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A Masters for the masters of the universe

AUGUSTA, Georgia — No other place in the world of golf brings more big names and big money together than the Masters in this bucolic Southern setting.

The golf season's first major tournament unofficially kicks off the season for many golf fans. But it's not all about the golf. Behind the scenes, there are a lot of big business deals getting done.

Some of America's best-known companies continue to invest more and more money into golf's first major, and they say the payoff is big.

More than 2,500 planes come through Augusta in Masters week as the super rich and corporate leaders descend upon the city 150 miles east of Atlanta.

Jordan Spieth looks over a putt on the second green wearing his sponsor's logos during the final round of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 12, 2015.
Phil Noble | Reuters
Jordan Spieth looks over a putt on the second green wearing his sponsor's logos during the final round of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 12, 2015.

"We do events around the world, but in my view, nothing touches on the specialness of Augusta," said Doug Jackson, president of Coca-Cola's global energy business.

Jackson said Augusta provides a unique setting and opportunity for Coca-Cola.

"The Masters does something this week which makes its brand just completely different than any other golf tournament and it's wonderful for us," he said.

For sponsors like Rolex, it's about reaching a targeted demographic.

"There is a very high quality following that comes to his event, it's very distinctive and has many values that Rolex shares," said Laurent Delanney, assistant director of sponsorships and partnerships for the luxury watchmaker.

"It's a natural fit and very valuable to us," he added.

It's also about face time, networking and creating new relationships.

"It's an opportunity to meet all the influences of the game, people we work with all year and our ambassadors," said Delanney.

There are only a handful of official sponsors tied to the Masters. Among them are IBM, AT&T and Mercedes-Benz.

While there are likely many scheduled meetings with clients or partners, much of the work getting done is on the networking side of things once the sun goes down. Corporate hospitality and parties are a big part of the Masters experience.

"This is a week to bring your best customers and clients together and give them a special experience on the golf course and hospitality and spend some quality time together," said Marc Player, CEO of Black Knight International, which specializes in golf course design, real estate and other ventures.

The three-time Masters champion and businessman Gary Player says it's about taking care of existing customers and bringing on new clients.

The legendary golfer holds an annual party during Masters Week, spending more than half a million dollars on this week alone. He said it's worth it.

"Many tens of millions of dollars in transactions take part at this course this week," said Player.

While 2016 is off to a promising start, golf has been in a steady decline and has faced challenges trying to attract millennials and a new generation of golfers. But for sponsors, it doesn't seem to matter.

"People want to be associated with quality," said Player. "This has quality, it has discipline and is the best run tournament in the world."

Correction: This story was updated to reflect the correct spelling of Marc Player's first name and the focus of his business.