ATLANTA, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Youngsters aged between eight and 16 will be given free admission to next year’s U.S. Masters if accompanied by an accredited patron.
“We want to inspire the next generation of golfers,” Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne said in a statement on Thursday. “We’re serious about exposing youngsters to golf and the Masters.”
Tickets to the Masters are among the most cherished in sport and exposing youth to the first major of the year is part of a new global strategy announced by tournament organisers in October.
Payne also said the popular par-three contest, traditionally held on the eve of the Masters, would be televised for the first time next year by ESPN to reach a wider, younger audience.
“These initiatives are important first steps and a great kickoff to our ongoing mission of growing the game,” he said.
“The par-three contest is fun and exciting for the entire family. It’s an event everyone enjoys and we think it will demonstrate to kids just how fun golf can be.”
The par-three tournament, first held in 1960, is played over a nine-hole, par-27 layout. There have been 63 aces since its first edition.
“It’s one of the real highlights of every year and it’s been a wonderful experience to have my daughters caddie the last two years,” twice Masters champion Phil Mickelson said.
“It’s special because it’s a rare opportunity for both players and patrons to enjoy the game as families.”
The 2008 Masters will be played from April 10-13 when American Zach Johnson will defend the title he won this year by two shots from Tiger Woods.
Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles, Editing by Tony Jimenez