professional golfer.

Tommy Aaron’s memories of his win at the 1973 Masters are just as vivid now as the day it happened. His run at Augusta National was a weekend of sensory overload for this Gainesville native and it resulted in his only win at a PGA major in his career.

“I still remember the electricity in the air,” Aaron said. “The sounds, the cheering ... it was something I’ll never forget.”

After a long and successful career on the golf course, Aaron is now going to be remembered at the Northeast Georgia History Center with a Tommy Aaron exhibit which will include memorabilia like the green jacket from the Masters, as well as trophies and medals he won over the span of his 50-plus year career.

Tonight at the Chattahoochee Country Club, a Tommy Aaron tribute dinner will launch will the display, which includes a 23-minute video chronicling his achievements on the course since he was young.

“It seems fitting Tommy Aaron would have a special place in our sports history,” committee chairman Jeb Bates said. “He won the Masters, which is the pinnacle of golf in America.”

“It feels really good that the history center is honoring me,” Aaron said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Thirty-five years removed from Aaron’s win at Augusta National he can recount that special weekend just like it happened yesterday.

He’s most proud of the fact that his parents were on hand to see him edge out J.C. Snead for the win.

He remembers the highs and lows of the weekend highlighted by bookend 68s that helped him finish at five-under 283. Time hasn’t faded the memories of the jitters he felt in the clubhouse with Jack Nicklaus, waiting for the rest of the field to finish.

When it was all said and done, Aaron held on for the win and joined one of the most

select fraternities in the world of sports as a Masters champion. His name will forever have a bond with other Masters Champions including Nicklaus, Gary Player, Raymond Floyd, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods.

So many years removed from his Masters win, Aaron still recalls the wide-eyed feeling of having the previous year’s champion, Nicklaus, put the green jacket on his back.

“It was such a warm feeling,” Aaron said. “It was really great to win the Masters.”

Aaron still to this day appreciates the welcome home parade through Gainesville when the newly crowned champion returned to his hometown.

“I remember riding in a convertible that went up Green Street and through the square with my parents and kids in the car,” Aaron said. “I received so much support from here in Gainesville.”

Aaron’s quick to point out his career was more than just one great weekend. In 44 years playing at the Masters, he finished in the top 10 each year from 1965-1972. He also won the Canadian Open (1969), Atlanta Classic (1970), Georgia Open (three times), Trophee Lancome (1972), Kaanapali Classic (1992) and was tied for second at the PGA championship in 1972.

He was also part of two Ryder Cup teams and placed second in 14 tournaments between 1961-1973.
Aaron’s rise to the Masters title was really a lesson in self-determination. Aaron says when growing up Gainesville didn’t exactly cater to promising golfers. But his father, Charlie Aaron, encouraged his son to pursue playing golf.

So the younger Aaron says he spend tireless hours beating golf balls over at the New Holland Mill. On the weekend, he would play at the Athens Country Club when possible.

After excelling at the University of Florida and winning the SEC championship twice, Aaron decided it was time to turn pro. Along with his wife Jimmye, the Aarons headed out to Los Angeles with enough cash to play “four or five tournaments” playing first in the L.A. Open.

He never regretted that decision.

Aaron won that first event, received a $2,000 check and never looked back.

“What drew me to play was the competition of playing against the best,” Aaron said. “I love the true spirit of the game — and the character traits it teaches like honor, integrity and loyalty.”

Aaron says golf has been very good to him over the years. Now at 71 years old, he wants to be able to pass that same joy along to others that love the same game.

In 2007, he established the Tommy-Charlie Aaron Foundation that provides college scholarships for local student-athletes. The first recipient of the scholarship was 2007 Gainesville High graduate Chipper Cronia, who is attending North Georgia College & State University.

As part of the North Georgia Community Foundation, Aaron plans to award at least one scholarship each year to reward students for their accomplishments in the classroom.

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