AUGUSTA — Monday's practice round for The Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club was unavailable to players and closed to patrons before noontime because of inclement weather conditions and safety concerns.

It was the first time in more than a decade the gates were closed earlier than scheduled because of inclement weather.

Heavy rains fell on the historic course, while the danger of potential thunderstorms and lightning were too much of a threat for the decision-makers at Augusta National to ignore.

Players had to get off the course, and patrons were forced to exit the grounds. More than an inch of rain was expected to fall on Monday.

“We are disappointed that our patrons could not enjoy today's practice round; however, safety must be our first concern,” Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National and The Masters, said in a statement.

“We look forward to seeing these patrons next year.”

Payne's peek into the future wasn't just wishful thinking.

Not only will purchasers of Monday practice round tickets be sent refunds in May, but they will be guaranteed the opportunity to purchase 2015 practice rounds tickets.

Further information will be included with the refund, but the guarantee of future practice round tickets is a major coup.

It's well known that tickets and badges to The Masters can be sought-after commodities. For those not fortunate enough to be selected in Augusta National's lottery, searching for tickets on the secondary markets can be an expensive proposition. lists the price for tickets to today's practice round ranging from $500 (the least expensive) to $2,755.

The rates will only rise as the week goes on, and this is with reports of massive price drops because of the absence of Tiger Woods. The four-time Masters champion and No. 1-ranked player in the world recently had surgery on his back and was forced to withdraw from competition at Augusta National this week.

Patrons who turned out on Monday to look at the rest of the field of the world's greatest golfers didn't get to see much.

The gates were closed at 10 a.m. and didn't reopen. The last time gates didn't open because of bad weather during a scheduled day was another Monday, on April 7, 2003.

The gates are expected to reopen on schedule today at 8 a.m.

The forecast for today's practice round is far more promising, with no more than a 10 percent chance of rain and temperatures expected to range from the mid 50s in the morning to 70 degrees in the afternoon.

The long-range forecast for the rest of the tournament is even better, as the weather is expected to be mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the high 70s.

The historic golf course at Augusta National should be ready for play today. In spite of all of the heavy rain that fell on Monday, expect the course to be in top form thanks to its expert greenskeepers and the SubAir Systems installed underground.

SubAir's a system to aerate, dry and generally maintain the conditions of the course – from tee to green. Essentially, it serves as a vacuum to keep the ground dry. Its effectiveness will be critical over the course of the week as the field looks for fair playing conditions in pursuit of the green jacket.

Augusta National hasn't been immune to the dramatic weather to hit the CSRA over the past few months. Its famed Eisenhower Tree was removed after suffering irreparable damage in February's ice storm.

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.