'Masters Green': Columbia cashes in on golf tourism

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – As the excitement in Augusta builds for the first round of the 2013 Masters Tournament today, the effects of the weeklong event are being felt economically in the Capital City.

"It's been very busy," says Kacy Glowienka, the Director of Sales at the Courtyard Marriott at USC. "We've been sold out the last three nights. We always look forward to Masters week every year."

In fact, it doesn't matter which hotel you call in Downtown Columbia, most likely they're sold out.

"For a typical business week, we normally sell out Monday through Wednesday," says Marc Muchuelas, the Front Desk Manager at the Holiday Inn Express on Taylor Street. "But we sold out Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well. We have quite a bit of business from the Masters."

Mucheulas says they started booking rooms for the Masters as early as a year ago. "It's just a straight shot up Interstate 20, so we do get a lot of business from it," he adds.

That's with rates that are nearly double that of an average weeknight. Muchuelas says rooms that usually are $99 cost about $189 this week. "The rates are quite escalated for Masters week, close to double for most hotels. The rooms are scarce, so we have no problem selling them," says Muchuelas.

At the Courtyard Marriott at USC, Glowienka says rooms are going for about $259 a night. She says those rooms usually sell for about $149. Glowienka adds the current price is still half of the price of a room in Augusta that was listed three months ago. "I just happened to look for rooms in Augusta, and there was a Fairfield Inn selling for $500 dollars," says Glowienka, "When you look at that, it's a great deal to come to Columbia."

Golf enthusiast and Courtyard Marriott guest Bill Magette agrees, and says he came from Southern California for the tournament. "My brother's been to the Masters several times, and he played the course a month ago," says Magette. "He said, 'Columbia's a nice place, great restaurants, great places to hang out,'" he adds.

Magette said Columbia's reasonable distance from Augusta and the cheaper hotel prices were another part of the draw. While this was his first time in Columbia, he says it won't be his last.

Some hotels outside of the City say they're also booked up for the week.

Muechelas says they see similar crowds for USC Football games or a big concert, but he says those are one night events compared to the weeklong tournament. "There aren't too many events that I compare to this…as far as a weeklong event, this is as big as it gets for us," he adds.

Hotel managers say during a big event like this they also have non-cancellation policies, so it's less likely they have last minute openings.

As for an estimated dollar amount that the tournament brings to the Capital City, Kim Jamieson, the Director of Communications for the Midlands Authority for Convention, Sports & Tourism says it's hard to calculate an exact number. She says because the City does not help in planning for the event, they can't estimate how many people are because of the tournament.

Jamieson says they rely on the hotels share that info if they know how many people are in the area specifically for the Masters. All of the hotel managers we spoke with say they're confident that the spike in guests is directly related to the tournament.