Fans Dont Let Rain Wash Them Away

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- More than two hours after the rain started at the Masters, Rico Terry was still on a bench near the first fairway.
 
Sitting on a plastic bag, wearing a rain poncho and holding an umbrella over his head, he was perfectly dry. Around him, though, Augusta National was beginning to resemble a swamp Saturday afternoon and there was no sign when the skies would clear.
 
'If I was on the golf course waiting to play myself, I'd go home,' Terry said. 'But it's the Masters.'
 
If rain interrupts other golf tournaments, a few stalwart fans will stick it out. Most, though, head for the exits, figuring they can watch from the comfort of their home or hotel if play resumes.
 
Not at the Masters.
 
Badges are handed down from generation to generation. People wait years for a chance to buy tickets, and pay dearly when they finally get their hands on them. If it rains -- and it usually does at some point during the week -- so be it.
 
'This tournament is probably the most sacred sporting event in America,' said Dalton Lott, who makes the trip to Augusta National from Duncanville, Texas, and who waited out the delay in his car. 'The mystique, the prestige. To have an opportunity just to come to this tournament is the highlight of any sports fan's life.'
 
So it was no surprise that when play in the third round resumed after more than four hours of delay, there were still thousands of fans on the course.
 
'We just had tickets for today. It was today or nothing,' said Ed Stickler, whose wife, Cathy, was at her first Masters. 'It would have been devastating if we'd left and they had played.'
 
When the warning siren sounded to halt play, fans took shelter at gift shops, concession stands and bathrooms. The open area inside the main gates was a sea of green-and-white umbrellas.
 
Some simply set up their golf chairs and sat under their umbrellas.
 
'You just know it's going to rain one day,' said Penny Lowery, who has been attending the Masters for about 30 years. 'If it's lightning, you get out of the way. Otherwise, you stand in the rain and don't care.
 
'Just get a good cup of hot coffee and another pimento cheese sandwich.'
 
There were fans who didn't even bother leaving the course during the delay. Martin Owens and three friends were sharing one badge, and Saturday was his day to come to the tournament. His seat behind the eighth tee put him so close he could help golfers with their club selection, and he wasn't about to give it up.
 
Whitney and Chuck Whitehall had found a spot a few feet off the green at No. 2, hunkered down on a sheet of plastic underneath an umbrella.
 
'We're trying to be optimistic and hope it clears soon,' Whitney said. 'Plus, we have a real good spot on 16 that we don't want to give up,' Chuck added.
 
This is the fifth straight year rain has disrupted the Masters, and most fans know to come prepared. Those who didn't have rain jackets or rain suits wore ponchos, and almost everyone had an umbrella.
 
Though this was Ali Despard's first Masters, she'd been warned by her friend Will Egan, and was sporting a pair of lime green, rubber rain boots.
 
'I know the smell of fertilizer after it rains,' said Egan, attending his fourth Masters. 'And that you wear pants you throw away afterward.'
 
And that regardless how hard the rain falls, leaving is never an option.
 
'We flew in on the red-eye last night and we're leaving first thing Monday morning. We're here for no other reason,' said Despard, who is from Los Angeles. 'So we may as well stay in the rain.'
 
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