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A year unlike any since World War II for Augusta

The Masters is so intertwined with Augusta, they added an extra day to spring break.

You see, the first full week of April isn’t just a blip in time for this place.

It’s their identity, their way of life, their cart path to success.

A restaurant or bar can take a huge step toward profitability off the business it generates in a single week. An ahead-of-its-time industry sprung out of the locals renting their homes to strangers to accommodate the influx of fans, sponsors and media. From ticket brokers to impromptu parking-lot attendants, it seems everyone in the east Georgia city of 200,000 has figured out a way to make a buck off the first major golf championship of the year.

But the Masters is more than just commerce. Relationships are made out on the course, over a pimento cheese sandwich perhaps. Or afterward, over a late-night bourbon and cigar. Then, the whole cycle repeats itself, year after year, decade after decade.

In some ways, it has the feel of a family reunion.

“We obviously do a lot of business that week,” said Mark Cumins, who 35 years ago co-founded one of the city’s most famous restaurants, TBonz steakhouse, right down the road from Augusta National Golf Club. “But it’s not just the money. People have been coming for a long time. We like ‘em. Even though it’s a busy, busy, busy week, it’s a good time. That’s what makes the Masters special.”

Of course, this tradition unlike any other is on hold at the moment. The coronavirus pandemic has killed thousands, forced nearly everyone to hunker down in their homes, and shut down sporting events around the world. In upcoming weeks, The Associated Press will look at how the cancellation or postponement of iconic sporting events  impacts cities and communities.

For the first since a three-year hiatus during World War II, the Masters won’t be held in its usual slot on the calendar, serving as sort of an unofficial kickoff to spring.

The tournament is now set for November, when all those booming drives and tricky putts will be accompanied by the changing leaves of fall rather than azaleas blazing forth in all their colorful glory, the hope of spring replaced by the gloom of an approaching winter.

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