Augusta comes back to life

The Masters recovers the public and its traditions after being played behind closed doors in 2020 due to the pandemic. Some 12,000 'employers' will enter the field every day.

The Masters left the cold November temporarily forced by the pandemic and returned to mild April. With spring, and with the American vaccination campaigns going from strength to strength, spectators returned to Augusta National. Rather the patrons ('patrons'), as they like to call them there. About 12,000 attended (most of them relatives and friends of players or club workers and representatives of the sponsors), a figure that will be repeated, perhaps with slight variations, over the next three days.

The truth is that they were missed last year. There is no golf tournament for which spectators have such relevance. Not in vain to use that decorous term mentioned above, patrons, is one of the obligations that the club includes in its broadcasting contract with CBS every year. We even know what they eat: among other things, the famous pimento cheese sandwiches (a typical cream cheese in the south of the United States), which finally have someone who tastes them again. The amateur gentlemen also have their obligations. This year they cannot leave their beach chairs abandoned if they want to move around the field and the use of a mask is mandatory. Nor can they carry cameras or cell phones, or eat, drink or smoke in the seating areas.

Augusta takes great care of its image of exclusivity because it is one of its hallmarks, but it is also aware that, in a population of just under 200,000 inhabitants dedicated mainly to industry, this week it is high-octane gasoline for the local economy and you have to take care of the visitor. This is one of the reasons why the doors have been reopened, although the flow seems low.

In a typical week, up to 200,000 people could come to the city. This time they will probably not reach 50,000. "If 2019 was the whole cake, this year we only have one or two slices," sums up Havird Usry, a local innkeeper cited by Golf Digest. Your sector is noticing the blow, but it is not the only one. It is usually impossible to find accommodation in the days closest to the tournament, but last weekend there were still options available in all price ranges, from luxurious villas for $ 15,000 (about 12,500 euros), to motels for 47 euros a night. The market for the resale of tickets, usually collapsed, practically does not work this time (the few that are sold can cost 3,000 dollars (just over 2,500 euros) .

If the event generated 26.2 million dollars in 2019 (almost 22 euros), last November the figure plummeted to 8.3 (6.9) and it will be necessary to see how far it goes this year. "I know from many businesses that the Masters is the 13th month of the year, but with the impact of the Covid this time it may be the last nail in the coffin of some", also summarizes to Golf Digest Bennish Brown, head of the Office of Conventions and Visitors to Augusta.

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