They left the course reluctantly, some in disbelief, some on the verge of tears and many clutching umbrellas and rain jackets they thought would keep them safe from the unthinkable.
Thunder and rain had stolen some patrons’ chance to walk the Augusta National Golf Club course and watch the professionals on their first day of practice rounds.
Tonya and John Safford of Cary, N.C., who had badges for Monday only, waited in their car for exactly 92 minutes hoping it wasn’t true.
“We thought there was just maybe a chance they would open the gates again,” Tonya Safford said. “People didn’t want to leave.”
But when the gates remained shut, many patrons who had flown from across the country, some from across the world, for a single day had an entire afternoon in Augusta to kill.
So they drank. On Monday afternoon, patrons left the National and filled bars and restaurants along Washington Road earlier than expected.
“I had to ease the pain of what I just found out,” said Jonathan Blevins, 29, of Columbia. “It sounds crazy, but it almost feels like going through a breakup, like breaking up with a girlfriend. It’s like, how do I process these feelings?”
While some were escorted away after only a few hours of enjoying the course, Blevins never even made it that far.
He walked up to the gate on Berckmans Road as hoards of patrons were leaving and police officers were waving people away from the grounds.
“At first I just thought people were tired of the rain or were getting umbrellas from their cars or something, but deep down I knew,” he said.
His stomach sank. He said he was in disbelief of his luck after buying a practice round badge on Ebay for $330 and missing what was supposed to be his first time soaking in the azaleas and rolling hills.
Like so many others, Blevins walked to Somewhere in Augusta on Washington Road, ordered a Coors Light and sulked.
“I was so upset, I ordered fries,” he said. “I never eat fries.”
Kyle Airington and girlfriend Edye Lucas traveled 900 miles from Oklahoma City to scratch one item off Airington’s bucket list.
They had enough time to walk 16 holes and spend $500 in the gift shop, but Airington’s dream was cut short by a rainstorm.
Not knowing where else to go, they spent part of the afternoon at Roadrunner Cafe – for him a White Russian and her a Crown Royal and Coca-Cola.
The badges were a gift from Lucas, which Airington opened Christmas morning and “bawled like a baby,” she said.
They flew in to Augusta on Monday night and refused to check the weather. Airington lay awake in the hotel at 4:30 a.m., too excited to sleep.
The course was more beautiful than any photo of it they’d ever seen. When Lucas was done with her ice water and wanted to put the plastic Masters Tournament cup in her purse, she caught herself before dumping a few ice cubes on the ground.
“I didn’t think I could even do that,” she said. “God has to play golf, because it was unreal.”
When they heard the storm siren sound at the course about 10 a.m., they knew it was trouble. Two Oklahomans who listen to tornado drills every Friday know their sirens.
But the day was not a total loss.
After leaving the course, they spotted Lucas Glover at the grocery store. And now there is one less item on his bucket list.
“If I died today, I’m dying happy,” Airington said. “If I had only been there for 15 minutes it would have been OK.”