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How this year’s Masters week is like no other

Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 5:53 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Monday kicked off the start of the 84th Masters tournament, and the first to ever take place in the fall.

Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will be honorary starters, hitting the ceremonial first tee shots Thursday morning ahead of the first round.

Tee times have not been set, but with less sunlight in the fall, golfers will start off the first and tenth tees in two waves for the first two rounds.

Augusta’s economy and local businesses felt a significant blow when the event was postponed from March to November.

One of the biggest changes with the Masters this year is there will be no patrons, an announcement made back in August that’s not only a huge loss for the tournament itself but also impacts just about every local business that would normally see a huge boost in sales.

The tournament brings in more than $120 million each year to the local economy on average, and many local business owners look forward those big crowds.

According to the Augusta Visitors Bureau, Masters month creates three times more revenue than normal for businesses like restaurants and hotels. But without the thousands of extra people in Augusta this year, some places weren’t able to fight through the pandemic to keep their doors open.

Some business owners say they didn’t know what they were going to do when they heard the news, but they’re just trying to push through this tough time.

“We did it once in April,” said Havird Usry, an owner of Fat Man’s Café. “Now, going through the same pain again, and watching those dollars fly out the door.”

Tracy Hook said: “You’re going to have to sit on that merchandise for a year, and you’re going to have to encumber that cost of inventory for a year.”

And let’s not forget about all the people who would normally rent out their home for the patrons or visitors. That’s another big loss for Augusta residents.

As a possible sign of hope, the Garden City’s first restaurant week is happening during Masters week.

Twenty-four restaurants are working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the CSRA to raise money while giving the local economy a boost. Special deals are being offered, and when you check out, you’ll have a chance to donate to the Boys & Girls Clubs.

You can find a list of participating restaurants at https://augrestaurantweek.com/participating-restaurants.

What about the usual traffic?

Washington Road may not be packed like usual this year, but officials are still preparing for delays. Because of less sunlight in the fall, each round will be ending early this year -- around that 6 p.m. rush-hour time. So if you take Washington Road on your way home, you can still expect some delays.

“A lot of people will be leaving about the same time as everyone is going home,” said local traffic official John Ussery.

He said last week that local traffic planners were putting in place their “Masters light” traffic plan. Even without spectators, they’re expecting several thousands of people in and out of Augusta National each day.

“You will see additional signage. You’ll see those big changeable message boards that have messages on them,” Ussery said.

You can expect to see some traffic cones, too, and a police officer at a new roundabout on Berckmans Road.

“Expect some delays, expect traffic to be heavier and just be patient,” Ussery said.

Augusta traffic engineering officials say the traffic should be normal, and most people heading in for the tournament will be going in very early.

‘We’re about to see something in a way we have never seen before'

Many have wondered what the course would look like with fall colors. Groundskeepers at Augusta National have been hard at work for several weeks now to get the course ready for its close up.

While the azaleas may not be in full bloom like they would be during the spring, the course remains lush green and well-manicured.

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