See Augusta National’s Garden Gnome

AUGUSTA, Ga. – They’re moving the little ceramic pixie into the store. It’s a game played by the people who work in the “Golf Shop” quaintly named Augusta National Golf Club. (The Golf Shop is bigger than Home Depot’s Garden Center.) If you want a “Gallery Guard Gnome,” you better be prepared to seek it out. Think of this quest as the clients version of trying to read a master green.

“It’s a bit like a treasure hunt,” one employee told me. What he didn’t tell me was his name, because he wanted to keep his job. We’ll call him Bobby Jones. “It’s crazy,” Bobby said Friday.

Everyone wants a Masters garden gnome. No one can tell you exactly why. They know it’s a little weird standing outside the doors in the cold at 6 a.m., an hour before the doors open. They also know that if they run even a step or two to The Golf Shop, their sponsorship day will end before it begins.

But they must have this.

Forget glassware, coffee mugs, beer glasses, ice glasses, wine glasses, headwear, polo shirts, t-shirts, windbreaker shirts, blouses, sweaters, socks, belts, posters, prints, playing cards, golf towels, ball markers, pins. flags, bag tags, divot fixers, key chains, candles, koozies, calendars, caps, visors, baby clothes and folding chairs. They make no sense against the garden gnome.

Masters fan experience: What you need to know at Augusta National

Psychologists would have a field day. Marketers would like to study the phenomenon, bottle it up, and label it, “How to create an irrational desire for a frivolous item.”

People who love bourbon understand this. Acquiring certain bourbons can become an obsession. Their taste is irrelevant. Bobbleheads too. The Reds sell a lot of tickets at bobblehead nights, to people who get the bobbler, turn around and walk out of the stadium.

“He was the hardest gnome to get,” John Boyette said on Friday. Boyette is the editor of the Aiken (SC) Standard, a former sportswriter for the Augusta Chronicle and a veteran of 35 Masters. Her quest this year began last week at the Women’s Amateur, also at Augusta National.

He tried one day and the gnomes were already gone. He tried the next day, arriving at the gates at 7 a.m., and again, it was too late. Earlier this week, a security guard at the golf store told him that customers would be the first to discover the store’s treasures. Media pagans should wait their turn.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that Boyette scored. “My long gnome nightmare is over,” he announced on his Facebook page.

The gnome is one foot tall. It sells for $50. You can get a shorter gnome, but nobody wants that one. Bobby Jones said they leave every morning in 15 or 20 minutes. “They only have 350,” he said. Like everything else in the shop, you can only get the gnome from the shop. Unless you want to get scalped on eBay. The gnome costs $399.99 there.

The irrational desire factor is on full display here. The lines entering the store are so long that you could spend 10 minutes browsing those Kings Island style streamers before you even reach the merchandise. They have hand baskets to hold your treasure. They should have grocery carts. Or U-Hauls.

I do not know. But I guess half the customers here would rather score at the Golf Shop than watch the golf. You can still see Tiger Woods go down in history. That’s what televisions are for. You can’t always buy a Gnome Gallery Guard.

Boyette already has “four or five”, he says. They are on his coat at home, trophies no less hunted than a lion on safari in Africa. Meanwhile, Bobby Jones spends considerable time apologizing to customers, for the one item out of thousands they can’t buy.

He shrugs. “They must arrive early,” he said.

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