Pimento-cheese-to-go headlines Masters online offerings

Ah, the joy of a Masters concession sandwich, a little bit of heaven on white bread.
Ah, the joy of a Masters concession sandwich, a little bit of heaven on white bread.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

If you know any fan who had a badge for this year’s Masters or a ticket to the Women’s Amateur tournament that normally precedes it at Augusta National, first give him or her a virtual hug. Consolation would be a good start. Because the most coveted ticket in golf – one of hardest-to-get tickets in all sport – is now useless.

The tournament commences next week, seven months late because of the coronavirus. And for that same reason, no ticket holders will be invited in. The usual thousands of worshipful pilgrims are in golfing quarantine.

So, then, after dispensing the requisite pity, that’s when you hit up your friend for the Masters swag.

Fans may be banned. The Delta-hanger-sized merchandise building at the doorstep to the course may be closed next week. But that doesn’t mean the merchandise pipeline is shut off. Free enterprise will find a way, especially at a place run by the barons of the system.

For the first time ever, introducing virtual Masters shopping. But it’s not open to all because that’s not how Augusta National does things. Exclusivity is its brand. Only those who had tickets to this year’s tournament have received a link to the Masters Patron Shop online site. Like any other year, everyone else has to try to piggyback on the access of the lucky others.

From the menu of the first-ever online Masters merchandise site let me suggest the one perfect offering for the stuck-at-home Masters fan, unique to this year.

I’m not making this up:

The $150 Taste of the Masters Package.

It includes all the favorites from the world’s most reasonably priced major sporting event concessions, only without the green wrappers. Delivered to your home will be one pound of pimento cheese, one pound of egg salad, one-and-a-half pounds of pork BBQ, eight bags of chips, six chocolate-chip cookies, six bags of pecan-caramel popcorn (love that stuff), 25 2020 Masters plastic cups and some logoed serving paper. The angioplasty is extra.

Nothing says 2020 like take-out from the Masters.

I said the world would end the day Augusta National put its wares online, and it turns out I was right.

All who journey to the Masters during more sane times do so with but one marching order – bring something back for the entire neighborhood, every family member and most every co-worker. Catching the scene of fans leaving bent double by the weight of Masters shirts and hats and flags and coffee cups, their credit cards bruised and bleeding, you’d swear this was all but a shopping trip with a golf tournament attached. Those early-week practice-round days are golf’s version of Black Friday.

Can’t prove it, but I have a hunch the tournament can cover its entire $11.5 million purse with just the sales of $8 ball markers.

So, to recap, even in the most upside-down Masters ever, with fans kept away for their own health and safety, the drumbeats of commerce can’t be stilled. If you know the right person with a connection to the web site and some band width you can maybe score something, anything, bearing the distinctive logo of a yellow America with a flagstick piercing its lower-right region. It’s the same one you see all over metro Atlanta, usually about the third week of April.

This begs the question of just how much you might want to invest in remembering a year such as this.

On one hand, that $28 Masters November hat could be a one-of-a-kind keepsake, although nobody seems to be stepping up with rosy promises for 2021. The $30 Amen Corner 2020 poster, with azaleas in incongruous and blazing bloom, could be a great conversation piece

On the other, 2020 has been an absolute horror show, and I don’t want to remember it any more than I would an emergency appendectomy.

There is something quite resolute about the Masters finding a way to carry on despite immense obstacles. No doubt the tournament will be stirring, no matter when they play it (the quality of golf this year without fans actually has been quite top shelf). Even in November, it will provide a most welcome break, like that first breath of cool fresh air that hits you after taking off a mask.

For all that, a November Masters, a Masters without fans, isn’t quite right. There also will be a hint of regret for what is missing throughout the week.

So, I think I’ll pass on the $29.50 hand-painted 2020 Masters holiday ornament. Don’t need that reminder on my tree year after year.

And if others would like to take the plunge into the folksy cuisine of Masters week, even if it can’t possibly taste the same as being there, who am I to judge?

Still, there’s a $49.50 Masters gnome that’s calling my name.

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