Patrons glad to be back at Augusta National for Masters, even with seating limitations


AUGUSTA, Ga. — David Burton walked toward the security guard near Augusta National’s clubhouse and uttered five words, “It’s good to be back.”

“We’re glad to have you back,” the officer replied.

Burton, a 62-year-old grandfather from Memphis, Tennessee, had attended 14 consecutive Masters Tournaments before the COVID-19 pandemic ended his streak in November. This week, despite not obtaining annual series badges, he was invited by a friend to Monday’s practice round.

“It’s been 24 months since I’ve been on these grounds,” Burton said. “I think I was the first person through the gate this morning and I plan to be the last one to leave. I have to cherish every second because I won’t be back for another year after today.”

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Although limited patrons have returned this week, pandemic safety measures are still apparent. The most obvious is the absence of grandstands, which usually tower above Nos. 12 and 16 tee boxes, among other popular viewing spots.

In addition, there are a list of rules in patron seating areas which prohibit eating, drinking and smoking. Face coverings must be worn at all times and chairs cannot be left unattended.

“That’s a new one,” said Sidney Brooks, of Tallahassee, Florida. “I know during the tournament, mainly Sunday, fans love to leave chairs on 18 and walk the course all day. I guess they’ll have to carry it with them.”

At the main entrance, white signs along the pathway toward the course read, “Thank you for social distancing,” and “Please don’t place chairs within six feet of each other.”

There are no signs that limit the number of patrons at each hole or viewing area.

“It is different?” Brooks asked. “A little, but I know for a fact everyone inside today appreciates being here. I enjoyed watching the November Masters, but it just wasn’t the same without fans. It’s really nice to be returning to normal.”

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