The Masters is about to let anyone play Augusta National -- at least in a video game.
In another step toward reaching a younger audience, the Masters will be featured in EA Sports' next edition of the popular "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12" golf game franchise.
The game is go on sale March 29, a week before the Masters, and will be available on Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation consoles. It will be the first time Augusta National has allowed its fabled golf course to be used for a video game.
"This is great for the sport and will connect a new audience with the Masters, a tournament I've been fortunate to experience since 1995," said Woods, a four-time Masters champion. "Continually growing the visibility of golf is important to attracting newcomers to the sport, and I agree that showcasing the Masters Tournament in the game will bring an entirely new dimension to that approach."
The move is part of a broader effort by the club to increase interest in golf around the world, especially among youth. In his four years as club chairman, Billy Payne started a program in which juniors can attend the Masters for free with an adult who has a season badge and televised the Par 3 tournament.
Payne also announced Tuesday the "Masters Tournament Foundation," a charity arm that will allow Augusta National to invest in developmental programs around the world. Payne said all proceeds from the EA Sports game would go into the new foundation.
"Our desire to help grow the game of golf throughout the world is sincere, and it is that commitment that first led us to EA Sports more than three years ago," Payne said in a statement. "EA Sports, Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour have developed an extremely successful franchise that responds to one of the popular entertainment choices of kids today. We hope our inclusion will foster an appreciation for the history and traditions of the Masters and inspire the next generation of golfers."
Payne first raised the idea of the Masters being part of video games two years ago while expanding the multimedia aspect of the tournament's website.
"Well, we are not going to be included on other people's video games," he said at the 2008 tournament.
EA Sports president Peter Moore said the Masters has been the most requested feature for the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise for more than a decade.
"We're thrilled to bring our fans this exciting opportunity to experience Augusta National Golf Club like never before," Moore said.
Features in the Masters edition include a chance to beat each of Woods' four scores when he won the green jacket, advice from an Augusta caddie and a new laser scanning technology to give players an authentic digital representation right down to the bloom on a dogwood.
Payne has tried to broaden the appeal of the Masters during his tenure. He has expanded by one hour the weekday coverage on ESPN, and he added one hour of coverage before the telecast each day through live streaming on the website, along with live video of Amen Corner and the 15th and 16th holes.
Augusta National and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club also collaborated in creating the Asia Pacific Amateur, in which the winner is awarded an invitation to the Masters.
The Masters has donated more than $36 million to charities over the last decade. Payne was not specific about what projects would be funded by the new Masters Tournament Foundation.
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