Masters Tournament brings money to Midlands

With the Masters tournament 70 miles away in Augusta, the Capital City is seeing green in more ways than one.

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) -- Charles Graves was one of dozens of people getting in a round Thursday at Northwoods Golf Course.

The Georgia man has gone to the Masters for the last 25 years; but he and his friends prefer to stay in Columbia during Masters week.

"We have never really tried to stay in Augusta," Charles said. "I figured they are always booked. We like Columbia, the hospitality, the restaurants, the golf courses. It is a great town. The people are friendly."

Graves and his friends plan on using company passes to attend Augusta National over the next three days. They were motivated to play a round while they had some down time.

On any other afternoon, Northwoods Golf Course, along with others in Columbia, would usually be busy. But with the Masters tournament 70 miles away in Augusta, the Capital City is seeing green in other ways.

Double Tree Hotel Manager Steve Graves (no relation to Charles) said they are having their busiest Masters week in years. There are no vacancies until Sunday night.

"The economy is coming out of the slump, and with Tiger Woods ranked No. 1, we are seeing occupancies well above what we have seen in prior years," Steve said. "We are right back to where we were before the recession."

The extra people coming to Augusta has a carryover effect to the Midlands economy. Steve Graves said tourists come back at night to have dinner in Columbia's Vista and Five Points.

"For every dollar that is spent coming from the outside into our economy, it is magnified three fold. That dollar that comes from Europe, England, or California, comes into our economy and keeps circulating."

And for golfers like Charles, that circulation will continue because of the Masters rich history.

"There is just a mystique about Augusta," Charles said. "The course is beautiful. I was fortunate enough to play it one time. It is a great course. The tradition keeps you coming back.

A tradition the region hopes will continue to be a hole in one for the local economy.