Saturday, April 9, 2016

Masters Moments

The Masters golf tournament is in full swing this weekend.

I have been fortunate to attend The Masters three times over the years. The first time was in 1973 when I ventured over from Atlanta with some law school classmates for the Wednesday practice round.

To provide some perspective, Tom Watson just played his last competitive round at The Masters yesterday. It was the 42nd consecutive year that Watson has played in the tournament. That string would not start until two years after my first visit to Augusta.

My last visit was three years ago. To provide some perspective on that, Jordan Spieth, the defending champion and the leader going into the 3rd round this year, did not even have his full time status on the PGA Tour and would not tee it up for the first time at Augusta National until the next year (2014).

The Masters is "a tradition unlike any other." Legends beget legends on those fairways. Consider the fact that Tom Watson played his first practice round at Augusta with Gene Sarazen who had won the second Masters in 1935. Sarazen was born in 1902.

On the other hand, Bryson DeChambeau, the U.S. Amateur who was paired with Spieth in the first two rounds and was tied for second going to the 18th hole yesterday before a disastrous triple bogey on the final hole, was born in 1993.

The following is a blog post from April 15, 2103 right after I had attended The Masters that provides a first hand report of the experience if you cannot be there yourself this year.

The Masters (first published April 15, 2013)

I had the privilege of attending The Masters golf tournament this year.

If you are a golf fan it is one event that is well worth attending.  It is a first-class experience in every respect. The course is both beautiful and immaculately maintained.  The spectators are treated as true patrons which is what Augusta National prefers to call the golf enthusiasts who attend.

Food and beverages are very, very reasonable.  A pimento cheese sandwich costs only $1.50.  A turkey sandwich is $2.50. A soft drink is $1.50.  A candy bar or moon pie goes for $1.00.  A domestic beer is $2.50.

The tournament is run like a well-oiled machine.  Every detail has been thought out and is run efficiently from the concession stands to the rest rooms to the golf shop.  Everyone must pass through metal detectors to gain entrance to the grounds and you must pass 25 security guards on your way in.  Every ticket is scanned.  Every bag searched. Cell phones and cameras are strictly prohibited.  The crowd is polite and knowledgeable.

The biggest problem is getting a ticket for the tournament.  The face value of a tournament pass is $250 but the going value is over $5,000 for the week. At present, there is not even a waiting list you can get on to get tickets.  It is clearly the toughest ticket to get in all of sports.  Your only choices are to know someone who has access to tickets, buy through a ticket broker or register for an online lottery that The Masters opened a couple of years ago for a limited number of daily tickets.  You can go here in a month or two to apply for tickets for the 2014 tournament.

One of the more interesting sites for me was the golf store.  I did not pass it one time when there was not a line to get in the store and it was packed like nothing I have ever seen.  I was told that they sell $1 million of merchandise per hour.  That doesn't seem too far off from what I could see.

For example, here are the famous Masters folding chairs that surround almost every green.  Masters etiquette is such that you can place your chair at your favorite venue early in the morning and tour the course and your chair will still be there for you.  No one will touch it, remove it or sit in it. These chairs go for $30 in the golf store.

Another example is this photo of Adam Scott on the 10th green right after he sank his winning putt in the playoff yesterday. Notice the large number of Masters umbrellas and the total absence of anything else. These all came from that on-site golf store.

Credit:  AP Photo/David J. Philip

The Masters understands the principles of scarcity and exclusivity very well and it is a marketing marvel as a result. The tournament committee really knows what it is doing and does it well.

If you are looking for an interesting summer book I suggest you consider "The Making of the Masters: Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament". I read the book over ten years ago and it is a fascinating story of the origins of the founding of Augusta National and its guiding force, Clifford Roberts, over the years. It will give you a keen understanding of how "touch and go" it was to even get the club built and financed in the midst of the Depression.

If you are a golfer you can only wish that someone in your family would have signed on the dotted line for Mr. Roberts when he was desperately trying to sell memberships in the club in the early 1930's. As I recall, a membership could have been purchased for a few hundred dollars. Oh, but to think of what might have been.

Congratulations to 2013 Masters Champion Adam Scott and the membership of Augusta National for providing me with a most memorable experience.  There is nothing else like it in the world of sports.

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