Golf: Defying tradition, fan-free Masters opens online store

(Reuters) - After months of delay and with no fans on site, would-be patrons of Augusta National have another reminder that the 2020 Masters will be unlike any before - the gift shop has gone online.

It’s a radical embrace of technology for a tournament where cell phones are regarded as a philistine’s contraband and organisers long-resistant to change traditionally keep access to official merchandise limited to in-person attendees for one week only, making it among the most coveted in sport.

After officials announced in August that no spectators would be permitted at the tournament due to COVID-19, however, fans will get their retail fix online for the first time, with only 2020 ticketholders and other “patrons” getting access to the store.

The website features all of the usual loot - including hats, key fobs and T-shirts - along with commemorative gear ranging from Christmas tree ornaments to a Masters golf gnome retailing at $49.50.

For those missing the tournament’s famed $1.50 sandwiches, the shop offers a “Taste of the Masters” package - a $150 food delivery featuring Masters-branded caramel corn, cookies, chips, cups, a pound-and-a-half of pulled pork, and a pound each of egg salad and pimento cheese.

While this year’s ticketholders won’t experience the thrill of scooping up armfuls of polo shirts and Magnolia Lane-scented candles, many were happy to skip the snaking queues to pick up merchandise in the days leading up to the tournament.

“I bought $200 in hats and T-shirts from masters pro shop,” Twitter user @louc2255 wrote. “Didn’t need, but I’m excited.”

Others held out hope that a generous ticketholder might help them get a spot inside the virtual store.

“If any #Masters patron wants to let me in on their Patron Shop purchases, I would be much appreciative,” wrote @Heavy_C on Twitter.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; additional reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Ed Osmond