The Augusta National Golf Club continues to tighten its grip on the Masters Golf Tournament experience.
How much longer will the April Masters party continue? Over the past fifteen years or so the Augusta National has been working towards a goal of securing the area surrounding the immoveable course and killing the secondary market for tickets. The first goal has largely been fulfilled with the purchase of acres and acres of land, once covered with pesky homes and businesses surrounding the course. They were torn down and replaced with ANGC landscaping.
The second goal of “owning” the visitors is slowly creeping up and may catch fans by surprise. The optics of scalpers hustling on the roadside runs counter to everything the National stands for. Not only that, the leadership feels the tickets being sold on the secondary market are rightfully theirs to do with as they wish. For years, the ANGC has been purchasing tickets on the black market, dividing them into daily badges. Now they are also allocated to Berckmans Place as well.
Before smartphones, the raucous atmosphere of Masters week was both anticipated and dreaded in equal measure by residents. The doors to every bar in the city were flung open and the great washed entered by the Docker full. Money flowed and lies were told. Spring break for nerds turned into a great excuse for Augustan’s to party. Regardless of your social status or background, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, Thirsty Thursday and Masters WEEK were set aside for getting hammered. This Augusta birthright, along with free parking and no cover charges, is what created our sense of community.
Social mores and social media have settled things down a bit, but in coming years it is feared our city will become more and more disconnected from what is already a very thin relationship. The National scratches a check each year for a fraction of a percent of their revenue, and lock the front gate until next year. And we rejoice that WE have Augusta.
The “list” of names receiving badges to the Masters is much like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Augusta National has hidden a pair of Golden Tickets inside non-descript pieces of mail. The recipients are rewarded with a tour of the golf course (with an adult of their choice) and a lifetime supply of tickets. The patrons are unaware, however, that the tour is also a competition to test their character. And unfortunately, many have failed the test, cashing in their tickets and going on vacation. Insiders say the 1970’s era ticket list will soon be scrapped and the tickets distributed on a lottery basis each year. The announcement will coincide with many good deeds and wonderful programs the National is planning, amounting to a good public relations campaign for cover, much like their annual tip to the city.
As the golf fans become more and more removed and less reliant on residents, many fear the city will be but a host, not invited to attend its own party.