Augusta National’s most viral customers are a tradition of masters
Augusta, Ga. – The Masters is home to lore. From the dinner of champions to the honor holders to the par-3 contest, these traditions help time stand still on the Augusta National field. The more things change outside those doors, the more they stay the same inside. For the Brown family, a tradition lives on behind the 16th tee that makes them one of the most televised patrons of the Masters.
Lindsay and Laurie Brown could be seen celebrating Stewart Cink’s ace on No. 16 on Friday. Their floral outfits are hard to miss. Did these faces look familiar to you? Because they should.
In 2019, the world of golf was introduced to Lindsay and the Brown family and they didn’t even know it. Remember when Tiger Woods stuck his tee shot on the No. 16 to help secure his Masters victory with Michael Phelps in the background? Lean over the ropes to carefully follow the flight of the ball. Well, seen just to the right, Lindsay and her husband, Chip.
“A mutual friend who knows we sit behind the 16th tee every year asked if we would help save a seat for Michael,” Lindsay said. “When he arrived he just asked, ‘are you Lindsay?’ and he dropped into the spot we had reserved for him. He was an absolute joy to sit down with. One thing we liked about Phelps is that he refers to Tiger as just “ger” and would say “Let’s go ger!”
It became one of the most viral moments of the 2019 Masters. Lindsay could be seen prominently in every frame with two of the sport’s biggest icons.
“When I got back to my cell phone later that day, I had over 100 messages from people watching at home,” Lindsay said. “We went out to Augusta that night wearing our same clothes and it was CRAZY – tons of people came asking to take a picture with us, and even autographs. I’m usually approached several times a day now for tournament days »
Phelps sent the Browns a photo of their viral moment together signed by himself and Tiger. Apart from Tiger’s green jacket, this might be one of the most prized possessions of the 2019 Masters.
But for the Brown family of Rome, Georgia, that tradition of mastery began 37 years earlier. Chip and his sister Laurie’s father had acquired tickets in 1972. It was a pre-lottery where holding a ticket badge was like a subscription to your favorite sports team. Once you have a Patron Badge, it is yours for life and can stay in the family.
In 1990, Laurie’s birthday present was to accompany the family for her first master’s degree. Between the years 1990 and 2001, a combination of Chip and Laurie with family and friends would make good use of boss badges.
“The one-chair-per-customer rule hadn’t gone into effect yet,” Laurie said. “At that time, we used to plant seats in various places along the course for ourselves. It’s more about finding the best views and less about being picked up by the cameras. It just so happens to go hand in hand when it comes to No. 16.”
Laurie is the protector of this family tradition. Her boyfriend, Christian Baits, had to sit on the sidelines before being kissed.
“I waited four and a half years of dating before bringing Christian with us,” Laurie said. “It’s important to be invited into our family tradition.”
Chip and Lindsay met in 2002 while attending graduate school. In 2003, the two began dating and Lindsay was introduced to the Brown Masters family lore. The two married in 2006 to give him Brown’s namesake.
In 2004, Chip and Lindsay were sitting in the stands at 16 when a volunteer pointed them to a coveted spot behind the tee. Both were grateful for the recommendation and jumped at the chance. As fate would have it, Padraig Harrington and Kirk Triplett made aces in back-to-back bands in the same year.
The two were hooked and the family found a new home among a host of other returning customers.
“It’s an amazing place to watch golf,” Lindsay said. “It’s a family atmosphere with all the time we spend together (without technology!), with other families who love 16 that we see every year, and with everyone who works on and around this hole that we have got to know well throughout the years.”
If you hang around the 16th tee box to watch a few groups leave, you’ll notice more than a few people swinging from inside and outside the ropes to say hello to the Browns. They are security guards, volunteers and broadcast team members. Lindsay is frequently stopped in concession areas by customers who take a few moments to realize where they recognize her from.
The Browns rent a house and bring their children to make Masters an annual family vacation. After missing the last two Masters due to COVID restrictions, this year serves as an extended family vacation as they are once again surrounded by their regular congregation. Even their pastor, Tony Sundermeier, is present this year just behind the chairs of the Browns.
They are familiar faces to more than those sitting around them. Chip was a teammate and roommate of Matt Kuchar at Georgia Tech. The two were members of the 1999 ACC Championship team together. They remain friends today, and the Brown kids can always expect a treat from Kuchar when he hits the tee.
As Chip’s competitive playing days ended at the college level, he played Augusta National multiple times. The most memorable run came with his father, the man responsible for starting this family tradition of masters.
Lindsay’s viral stardom extends far beyond the Augusta area. She is big in Japan. Seriously. Diehard fans of Hideki Matsuyama and Collin Morikawa regularly stop by to visit Lindsay behind the 16th tee every year. They exchange pleasantries and have even brought her gifts since establishing these friendships. They also don’t mind receiving a few minutes of airtime during their visits.
With notoriety comes preparation. There’s a lot to go into a release knowing that millions of viewers at home will potentially be seeing you at all times.
“There’s so much in there,” Lindsay said. “We love colorful spring outfits. We have outfits for laying down chairs, outfits for day on the course and outfits for going out at night. Practical shoes for pine straw and mud. The bright colors fit perfectly into the Masters vibe and look great on TV. We start planning and packing about a month before the tournament, but shopping for potential outfit options is a year-round event. We also have over 25 years of Swag Masters to sort and prioritize with outfits.
The Browns are a true golfing family. They know the game, respect its history and live to celebrate it. This is a common theme among this family and Augusta National customers. It’s not lost on them what this week means for more than just those competing. They also have a sense of humor regarding their internet fame. Whenever something exciting happens in their lives, Chip and Lindsay send each other a GIF of the Masters ’19 celebration featured on the show.
Lindsay has become the de facto internet face of the family, but it’s a real family affair. She knows it started long before her and she hopes to help keep it going.
“We’re a golf family at our hearts – and the Masters is our meeting place every year, no matter where we live, work or study over the decades,” Lindsay said. “And we hope that will always be the case.”