Longtime badge holders react to Augusta National decision of patron-less Masters Tournament
Victor Cross attended his first Masters Tournament at the age of 10.
Now 71, he and the rest of the world are coming to grips with watching the 2020 Masters from afar. Augusta National Golf Club's decision to move on without patrons this year wasn't a surprise move given that the PGA Tour decided to go without spectators in March.
Like Cross, there are many longtime badge holders dealing with this new reality. Augusta native Bernie Thomas bought a ticket at the gate for the 1962 Masters when he was 12. After a stroke of luck, he's been going ever since.
"After that they decided to regulate the number of tickets they were going to sell and you had to apply through the mail," he said. "So I wrote my name on a piece of paper and my mother gave me the money and I've been on the mailing list ever since."
While disappointed, Cross and Thomas believe the club made the right decision.
"It's not worth the risk to open up to fans and it's touchy even opening up to golfers from around the world. I expected it to happen," Cross said. "(Augusta National) has the ability to do a lot of things. If there was one place where they could make it safe with social distancing, they would've done it. It was just out of the realm of possibility."
Victor's father, Hugh, was a professional photographer and later became a longtime Augusta city councilman. Beginning in 1958, Victor would tag along with his father as he shot for Augusta National during the tournament. He didn't know any better, having had no idea it was one of the hottest tickets in town.
"I thought everybody went," Cross said. "Going to the Masters was just part of your April."
It wasn't until two decades later that Cross received the chance to score tickets of his own.
"When I was coming out of the gate, which has changed exponentially since the late 70s, a guy handed me a piece of paper," he said, "It was an application to get on a waiting list and I filled it out."
As it turned out, it wasn't that simple.
Cross worked at the chamber of commerce in Augusta until the early 1980s and moved around Georgia and Alabama before settling in Phenix City, Ala., in 1987. He was sure to inform Augusta National of each of his new addresses, just in case.
Then the call came in 1995, securing his two tournament badges. It was the same year Ben Crenshaw edged Davis Love III for his second green jacket.
While disappointed he and his wife, Cindy, cannot attend this year, Cross was glad to see a bit of a consolation prize in the email.
"I initially scanned the email and went back and looked a second time, noticing patrons would be able to go online and purchase merchandise for the tournament," he said. "I thought that was wonderful."
While Masters souvenirs from any year is special, usually because it's tied to a specific event or champion, memorabilia from the 2020 tournament will have additional historic significance. Thomas believes a normal Masters next April isn't a foregone conclusion given the nation's current health situation.
"Hopefully people will do what they're supposed to, but right now they're not," he said.