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A Masters without guests: What it means for all of us

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 5:56 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - This year’s Master’s golf tournament will be one like no other.

Saying the risks outweigh the rewards, organizers announced Wednesday that the tournament, which was already postponed for months, will be held without patrons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s a look at key ramifications:

From business boost to bummer

The news is not only a loss for sports fans, but a major concern for our local businesses.

Hundreds of local business owners look forward to the crowds of people who pour into CSRA for the annual golf tournament. But now, already-struggling businesses will face another setback.

The boost in sales from the Masters can make an entire year for some businesses.

The Augusta visitor bureau says Masters month creates three times more revenue for businesses.

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During Masters week for many hotels and motels, there isn’t a single bed left empty, but they say that won’t be the case this year.

Some businesses say with this very unusual Masters, they're taking a bigger financial hit than ever.

“The Masters is the big one. That’s the key to our business model for the year and a significant portion of our income,” said John Felak of Lookaway Inn.

Clay Brewer, owner of Rent Augusta, said: “For our company, it could be a $150,000 hit. It would be multiple jobs, and it reaches just farther than us.”

The visitor bureau says it will have to re-evaluate revenue estimates and rethink plans for next year.

Bennish Brown, president and CEO of the Augusta Visitors Bureau, summed up the concerns this way:

“It’s how fast this whole nation recovers from the pandemic, when people are more comfortable traveling again, spending money again, being in close proximity to each other. All of those factors are still in play, so yeah, are we nervous about 2021? Absolutely.”

Will it help health?

Many people are asking whether the Move to go ahead without patrons was the right call from a health perspective.

The experts say right now there are just too many unknowns.

Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement that having no patrons is deeply disappointing.

He says they are what make the tournament so special.

He also says it's Augusta National's responsibility to take precautions so the tournament can continue in a safe manner.

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Health officials say they couldn't agree more.

They say it would be almost impossible to safely hold a gathering that large.

Augusta University Health's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule is applauding the decision.

“We are supporting the community any way that we can and again, this is a unprecedented situation, but I think the Augusta National made what was the right call for what is an unprecedented time and a difficult decision,” Coule said.

Health officials say it's important to consider the restaurants, as well.

They say that with all the people coming in from out of town, there's no way to keep the tournament self-contained.

Back-to-school blues

Because of the Masters decision, the Columbia County School District is planning to make adjustments to its school calendar.

As in many local school districts, classes are not typically held there in Masters week.

After this year’s Masters was postponed to Nov. 9-13 due to the pandemic, the Columbia County district built this school year’s calendar around letting students have that week off.

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Now the district is looking at making that week a normal school week except for Veterans Day on Nov. 11. There would also be an added holiday Oct. 12, and the school year would end May 21-- three days earlier than had been scheduled.

The school board will vote on this at its next meeting on Aug. 25.

Decision draws quick reactions

The news spread like a wildfire through the sports community after Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley made the announcement Wednesday.

“Ultimately, we determined that the potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome,” Ridley said.

While citing sadness with the change ahead for this year’s Masters, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he supports Augusta National’s efforts to protect public health and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

PGA Tour radio play-by-play man Chick Hernandez tweeted: “Absolutely crusher!!! This week just keeps getting better and better. NOT.”

ESPN’s Bob Harig tried to look at the bright side, tweeting: “A Masters without spectators is better than no Masters.”

MORE ON WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:

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