Balance legality and courtesy

Guests' quest for Masters tickets can be handled more smoothly

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No sport is more adherent to the rules than golf, and no sporting event more devoted to decorum than the Masters Tournament.

The beautiful result is a timeless, breezy, nostalgic feel at Augusta National Golf Club that is incomparable. The gentility seems to swirl from the azaleas.

To create that world, though, the club must set rules and enforce them, while expecting state and local laws to also be followed.

Sadly enough, such fervent
fidelity to order stands out today – when rules and laws are so often dimly viewed and poorly observed. It arrives with a shock and a jolt, then, when someone actually enforces rules and expects us to abide by laws.

There appears to have been more of a concussion than usual outside of the tournament gates this year, as about three dozen folks were rocked by their
arrest for allegedly buying, selling or simply trying to arrange the transfer of Masters tickets.

The situation has become acute because consolidation of entrance gates onto Berckmans Road means a more concentrated collection of patrons for scalpers to harangue. In addition, warnings and citations have proved ineffective.

What Masters guests need to understand – and what the tournament regulars already realize – is the length to which Augusta National will go to protect its visitors, and the fact that this umbrella of protection follows patrons in and out of the gates at Augusta National. They have a right to be unmolested by ticket seekers and scalpers, who have become increasingly aggressive over the years. And, by Georgia law, that right extends 2,700 feet beyond the club grounds, actually starting at the parking lots.

Not to mention the fact that the tickets clearly, if finely, remind the bearer that they are not to be bought and sold by anyone other than the club.

That agreement with the club, as well as the law, ought to be respected, particularly at a venue as venerated as the Masters.

Having said that, we have great sympathy for most of those arrested. They weren’t accused of scalping, but of disorderly conduct – plain folks who inadvertently ran afoul of the law while either naïvely seeking a sip from the sporting world’s holy grail or innocently thinking they could share it with someone else. Their arrests were no doubt traumatic for them and their companions.

That trauma may also have been aggravated by the clumsy handling of their cases by the local Solicitor General’s office – which initially suggested it might dismiss all the cases, then made an abrupt U-turn to say all the cases would be tried.

This is no small matter, particularly for out-of-town visitors, whose return trip to Augusta for a hearing would entail significant costs and upheaval. They at least deserve some coherence out of authorities.

They, and other Masters fans, also deserve more notice regarding the state’s scalping laws and the 2,700-foot buffer zone. We would urge those involved to work together to map out a plan for better signage cautioning visitors about the laws and their strict enforcement.

Yes, we know that ignorance of the law is no excuse – legally. But this episode involves more than even the iron-clad rules and laws being enforced. It should also involve old-fashioned courtesy.

That, too, is something Augusta and the Masters should be proud to promote.

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omnomnom 05/04/12 - 02:08 am
giant cement golf balls could

giant cement golf balls could be placed marking the ends of the 2,700 foot zone. local businesses could maybe sponsor artists to paint them. it could be our version of the "painted cows/horses/whatever" that other cities have

HighSociety 05/04/12 - 02:36 am
Omnomnom, that would be neat.

Omnomnom, that would be neat. Doubt the National would ever go for it.

Whoever wrote this piece did a fine job. You covered alot of both sides and the issues. Along with some solutions not just problems.

Techfan 05/04/12 - 04:26 am
Ga. law: ● Requires ticket

Ga. law:

● Requires ticket resellers to be registered
● Prohibits anyone other than a registered ticket broker from selling a ticket for more than face value plus $3 service charge, unless the event sponsor authorizes a higher amount
● Authorizes an event sponsor to restrict purchaser's ability to resell a ticket
● Sets standards for registered ticket brokers, including (1) maintaining a permanent office in-state, (2) paying a $500 annual registration fee, and (3) disclosing its refund policy
● Allows brokers to sell tickets at their permanent offices or through the Internet
● Prohibits ticket brokers from (1) hiring employees to buy tickets to future events, (2) acquiring more than 1% of the tickets to any event
● Establishes other requirements, including ticket refund if event is cancelled
● Prohibits reselling within 1,500 feet of venues with a seating capacity under 15,000 and within 2,700 feet of larger venues
● Allows original purchasers of tickets for personal use to resell for any price except within the 1,500 foot or 2,700 foot buffer zones
● Allows charities to resell tickets as a fundraising activity without registering or being subject to price limits
● Allows event sponsors to permit ticket reselling within the buffer zones (Ga. Code §§ 43-4B-25 to 43-4B-31)

Notice the last item. It seems the National could put an end to the issue and prevent Augusta from getting a black eye.

FriedFacts 05/04/12 - 04:30 am
To the editorial staff and

To the editorial staff and public officers, there are a few issues here, keep in mind.

The law says tickets can't be sold within the prescribed 2700 ft. zone but it's not illegal to ask for tickets or to buy them.

In addition, the fact the tickets have printed on them they are not to be resold does not mean it's against the law. If that were the case the many packaged deals of tickets along with rooms or houses and so on would all be illegal. One such promotion advertizes rooms at the Marriott on Riverwalk along with tickets.

Lastly, there was no mob causing a disturbance at the gate. The statements I've seen indicate things were being discreetly done, but observant, zealous deputies saw the two fingers or whatever.

DuhJudge 05/04/12 - 07:21 am
I saw only a very small

I saw only a very small handfull of people waiting outside Gate 9 on Tuesday of the practice round that were asking leaving patrons for their tickets. And they were not harassing nor were they looking to pay a premium. They were asking if they were going to be needing the ticket to return later. I believe the undercover agents were much more aggressive in trying to set up patrons than the few people trying to get another ticket so that they could join the rest of their party. No one likes it when a stranger comes up to you at the Post Office parking lot asking for a "case quarter". But when there are 10 police officers standing around outside the Gate, and all you want is a now discardable ticket, I don't think it is the same dis-orderly conduct. Better not put me on the jury.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 05/04/12 - 08:22 am
Sheriff Ronnie Strength is

Sheriff Ronnie Strength is nothing if not inconsistent (I don't know how that triple negative works out, but you know what I mean). Here is a direct cut and paste from the article posted Tuesday in the Chronicle:

There was one other case dismissed Thursday. That was against Dave Heisterkamp, a church pastor from Polk City, Iowa, who also wrote a letter of complaint about his April 4 arrest on Berckmans Road. Heisterkamp’s charge was dismissed on request of Sheriff Ronnie Strength, who called the Iowa man after he received a letter from him in mid-April. Heisterkamp admitted he was seeking tickets outside the gates of Augusta National Golf Club, which Strength said was a valid reason for the arrest. But after discussing the situation with Heisterkamp, Strength said, “I was convinced he had no idea he was violating any law.” “That’s why I asked the court to dismiss the charges,” said Strength, who added he was not going to intervene in any other cases.

Okay, he recommended that the court dismiss the charges because the pastor didn't know he would be charged with disorderly conduct if he solicited tickets, but he's not going to give anyone else the same courtesy. Inconsistent, to say the least. Is he he extending the courtesy to Heisterkamp merely because Heistercamp is a pastor, or because he lives in Iowa, or because he wrote Strength a nice letter?

Sheriff Ronnie Strength is the one who has no idea. Heistercamp was not violating the scalping law by soliciting tickets. And there are many more among the thirty or so who were booked for disorderly conduct for soliciting. These disorderly conduct charges are a travesty on the city of Augusta. The sheriff needs to apologize and send his deputies to training on what the law says.

Throw the book at some of ’em

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 05/04/12 - 08:57 am
There is at least one error

There is at least one error of fact in this editorial. Let us look at this assertion:

They have a right to be unmolested by ticket seekers and scalpers, who have become increasingly aggressive over the years. And, by Georgia law, that right extends 2,700 feet beyond the club grounds, actually starting at the parking lots.

The state law applies restrictions and sanctions on re-sellers of tickets to entertainment events (including sports events). The law provides no such sanctions on solicitors of tickets.

Techfan posted a synopsis of the law above. Read it!

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 05/04/12 - 09:36 am
ACES wrote: . . . the club

ACES wrote:

. . . the club must set rules and enforce them. . . .

Yes, the club can bring this spectacle of unruly mobs of ticket solicitors to a screeching halt next year. Here's how — as a practice round ticket holder enters the hallowed grounds, a uniformed, armed sheriff's deputy, being paid by the club on what the sheriff's department calls a “special,” insists that each deposit his/her ticket into a container where it is immediately shredded. Then the visitor is permitted to have his/her hand stamped to allow exit and re-entry.

Voilá! No more arrests for disorderly conduct unless one of those visitors lies down in a sand trap and makes a sand angel.

Jake 05/04/12 - 10:47 am
I was very surprised that the

I was very surprised that the Augusta National would encourage the RCSD to aggressively enforce their ticket rule in the way that they did. After all, with all the other rules that they have regarding running, cheering for bad shots, etc, is this anyway to treat the "Patrons"? The one time of the year when the golf world focuses on Augusta and this is how it treats it's guests? An embarassment for sure.

twolane 05/04/12 - 03:52 pm
one problem the augusta

one problem the augusta national is NOT A LAW ENFOREMENT how can they demand that a cop ENFORCE THEIR RULES as LAW OF THE LAND

madgerman 05/05/12 - 05:59 pm
Apparently the law references

Apparently the law references a "seating capacity" just what is the seating capacity of the AN? Where exactly does the 2700 foot measurement start? I mean, if that is the point of law enactment, surely the sheriffs department has a master marker map that shows all the locations surrounding the AN. Surely the deputies aren't just estimating the 2700 foot position, so maybe they would be wise to show where all the markers are. Thaqt way a deputy would have the knowledge of the exact marker locations surrounding the AN. If no map or marker exhist then I am sorry but the deputies are making their own laws concerning law breakers. What is worse, Ignorance of the law by someone who really dosen't know, or gross mis-interpretation of the law by a trained and duly appointed law enforcement person? P.S. I am still waiting for the info on how many free tickets the RCSO gets.

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