News 12 First at Five, April 6, 2010
AUGUSTA, Ga. --- Steven Ivak is only here ten days out of the year, but he's taken a little piece of the Garden City and made it home.
He came to his first Masters more than a decade ago, and soon started bringing more friends from down under along for the ride.
"I remember waking up and watching it on TV when I was six or seven," he says of his lifelong love for Masters. "The final round in Australia is always four o'clock in the morning because we're ahead in time."
Over time, the numbers in his group have grown, and he even bought a house near Washington Road used as a gathering place during Masters Week. The home is completely furnished right down to the smallest detail, including outdoor grills, cigars and clocks showing the different time zones "to keep everyone oriented."
"We really just wanted to let Australians have their dream and come over for the Masters," he says.
If you spend any time walking the crowded streets around Augusta National, you could meet people from Great Britain, Portugal, Korea and all over the world. They come because they're serious about their Masters, and some people even make a business out of it.
Hiroto Takagi makes a living out of getting people to the course. He sets up Japanese patrons with hotels, tickets and badges and even an escort around the city.
"Golf fans are really, really eager to come over here because the Masters is for everybody," Takagi says. "Even if it's tough, even if it's expensive."
He says it's the culture and language barrier, not the cost, that's often the biggest hurdle, which is why his company makes sure to provide details about the city and Masters history and etiquette to make the clients feel comfortable.
And for Steven and his friends, they have a busy schedule ---
"We party every night! Everyone does!" he laughs.
But he's sure they'll make the best out of their time in Augusta.
"They're all just good ol' fashioned Aussies," he says. "Doesn't take much to keep us happy.
Takagi has arranged for almost 100 people to come from Japan this week. He says for some of his clients, it's their first trip to America.