News From Terre Haute, Indiana

On & Off the Course

April 8, 2012

ON AND OFF THE COURSE: A hard ticket to come by

AUGUSTA, Ga. — This is the weekend of the Masters Tournament, the first of the four major tournaments. The early spring we’ve had might mean I’ll have more azaleas in bloom in my yard than at the tournament, but the golf will be great and fun to watch regardless of the lack of floral color. We’ll just have to look to  Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler if we want more color on our TVs.

The Masters Tournament is the ticket that all young golf pros are trying to get punched. In the early part of the season, a win could mean an invitation to that prestigious tournament. If a player wins a PGA Tour event that awards a full-point for the season-ending Tour Championship, they’ll receive an invitation.

• Kyle Stanley earned his ticket to the Masters by winning the 2012 Waste Management Open, and also making the list of the leaders of the Official World Golf Rankings published the week prior to the Masters.

• Harrison Frazar, a 40-year-old tour journeyman, will be playing in his first Masters, by virtue of winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2011.

• Brendan Steele and Scott Stallings won their first career events in 2011 also, and will be in the Masters field this year. Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley both had break-through years in 2011, earning their first Masters Invitations.

This year’s field has six amateur players. Amateurs earned their invitations by winning or placing 2nd in the US Amateur Championship, or being the current champion of the British Amateur Championship, the Asian Amateur Championship, U.S. Amateur Public Links, or the U.S. Mid-Amateur.

All previous Masters winners have lifetime exemptions into the Masters. In 2004, Augusta National almost instituted an age limit of 65 for participation, but that was rescinded when Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus expressed their displeasure with that rule to chairman Hootie Johnson.  Instead, they agreed that the Lifetime Exemption would be reinstated, and all past winners should be able to play as long as they’d like, so long as they feel they can be competitive.

“We will count on our champions to know when their playing careers at the Masters have come to an end,” Johnson announced after that meeting. After such time they no longer play in the tournament, they will still participate by playing in the par-3 contest, and attending the Champions Dinner. They are definitely members of an exclusive club, even when they no longer play in the tournament.

Not only is it a special tournament to qualify to play in, it’s also a special tournament to get tickets to go to as a “Patron,” the name used for all of the guests on the premises during the tournament.

Augusta National never announces the number of ticket sales,  but after a picture in an April 1962 Augusta Chronicle was titled “Mob scene in 26th Masters Tournament,” ticket sales were capped in 1963, and patrons were put on a waiting list. By 1975 the demand for tickets exceeded supply five-to-one, so by 1978 they closed the waiting list. Those near the end of the list eventually got their badges, which become available when a patron dies (they can’t be willed to another family member), when a patron is found to have sold his badge on the black market, or gaiven up voluntarily. Now the club is using a lottery to distribute badges: the public can apply online (the application process beings May 1st), then the club randomly selects entries to receive daily badges.

Quote of the Day: “The Masters is Scarborough Fair, the gathering of eagles. Everyone wants to make the trip to Mecca.” — Bobby Jones

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