Par 3 Contest to be televised for first time by ESPN

The Par 3 Contest, an annual nine-hole event played the Wednesday prior to the Masters, will be televised for the first time in 2008 by ESPN, Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Billy Payne announced Thursday.

Since 1960, tournament participants, non-competing past champions and honorary invitees have taken part in the Par 3 Contest, a festive, family event held on a nine-hole, par 27 course on the grounds of Augusta. Golfers have often had their children caddie for them during the event, whose past winners include Masters champions Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd and Ben Crenshaw.

"The Par 3 Contest is a lot of fun, one of the real highlights of every year," two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson said. "It's been a wonderful experience to have my daughters caddie the last two years. It's special because it's a rare opportunity for both players and patrons to enjoy the game as families."

The contest takes place on the Par 3 course built in 1958 by architect George Cobb and Masters co-founder Clifford Roberts. The nine-hole course is par 27, 1,060 yards and played over DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike's Pond.

"It is an event everyone enjoys and we think it will demonstrate to kids just how fun golf can be," Payne said.

ESPN will cover the 2008 Par 3 Contest on Wednesday, April 9 from 3-5 p.m. ET.

"ESPN looks forward to bringing the Par 3 Contest to a national television audience for the first time," ESPN President George Bodenheimer said. "Fans will now be able to watch many of the greatest names in golf, past and present, as they enjoy a fun day of golf with friends and family."

Payne also announced Thursday that children ages 8-16 will be admitted free during the tournament when accompanied by an accredited patron.

"We want to inspire the next generation of golfers now," Payne said. "We're serious about exposing youngsters to golf and the Masters."

Earlier this year, the Masters granted ESPN exclusive U.S. rights to televise the first two rounds of the prestigious Masters Tournament beginning in 2008. A Spanish-language telecast of the first two rounds of the Tournament will also be presented in the U.S. on ESPN Deportes. Weekend coverage will be on CBS.

ESPN has televised the Masters internationally since 1993, bringing last year's Tournament to Latin America, Canada and parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.