Sharing the Moment

Richards family helped make Masters dreams come true for Others since 1981

By Steven Uhles | Photos courtesy of the Richards family

In a sport where the only constant is unpredictability, where fortune is found in the sweetest swing and lost in a wayward lie, there are few guarantees. Even at the Masters Tournament, where tradition is held in the highest regard, outcomes predicted in a crowded field of tee times only occasionally prove accurate.

But there is an exception, an experience that everyone who passes through the gates — player or patron, Augusta National newcomer or tournament regular — shares.

The Moment.

While it might vary in duration and intensity, ranging from a fraction of a second marked only by a sharp inhalation to minutes spent frozen in time and space, the Moment affects, and infects, everyone who turns the corner at the pro shop to see the golf course, that golf course, open up in front of them. It’s a moment of silence in a crowd, a moment when all the stories and history and that sense of tradition become a reality beneath the scoreboard’s fluttering flags.

For almost 40 years, the Richards family has traded in the Moment. For them, that experience has proved more precious, more meaningful and more significant than any opportunity for financial gain.

It’s why, since 1981, the Richards family has never sold its tickets.

Not once.

And yet, if asked, family members would say without hesitation that they have profited from their tickets and, if they had their way, would continue ensuring that people – family, friends and the occasional bucket-list stranger with a story too compelling to resist – have their Moment.

It’s a tradition that began with Bob Richards, who after 10 years on the waiting list, received his first tickets in 1981. From the beginning, he saw the tickets as an asset to share, as a way of giving something significant and memorable to those who, given the opportunity, might most appreciate it. He never asked for compensation. He never placed conditions. All he required was that those patrons offered their opportunity at the Moment adhere to the reasonable rules laid down by Augusta National Golf Club and its Tournament Committee. It’s a casual compact that those fortunate enough to find themselves on the Richards’ radar come April always kept.

After Richards’ death in 2004, it would have been simple to sell the tickets. After all, attending the tournament was never something that interested his wife, Mary Frances. But the tournament had become a tradition for her three sons, Robert, Ken and Kevin. They saw that practice of ensuring that the Masters remained an opportunity to share that very special confluence of opportunity, community and tradition as a living tribute to their late father. Certainly, it was indicative of the values their parents had taught. And so, for nearly 15 years, until Mary Frances’ passing on the opening day of the 2018 tournament, the tradition continued. Tickets were distributed, homes were opened to visitors, and stories, and memories, the real currency of the tournament, stories and memories, collected.

They include the story of a military veteran, well into his 90s and fueled by adrenaline and joy, outpacing his much younger compatriots as they marched from one landmark to another. The story of a young girl who thanked the family with a heartfelt note and drawing. The story of a father and son celebrating landmark birthdays with an experience they could never forget.

But, as is the case with all things in golf, this ability to grant wishes and fulfill dreams proved finite. With his mother’s passing, Ken, who over the years had managed the ever more complex distribution, understood that those precious passes that had arrived like clockwork for almost 40 years were no longer going to be available. In a perfect world, perhaps the Richards’ family tradition, so similar to that of the Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, would have allowed them to continue receiving tickets. But that is not, and cannot, be the way the system works. The Richards family understood and accepted that. Things change, and even the most worthy of traditions become history.

Ken said he often wonders what happened to the family tickets. Did they go to another fan – someone who would cherish the traditions as his father, his family and friends new and old had? Did they – could they – understand the magic and history attached to them? Or will they appear, year after year, on the active market for all things Masters as a prize for the highest bidder?

He is not certain he wants to know the answer, but he hopes they will end up around the neck of someone who, for that special first time, will enjoy the Moment.

Appears in the April 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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