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Sirak says Masters turns $29 million profit
By Torleif Sorenson on 3/17/15
Golf Digest's Ron Sirak has penned an article for their April edition in which he says that the Masters Tournament generates about $115 million in revenue for Augusta National Golf Club, leaving the club with roughly $30 million in profit. (More on that below.)

Sirak says that the changes have been largely the result of efforts of Billy Payne, who has served as chairman of the club since May 5, 2006. He earned his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1973, but these days serves as the chair of a real estate investment firm. It was Payne's idea for the city of Atlanta to host the 1996 Olympic Summer Games and led the charge to win the Games. Once the IOC awarded the '96 Olympics to Atlanta, Payne served as the chief organizer and administrator.

With this business backdrop, you may understand how Payne has dramatically increased the financial wherewithal of ANGC and revenue from the Masters Tournament.

On the grounds

According to Sirak and Golf Digest researchers, the 2015 Masters Tournament is expected to generate about $115 million in revenue — an increase of about 520% from 1997, when Tiger Woods won his first major championship. This has allowed the club to build Berckmans Place, the 100,000 square-foot dining, shopping, and entertainment facility that opened near the 5th fairway in 2013. Capacity of Berckmans Place is roughly 1,200 persons.

The club also purchased land adjacent to the club for vehicle parking, permitting the club to use the former on-premises parking for better purposes, including a new and complete practice facility.

Golf Digest reported in 2014 that the club paid some $55 million for 100 acres of land and property adjacent to the club. Among the expected uses of that property is to scrap the tournament media center and build a new multimedia press center off-site.

On television

CBS has held the American television rights to the Masters for 60 years. The network does not make money off the tournament, but the cachet and prestige of televising the tournament is something they obviously do not want to lose. Sirak reports that neither ANGC nor CBS actually see a profit from those telecasts.

In exchange, ANGC retains pretty much complete control over the format and contents of the telecast. This includes CBS not having Gary McCord as part of their telecast, as well as golf enthusiast Chris Berman, whose circular saw voice and pun-riddled one-liners were too much for golf fans, let alone the ANGC leadership.

Sirak also points out that ANGC is leaving tremendous amounts of money on the table. One unnamed source suggested that if ANGC were to open an online merchandise store, sales would be so brisk that telecast sponsor IBM would probably have to devote an entire facility to the electronic infrastructure. Sirak speculates that this acreage will likely be used to construct lodging for club members and/or another entertainment facility.

It is important to remember that the club does not keep all of this revenue for themselves; Augusta National was one of the charter organizers of The First Tee program in 1997. They have also quietly contributed millions of dollars to organizations such as the LPGA Foundation, the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf program, and the USGA.

ANGC partnered with the R&A to introduce the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, with the winner earning an invitation to the Masters Tournament, provided that the winner keeps his amateur status up until then. Interestingly, Sirak points out that some nay-sayers said that it would bring in a player who "didn't belong" in such a prestigious event. But ANGC proved the critics wrong; the 2010 and 2011 Asia-Pacific Amateur champion was none other than Hideki Matsuyama, who now stars on the PGA Tour and captured his first Tour win last June at the Memorial Tournament. Tianlang Guan of China also drew attention when he played in the 2012 Masters and made the cut.

Now, golf has the Latin America Amateur Championship for the same reason and with the same Masters invitation.

Payne himself commented on that just weeks ago when he attended the LAAC:

"I think we, perhaps at Augusta, measure success, the future of the game a little bit differently. We don't do it in numbers. We don't do it in definable, ascertainable arithmetic growth rates. We measure it in smiles on the faces of these kids. If we can create that here, see it by extension go to others, then we are very happy with the current state of the game of golf."
Last year's introduction of the Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship for junior golfers is also becoming a smashing success.

Aside from the enormous amounts of money involved, this writer feels that ANGC chair Billy Payne is still being true to what club co-founders Clifford Roberts and the legendary Bobby Jones wanted: A private club that does well by (and to support) amateur golf worldwide.

Incidentally, today would have been the 113th birthday of Mr. Jones, whose stature as the greatest amateur player in the history of the game is likely to never be eclipsed.


Have you seen an interesting golf story? Tell us about it!

Image via Twitter, The Masters


[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
I think I read somewhere (probably the internet so it must be true) that Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters were separate entities. Anyone know one way or the other?

The other question that comes to mind is what the annual dues are for ANGC members? Some clubs have accrued lots of money plus all the facilities have been long paid for. Often dues are relatively modest compared to some less established clubs.

Tor, get on the phone with Mr. Payne and get the answers to these questions, stat!
3/17/15
 
Torleif Sorenson says:
Boy, do I wish I had that kind of clout! :)
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