During the first full week of April, it’s hard to believe the rest of the planet is not as obsessed with “our little tournament” as we are in Augusta. The Masters is such an integral part of our lives during these 7 days, it amazes me when news outlets report on anything other than the prestigious event and local repercussions. I acknowledge that there are WAY more important things happening around the globe, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in what is happening at 2604 Washington Road that we forget to pay attention. When the newspapers arrive at the dealership each morning, I see the front page of the Augusta Chronicle, appropriately laden with Masters-related stories, including a special section just for the event. I also see the Wall Street Journal, conspicuously void of anything green, and wonder how they were able to fill a paper without any golf-centric articles.
In Augusta, you cannot avoid the impact of the Masters, even if you do not attend it or work amongst it. You plan your day around the traffic, notably on Washington Road or Berckman Road between 7-9am and 4-6pm. You must also plan your meals carefully: all restaurants within walking distance of the course or a cluster of hotels will be standing room only. Hotel rooms are impossible to find, so much so that locals are forced to wait to schedule events (including funerals) until after the week is over, less they risk family members from out of town not being able to attend. (We would invite them to stay in our homes, but we’ve already rented them out and are sleeping on someone else’s floor.)
The process of renting out houses to Master’s guests is a significant chunk of the economic boon for the city, before and during the event. Because of the staggering prices some homes fetch for weekly rentals, owners spend long hours for weeks prior to the tournament in full-prep mode. They plant new flowers, purchase new linens, arrange cleaning services and contract pricey catering companies. Many homeowners spend a hefty chuck of the rental income on home improvements and necessary services, and still have enough left over for enviable vacations in exotic locations. These are the savvy locals-the ones who are able to get out of town. The rest of us are immersed in Masters conversations daily.
If you are a golf fan, you are talking about players such as Zach Johnson and Jason Day, analyzing how they are performing this year. If you don’t know golf, you still have plenty to keep you engaged in the conversation. We dissect the new pimento cheese sandwich recipe or this year’s gift shop purchases with the gravity of a political debate . Celebrity sightings are often a-buzz, and proud mentions of new Augusta National member Condoleeza Rice are often dropped. The irreverent John Daly is often found hawking souvenirs at the local Hooters, which is a destination in itself, staffed with the best Hooter girls from around the southeast.
Even if you avoid the traffic, steer clear of the restaurants and walk away from golf chatter at the water cooler, you cannot avoid the Masters logo on your social media apps. 47% of your Facebook friends have changed their profile picture to the famous flag, 32% of the people you follow on Twitter are offering play-by-play updates from the course*. You can hate golf with all of the passionate zeal in your heart, but by Sunday, you’ve absorbed so much of the tournament through osmosis, that it is hard to avoid the temptation to watch the final 30 minutes of play on TV, which is always edge-of-your-seat compelling. No matter what you think of the sport, there is something pretty powerful about the tears that flow when the green jacket is put on the champion.
With all of these distractions, you can understand why we forget that the world around us is still moving forward, creating worthwhile stories that have nothing to do with how much scalped badges went down in value because Tiger isn’t playing this year. I’m pretty sure we can all catch up on the real news next week, but in the meantime, I’ve got to see if I can borrow a ticket for a couple of hours and see what autographs I can get on my bright yellow flag.
* All statistics are completely fabricated estimates based on my own social media news feeds.