Masters Week has been a tradition in Augusta, Georgia, since 1934 when Bobby Jones built the Augusta National Golf Club and held the first invitational. For one week in April, the city is filled with famous figures who come to participate or watch the event. Far from being starstruck, a lot of locals dread the influx of outsiders and the inconveniences that they bring.
I’m unfamiliar with the world of professional golf, and when we moved here a few years ago, I was intrigued by the tall fences and thick bushes that block curious gazes from the 345 acre course that borders one of Augusta’s busiest streets. I’ve never seen beyond the gates, nor am I likely to; the club is closed to the general public most of the year and membership is by invitation only.
Some businesses can expect to make a brisk profit from the tournament. Hotels, bars, and restaurants do very well catering to the out of towners. Some residents even manage to cash in by renting their houses out for the week. Not everybody is as excited by the intruders, though.
Area school districts schedule spring break during Masters Week and a lot of families choose to leave town to avoid the chaos. Others who aren’t so fortunate are forced to deal with slow commutes caused by thousands of people who are unfamiliar with the traffic patterns and with the crush of bodies that fill nearly every public area in the heart of Augusta.
Not everyone harbors the same level of resentment, of course. For some long time residents, Masters Week is a welcome family tradition that rivals other major holidays. It’s a chance to meet some of their heroes and reconnect with friends that only make it to town once a week for the storied tournament.
For an outsider like myself, it’s interesting to see all the discarded memorabilia from years past for sale in antique stores across the city. To hold in my hands something that only a select few have had the opportunity to acquire, even though it’s not a sport in which I’m invested, inspires a small sense of wonder.
This year the course might provide new surprises for competitors due to an ice storm that devastated much of the Augusta area in February. The club has always prided itself on lush greenery and immaculately tended greens. No doubt, they will have restored order, but the changes will be evident for long time golfers.
Masters Week will span from April 7th-13th in 2014.