Jose Maria Olazabal (left) and Sergio Garcia walk up the 13th fairway at Augusta National.
Jose Maria Olazabal (left) and Sergio Garcia walk up the 13th fairway at Augusta National. ERIK S. LESSER

Augusta family refusing to budge despite Masters' millions

"MONEY ain't everything."

So said Herman Thacker, the Augusta holdout that the Masters juggernaut can't break.

The Masters is not just another golf tournament, and Augusta National not just another golf club.

They are, combined, a business colossus and their event the best advertisement golf can have.

The best players salivate over their invitations, and a win at Augusta elevates above all other victories.

Spending money to ensure the Masters maintains its lofty status has never been a concern for Augusta National, because the tournament makes the club so much of it.

But the spending is always, and only, to make the Masters bigger and better.

The Thackers, Herman and his wife Elizabeth, live in the same house they built in Augusta in 1959.

Once surrounded by neighbours and trees and kids and the sound of community, the Thackers now live in an Augusta National car park.

The golf club managed to buy out all their neighbours, spending about $40 million to do so, to build a free car park for the Masters patrons.

Herman and Elizabeth have been offered sums rising from $230,000 at first, a massive figure for such a modest home, to something over seven figures.

But still the Thackers said no.

 

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne talks with US golfer Phil Mickelson.
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne talks with US golfer Phil Mickelson. ANDREW GOMBERT

More recently Augusta National, with plans for a brand new media centre that was going to cost, speculatively, about $60 million, needed a sliver of land just beyond one of their gates.

A music shop stood there, Jay's Music, on a block of land valued, according to local reports, at $US637,900. It had been there, impeding Masters growth, for 25 years.

Last October Augusta National finally got its hands on the property, spending a reported $US5.75million to get it, and promptly tore it down, building a stunning, giant new media centre, and a media car park.

Tracking Augusta National's spending is a year-round effort for local media, which, through various reports, has suggested the club has bought 28 nearby properties, residential and retail, in the past five years.

It even worked with local council to redirect roads that aided patrons, but also ensured its borders got a bit bigger.

But it's not just for expansion that money is no object.

Within the Augusta National "property", maintaining excellence, and leaving nothing, anywhere, out of place, in any way run down or even slightly damaged, is the highest priority.

Stories abound that concession stands or other amenities damaged during the day by winds or otherwise would be fully repaired by the time the gate opened the next day.

Others sound fanciful, like the staffer who said a 10m high tree that caught fire during the construction of a data centre behind the range was replaced by another 10m tree, while he was at lunch.

 

Patrick Reed of the US on the 17th fairway at Augusta National.
Patrick Reed of the US on the 17th fairway at Augusta National. ERIK S. LESSER

Augusta National does, however, do big well. Fully grown, 15m trees were installed, not planted, installed, during the makeover last year when the course was closed for four months. There's no saplings at Augusta.

When the club closes again, for more improvement that could include alterations to holes, to make them longer, Augusta National has its eye on the money prize again.

With media salivating over its new palatial digs, there is the old media centre to deal with, a massive building on a prime piece of the course, just beside the first hole.

They aren't going to renovate, or re-purpose it.

It's going to be torn down and the gift shop next to it expanded into a massive shopping hall.

The average "patrons" spend at the gift shop, the only place to purchase Masters merchandise that is only available on course, during the tournament, is thought to be about $600.

Times that by 20,000 a day, over the seven days of the event, with more products to choose from, and more cash registers to accommodate purchases, and the dollar signs start spinning.

This week, in his annual address, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne didn't hide the fact he was in constant pursuit of perfection, whatever the cost.

"We continue to chase perfection, and though constantly falling short, it will never be for lack of effort here at Augusta National," he said.

Money making is good sport at the Masters, and they play golf there too.

News Corp Australia


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