How the Masters embraced social media (and Bryson) to gain new fans

There was a brief moment of confusion on Wednesday, when those gathered in the official Augusta National Golf Club interview room looked around the room to see if they had really heard the same thing.

“You’re referring to the guys from Dude Perfect, aren’t you?” said Masters president Fred Ridley.

No seriously. He really said that.

Ridley had been asked about a viral video that had been posted by these Dude Perfect guys on the Saturday before Masters week. It involved Bryson DeChambeau and the “guys” playing an all-sports battle from Augusta to Amen Corner using everything from frisbees and tennis racquets to baseball bats, hockey sticks and more.

It seemed like the kind of behavior that would get you permanently kicking out locals, but instead they were invited by Ridley himself.

“My first reaction was, who are these guys? I’ve never heard of it,” Ridley said. “But it’s something that I became very familiar with very quickly. … This group had 57 million subscribers on YouTube, and that kind of caught my eye. Ridley considered the request to be sincere and that “they had the greatest respect and reverence for Augusta National.” It is no longer Clifford Roberts’ Augusta National.

“It was really part of our ongoing effort to be relevant to different age groups,” Ridley said. “You know, the video results were great. I think the last time I saw, and I’m sure it went more than that, it had 5 million views, and it was trending. It was the #1 YouTube video at the time.

“I think it accomplished what we wanted. I’ve heard a number of my legal partners who have teenagers say, “That’s great. My kids want to go out and play golf. That’s kind of the idea. Under Ridley and his predecessor Billy Payne, the home of the Masters has extended its reach into a digital world. Where once you could only see some of the second nine on TV in a very limited broadcast window, the 2022 Masters is pretty much wall-to-wall coverage.

If your favorite golfer doesn’t get much airtime in the extended TV windows, you can literally watch every shot he hits on via his interactive leaderboard.

Augusta National was quick to even accept and welcome Netflix cameras on-site to film their “Drive To Survive” style documentary about life on the PGA Tour. Golf hopes the inside look can do as it was the original show made for Formula 1.

With the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and Drive, Chip and Putt finals taking place the weekend before the Masters, the club invited the world inside for nearly a fortnight of festivities.

It’s a radical shift in philosophy from a place that remains famous for its secrecy and exclusivity. Whether the guys from Dude Perfect will be invited back for a sequel remains to be seen. But the fact that they were invited says a lot about the direction of the club and the game.

If the ANGC invites Memphis, Tennessee, sports radio host Chris Vernon to present official Masters updates, it might be time to prepare for the apocalypse.