Who has the worst score ever seen in a single round at the Masters? (And the Reason Why It's Not Billy Casper)

In the past, Sergio Garcia, Tom Weiskopf, and Tommy Nakajima have set some shockingly high scores on individual holes at Augusta National Golf Club. They made history for all the wrong reasons.

Some players have also had trouble with the apparently lightning-fast greens on the property, hitting the hole up to six times with their putter.

But what about the worst score ever seen in a single round at the site of The Masters? That’s pretty simple. Kind of. The record books at Augusta National Golf Club say that the highest score ever made over 18 holes is 95, which was made by the late Charles Kunkle.

In 1956, 22 years after the first Masters (which was first called the Augusta Invitational Tournament), an amateur player who had served in WWII and had taught himself the game finished a terrible week with a score of 95 on the last round.

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The round gave him the most points out of the 340 he played over the four days. Not only is that 52 over, but it’s also the highest score ever in an event at Augusta. Since the next year’s Masters was the first with a halfway cut, it will stay that way as well.

Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo Sports says that Kunkle’s 95-point performance on Sunday was caused by a number of unfavorable factors. It wasn’t because he was a bad player, mind you.

He had won his spot in the tournament by making it to the quarterfinals of the US amateur in 1955. This was the fifth straight time he had played in the US amateur.

To begin, he was 42 years old at the time and clearly did not know much about current physiotherapy and other medical treatments.

It’s also said that he had only played nine holes of real golf in the lead-up because he was a businessman during the week and spent most of his practice time hitting balls off of a mat in a barn. He tried to practice at The Greenbrier in West Virginia a few weeks before The Masters, but bad weather kept him from getting much done.

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At the 1956 Masters, Kunkle had to deal with terrible rain and wind, which was said to be some of the worst weather in the history of the event. He knew he was going to have a tough time.

Kunkle thought it was a bad thing that the 1956 event was also the first one to be shown on TV in the US. People who watched might have seen some of the Pennsylvania man’s scores go up every day, even though not every shot was shown (and not much has changed in 70 years).

Kunkle got a 78 on Thursday, even though the round ended in the dark because of bad weather. He then got an 82 on Friday, an 85 on Saturday, and finally a record-setting 95 on Sunday.

I talked to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005 about what happened and Kunkle said, “I was just trying to get out of there.” It was very windy, and it was the hardest game I’ve ever played in.

The former Duke basketball captain didn’t feel bad about his place in history. “The record, that’s not important to me,” he said. I worked hard to get there. It’s not enough to know the right people. I was happy to have played in the Masters.

Of course. And this “however” is a pretty important one. Kunkle should have lost his spot at the top of the list of all-time high scores in a single round in 2005.

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At the ceremony to award the Green Jacket, Charles Coody, the 1971 Masters Champion, is helped by Billy Casper (right).
At the ceremony to award the Green Jacket, Charles Coody, the 1971 Masters Champion, is helped by Billy Casper (right). © Provided by Golf Monthly

The late Billy Casper  beat Littler in a tie to win The Masters in 1970, when both players had a score of 279. Casper died that year. It was Casper’s third Major win, after winning the US Open twice before. It also secured his spot at The Masters for life.

After 35 years, Casper was still enjoying his yearly start, even though his last professional win was on any tour in 1989. A few days before the tournament, he said it would be his last run around Augusta and that he would only bring his clubs to the neighborhood golf course for social events from then on.

Casper probably wished he had jacked it in the year before because of what would happen on Thursday. A 14 on the par-3 16th, Casper’s seventh hole of the day, helped him start with a 57. Of course, that helped him shoot a totally awful 106 in the end.

But Casper, who was 73 years old at the time and had just had hip surgery two years before, chose not to turn in his scorecard, and the three-figure sum was eventually erased from the record books. Charles Kunkle is so sad.

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