AUGUSTA — It’s Monday morning at the Masters and the most important thing on the patrons minds is apparent.
It’s not getting out to the course and finding a place to sit at Amen Corner. It isn’t watching the players tee off on No. 1 for their practice rounds. It isn’t even getting that first pimento cheese or egg salad sandwich of the week.
The most important thing on everybody’s mind is shopping, that and how far they can push the limits on their Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express.
At 9 a.m., there were nearly as many people streaming out of the property with bags of merchandise as there were people coming through the gates.
“Get here early, get your stuff and head to the car,” was the sentiment of many. “I don’t want to haul this around all day.”
Based on the way the bags were overflowing, those folks were using gold, black and platinum cards that have significantly larger spending limits than my cards do.
Watching them head out with their treasures makes for great people-watching. It’s easy to tell who the first-timers at the Masters are because they have the biggest bags of them all.
“I had no game plan when I went in there,” said North Dakota resident Ben Larson, who was attending the practice round with his father. “I went in looking for a nice polo shirt and a hat. While I was in there, I started getting a little nervous because I just started grabbing things, and I didn’t look at the price tags.”
Larson and everyone else who went into the building had plenty of options to pick from.
Need a hat? Can you choose just one from the 125 different styles?
What about T-shirts? Approximately 40 to choose from. They include ones with “2022” on them, others have a list of past champions and some even highlight some of those culinary delicacies which are found around the course -- highlighted by the salmon-colored pimento cheese shirt and a green Crow’s Nest beer option.
Plus, don’t forget the garden gnomes.
The gnomes came along about six or eight years ago and have stayed ever since. They are little guys with white beards. They kind of look like Santa Claus in a golf outfit of some kind, and the style changes every year.
Based on what could be seen through Larson’s bag likely cost him more than just a few hundred dollars, but it was nothing compared to a foursome from Charlotte, North Carolina. John Wills, Bill Hayes and Blair Smith were joined by Mario G. It is likely Mario did not want to give his first name, with the hopes that his wife doesn’t find out about all the stuff he bought.
For Wills and Hayes, it was their second time at Augusta. For Smith, it was his fourth. For Mario, it was his first — and it showed.
All four of them had multiple bags. Every one of them had a list of what to buy for friends and family, and each one of them could be seen running out of the merchandise building with their credit cards on fire. The one thing they did have going in was a plan.
Well, sort of.
“When we went in, we went straight to the Clubhouse Collection,” Wills said. “Straight for the Peter Millar shirts. Then, it was the gnome, and then hats.”
Hayes said about 10% percent of the approximately $1,250 he spent was for him. The rest was the list for family and friends that he hopes to recoup.
“At some point, hopefully,” Hayes said.
Mario said he wasn’t going to be that lucky.
“I’d say half of the stuff I bought was for me,” he said. “The rest of it is likely Christmas gifts for family and friends. I’m not going to get any of it back.”
Now we know why Mario didn’t want to give his last name.
He had two bags in the left hand and one on the right. Between the bags, there had to be at least a dozen shirts and four or five pullovers. There were a few hats, golf balls and a few things in boxes. I assume one was the mini-gnome, a new item this year.
Then, Mario was asked if he bought any impulse items, like can koozies, playing cards, ball markers, towels, coasters, neckties, dog bowls, coffee mugs, tumblers and the list goes on.
“I bought a belt,” he said, lifting up his shirt to show off his purchase.
“And what else?” Smith chimed in.
Mario refused to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate him, but based on what could be seen in the clear bag on his right side, he didn’t miss much. Hopefully, he didn’t have to call Visa for an increase to his credit limit so he could eat dinner, because he may have spend more than his compatriots combined.
Shopping on Monday at the Masters. It continues and always will be a tradition unlike any other.
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