There, the hard part of Masters week is done. I’ve waded into the cyclone of consumerism that, like any good museum gift shop, stands in the way of the art. I’ve done my shopping. Filled the requests for souvenirs for people who weren’t here. And emerged with the vague dread that American Express will be compelled to send a knee-breaker to my house along with the next monthly statement.
It’s all blue skies and pimento cheese from here to Sunday.
The dirty little secret about the Masters, one that never gets set to soft piano music and a poetic voice-over, is that it’s actually a one-week Walmart with a golf tournament attached. With slightly pricier stuff.
An outlet mall unlike any other.
More so this year than any other with the opening of the new and expanded main golf shop. It is, like everything else here, grand.
And, judging by the line of people there the first thing Monday morning, already in need of expansion.
They probably should just go ahead and build out into the first fairway and be done with it. All but the Thursday morning ceremonial starters could easily clear the new ladies wear annex.
Of course, the masters of the Masters do not make public the money made from merchandise sales. So, any guess is fair. I’m thinking that little logo – the yellow outline of the U.S. with a flag emerging from eastern Georgia – is worth only slightly less than the apple with a bite mark.
You see that Masters logo everywhere around Atlanta, and you’ll be seeing a lot more of it after this tournament. It is part of the uniform of spring.
The crowd of anxious buyers appeared daunting Monday morning, a scuffed 7-iron shot from the front door to end of the line. But give the Augusta National people credit, they know how to handle the masses much better than those Disney lightweights.
From stepping into line to winding through the maze of crowd control stanchions was a mere 11 minutes, when it seemed certain it would take at least twice that long.
Inside the new building was no place for the claustrophobic. It could be shoulder to shoulder, especially tight around the display of $26 Masters caps.
Not so crowded at the display case featuring the $375 bracelet with Masters charm or the $395 green dress watch.
After much consideration, I decided my home did not need the $45 Masters flag flying by the door each spring, nor did my liquor cabinet require the set of two highball glasses for $65.
And if I ever do start playing golf again, I’ll will not be using the Masters golf balls at $65 a dozen nor any of the four Masters ball markers selling at $20 for the set.
But everything else was in play.
Shopping tip for the Masters consumer: Best bargain in the joint is the green Masters spectator chair at $30.
What makes this shopping experience work is the fact that those who come here this week are called patrons, not fans. Where a fan might start throwing elbows, and engaging in a tug-of-war over a bright Masters vest, a patron politely shuffles through to the end. You do not get impatient or testy, because you are at Augusta National, where civilization is making its last stand.
In 45 minutes, my shopping was finished and the great weight that every Masters visitor carries onto the grounds the first day here was lifted.
Every day is Black Friday at Augusta National, only without the anger and the half-prize sales.
Sometimes the golf interferes with the shopping.