JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) — Expanding its audience in living rooms and at Augusta National, the Masters said on Thursday it would televise the Par 3 Contest for the first time and allow its season ticket holders to bring one child free of charge.
The decisions are part of a broad program by club chairman Billy Payne to use the power of the Masters brand and the allure of its golf tradition to help promote golf around the world.
The Masters will be held from April 10-13.
ESPN, which earlier signed a deal to televise the first two rounds of the Masters, will televise the Par 3 Contest on April 9. While the Masters went for years rarely showing any coverage from the front nine, live coverage of Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest has never been shown. The course is 1,060 yards, and players have made 63 aces since the contest began in 1960.
It also has a tradition like no other — no player who won the Par 3 Contest has ever gone on to win the Masters that week.
“The Par 3 Contest is fun and exciting for the entire family,” Payne said. “It’s an event everyone enjoys, and we think it will demonstrate to kids just how fun golf can be.”
Players often have their children serve as caddies, which can lead to some interesting moments. Jim Furyk decided to let his 3-year-old son, Tanner, tote a small bag last year during the Par 3.
“He declared on the seventh tee that he had to go pee,” Furyk said Thursday. “The gallery had a kick over that one. My wife took him to the bathroom, and my daughter caddied the last couple of holes.”
Perhaps more substantial than the Par 3 Contest on television is letting some kids in free. The Masters would join the British Open as the only majors with such a program. For the last several years, the Royal & Ancient has admitted juveniles free when accompanied by an adult.
The club said one child (ages 8 through 16) would be admitted free on tournament days when accompanied by someone whose name is on the Masters tournament badge.
“We want to inspire the next generation of golfers now,” Payne said, “We’re serious about exposing youngsters to golf and the Masters.”
Augusta National does not release how many Thursday-Sunday badges it sells, although the gallery estimate is about 30,000 each year. The club recently made some cosmetic changes that allow for easier movement for the fans.
“I thought it was amazing,” Furyk said when told about the ticket policy for youths. “How many patrons who have a ticket won’t want to bring a child, a niece or a nephew. That’s a lot of people. I think it’ll be great.”