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Apr. 6—AUGUSTA — When Kevin Kisner finished up nine holes of practice Monday at Augusta National Golf Club, he was asked to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
What a difference a few months makes.
The 2020 Masters Tournament was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and, for safety reasons, no patrons were allowed. The tournament was held in November, seven months later than normal.
Patrons are allowed back on the grounds this year, but in limited numbers. Augusta National and Masters officials are stingy about releasing attendance figures, but suffice it to say there are far fewer people on the grounds.
"It's nice to have people back out here," Kisner said. "I like the number of people. It's not overbearing, but you can still interact with some people that you see."
In November, with just a few hundred people on the grounds, no ropes were used for gallery control, and no observation stands were erected around the course.
This year, the ropes are back up but no stands are in use. Signs are posted around the seating areas at greens to ensure health protocols are observed. In those areas, which are popular gathering spots, face coverings are required, there is no smoking, no eating or drinking is allowed, and chairs are not to be left unattended.
Many longtime series badge holders were notified earlier this year that they were not chosen to receive tickets this year. The same held true for those who had won tickets in the lottery for the practice rounds.
North Augusta resident Holly Holman was shut out on getting her normal tickets, but was still able to attend Monday thanks to a friend having an extra practice round ticket.
"I am so grateful to be here," Holman said.
One of the benefits of fewer patrons is that there are no lines for bathrooms, concessions or the golf shop.
For Holman, being there on a day with limited patrons, "felt like I was doing something wrong."
Operations around the course are fairly normal, but with some changes for health precautions. While the golf shop is open, there are no check stands to stow merchandise. Shipping is available, though.
Cash cannot be used anywhere on the grounds, so patrons must have a credit/debit card to make purchases at the concession stands and golf shop.
Holman, an avid gardener, was also impressed with the blooming flowers and trees that distinguish Augusta National.
"They are almost in peak form," she said. "It will be beautiful by the weekend."