Masters: Allure of Augusta National makes it the most coveted ticket in sports

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Masters: Allure of Augusta National makes it the most coveted ticket in sports

Masters

Masters: Allure of Augusta National makes it the most coveted ticket in sports

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To think: In the early days, before Arnie and Jack and Tiger and Phil, before the Masters became all that it is today, they had trouble selling all the tickets.

True story. To remedy the problem, Augusta National Golf Club would actually enlist the aid of local hotels or banks – and sometimes even its own members – to push ticket sales for the tournament that would, in the decades to come, become golf’s signature event.

And it wasn’t always easy.

TEE TIMES: See the pairings and first and second round start times

“I remember I was at my bank one afternoon, wanting to renew a loan, and my lending officer said, ‘Mr. Pratt, we’ve got these tickets we have to sell, how about taking 50 of them?’” remembers Hugh Pratt, a 94-year-old lifelong Augustan. “We were getting pressured by our bankers!

“They were trying to sell the Masters, so to speak.”

No more. The Masters sells itself these days.

The era of the club needing assistance from the locals is long gone; by 1972 the patron list was closed. Fans wanting tickets were put on a waiting list.

Now, some five decades later, a ticket to the Masters is among the most coveted – and expensive – on the sporting calendar.

“It’s truly a bucket list item for so many people,” said Chris Leyden, communications manager for SeatGeek, an online ticketing site that currently has Saturday and Sunday badges for next week’s 83rd Masters running for more than $5,000. “More than 10,000 people enter the lottery each year. It’s a national, even global, audience. For so many fans, this is the pinnacle sporting event they’re going to attend in their life.”

Which is why so many are willing to open up their wallets just to get in the gate. An expected 250,000 people will visit the Augusta, Ga., area this week.

The problem: it’s nearly impossible to get your hands on tickets without dipping into the secondary market. Winning the lottery is as difficult as it sounds.

Augusta National limits the size of the crowd on purpose, so if you don’t have a family member who’s been going for years, you’re probably out of luck. As the tournament’s popularity boomed and the demand for tickets skyrocketed, supply stayed the same. Officially, tickets cost $115 for tournament days. The issue is getting your hands on them.

It’s almost impossible.

“Boy, things have changed,” Pratt said. “By about 1957 or 1958, I’d say, they didn’t need to have the banks push those tickets anymore.”

Due to the stunningly high demand, prices have soared on the secondary market. According to Leyden, passes for the four individual tournament days (Thursday-Sunday) can cost as much as $2,000. Practice rounds run about $1,000, though the prices tend to dip as the tournament nears.

As of late last week, the average ticket price for a tournament day for this year’s Masters was running $2,484, a 15 percent increase from 2018. Among the biggest driving forces? Besides the allure of Augusta, it’s the revival of Tiger Woods. A return to form by the four-time Masters champ has made him a very real threat for this week’s tournament. The Tiger Effect is real. The ticket prices prove it.

“Prices definitely seem a bit higher this year,” Leyden said. “In general, we’ve seen an upswing since Tiger (returned). A lot of this is Tiger related.”

While sports fans willing to sit in the upper deck can find their way into the Super Bowl or World Series for less, Leyden makes one more critical point: Since all Masters tickets are general admission, fans who arrive early enough have a shot to put their chairs down in a coveted spot, say just off the 18th green.

“Most sporting events are two or three hours long,” Leyden said. “The beauty of the Masters is it’s an all-day event.”

That is, if you can get your hands on a ticket.

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