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Beneath those Masters patrons’ masks are smiles

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 9:22 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s Day 2 of practice rounds for the 2021 Masters, and Augusta National Golf Club has a much different look than November, when no patrons were allowed at all.

With only a limited number allowed, there were no lines Monday and social distancing was in place. It seemed like patrons got a better view of the golfers.

Even though this Masters still came with precautions like masks, people wore smiles underneath.

And the more than 350 acres of land gave many people space to social distance.

Some patrons say an April Masters is a good sign that things are looking better, and they say they are taking advantage of this unique moment.

“All the extracurricular stuff that’s going on because of what’s happening in the world right now, I could choose to pay attention to that today, but I’m not going to,” said Max VanNostrand from Charlotte, N.C.

Olivia Smink from North Augusta felt similarly.

“It’s nice to be out and everybody’s so nice and friendly, so hopefully this is a slow return to normal life,” she said.

A Masters without Tiger

There’s one more noticeable difference at this year’s Masters Tournament: the absence of one of the game’s greatest, Tiger Woods.

He’s given us some of the most memorable moments in the history of sports, from right here in Augusta.

Since his first win in 1997 to become the youngest ever masters champion, Tiger has almost become synonymous with the Masters itself.

He’s still recovering after he was seriously hurt in a car crash about two months ago.

Masters week 2021

Since then, he’s had surgery on his tibia along with his ankle and foot.

Patrons we talked to said while they do miss him, they know there’s no keeping Tiger down.

Over the past few months, Tiger has also thanked his fans for the support on social media.

And on Saturday, he also tweeted out congratulations to the winner of the Women’s Amateur.

Back to business in Augusta

A Masters in April is also a game-changer for Augusta’s economy.

Coming from a tough year along with a patronless Masters about five months ago, some businesses along Washington Road say there is light at the end of the tunnel, and they’re finally seeing people start to trickle in.

Because of limitations, most businesses were not expecting the typical crazy crowds, but they say they wanted to be prepared.

Some of them increased staffing and food availability to be ready for what could be their first busy week in over a year.

And even though they say the crowds aren’t the same as a normal Masters week, it’s been busier than it has been.

At Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar, they say things are flowing pretty steady and they’re expecting at least a 20 to 30 percent boost in business this week.

“I mean, we can we expect it to be a little busier than normal, kind of like a busy Saturday night -- six days in a row,” said general manager Campbell Bailey.

As the week continues, business owners hope customers will keep coming in.

“We’re not going to get caught unprepared,” said Henry Sheer, co-owner of T-Bonz Steakhouse. “We’re prepared to be very busy.”

Coming up today ...

  • Today, Paine College will celebrate the first Black man to play at the Masters. Lee Elder will be awarded with an honorary doctorate degree for lifetime achievement. Paine College announced the award at a virtual ceremony in December. But today, they will celebrate the occasion to recognize his achievements. Elder broke barriers when he played in the 1975 Masters Tournament. Now 46 years later, he will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter for the tournament on Thursday.
  • Tonight, the Drive for Show, Rock Fore! Dough concert goes virtual. Last year’s concert was canceled due to the pandemic. First Tee of Augusta says it wants to keep the event safe but still fun for everyone. Rock Fore! Dough will be on Facebook Live tonight at 8:30. There will be performances from Darius Rucker, Luke Combs, Jake Owen, Josh Kelley and Drew Holcomb. The event is free, but first tee will be accepting donations.
  • One tradition of the Masters that will continue this year is the Champions Dinner. Following tradition, the menu is chosen by the defending Masters winner. That means Dustin Johnson is making the pick. He’ll serve pigs in a blanket and lobster and corn fritters to start. For the main course, there will be filet mignon and sea bass with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The meal will finish off with peach cobbler and apple pie with ice cream. The Champions Dinner is traditionally held the Tuesday of Masters week.

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