Sports

Masters Par 3 Contest: Worth the Price of Admission?

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Exhibition sports are by definition meaningless. Spring training games are often well attended because a trip to warm weather and a baseball game is appealing during the winter especially since it is a lot easier to get close to players during games that do not count. The NFL forces season ticket holders to buy tickets to preseason games even though starters play sparingly. Often times basketball and hockey exhibitions are played in places that don't normally host games. While teams sometimes charge full price for exhibitions, tickets are readily available to anyone who wants them with a steep discount over regular season pricing. Then there is the Masters Par 3 contest. The day before tournament play gets underway, a fun lighthearted contest takes place at Augusta's charming nine-hole par three course. Just don't expect to pay exhibition prices.

A ticket to Wednesday's Par 3 contest is going to set you back no less than $500. In fact, a ticket at that price would be considered a bargain. Very few Masters tickets are offered to the public and that means the secondary market runs rampant.

What do you get for your money? Tournament participants, noncompeting past champions, and special invitees take part in the contest that is designed as a calm before the storm of tournament play beginning. At age 61 Sam Snead won the first Par 3 contest in 1960. No golfer who has won the Par 3 contest has ever gone on to win the Masters.

What makes the contest so fun is the same thing that is great about spring training. Players act like human beings. Every shot is not the end all be all. Frequently caddies or kids are brought out to try a shot or two. Right-handed players have been known to take a shot left-handed, or put from their knees. Fans can get closer to players than they normal and do, and an ill-timed screech doesn't get you a lecture.

Another reason the price is so high is because there is no public entry to Augusta National. If you drive by the course in July or September you cannot look in, never mind walk the course. It is gated, well protected, and private in every way. The week of the Masters is your only chance to be on the grounds. It is not your normal course, and it is not the typical exhibition.