Penn State PGM Students Enjoy Week At The Masters
The Masters golf tournament is one of the most lucrative, historic competitions in all of sports. The history, culture, and sheer brilliance of the course at Augusta National all make for a memorable week patrons won’t soon forget. But being inside the ropes at one of the most storied courses in America creates an experience unrivaled by any other.
20 lucky representatives from Penn State’s Professional Golf Management program — one of the nation’s premier programs with an established alumni base rooted around the country — received the honor of attending The Masters not as patrons, but as dedicated workers at the numerous different posts at the historic golf course.
Members from the program seeking to experience the tournament made the 10 and a half hour trek to Augusta almost a week prior to the first tee time on April 6 to help the staff prepare for what would eventually be one of the most memorable Masters tournaments in recent memory after 37-year old Spaniard Sergio Garcia finally broke through for his first major victory in more tries than one can count at Augusta.
Though the week itself would be unforgettable, the lead-up to the tournament was dicey to say the least. “It was crazy,” one PGM participant said. “There were tornado warnings the first couple of days, and honestly, State College is warmer now than Augusta was. It was pretty cold each morning.”
Upon arriving to golf’s mecca, the representatives were almost immediately put to work at a handful of spots throughout Augusta National to help ensure the tournament would run smoothly. A key component of the facility’s makeup — arguably the most important position at the tournament — was located within the pro shop where students helped put together the tournament’s merchandising efforts. “It was a pretty extensive operation,” another told me about the days leading up to the tournament. “We had to be precise with our folding and just our attention to detail. The experience we gained here is something I’ll never forget, and I know it’ll help me down the road.”
For students carving out careers in the golf business with aspirations of becoming course professionals themselves, the opportunity to actually work behind the scenes at such a high-profile event provided the opportunity of a lifetime — and helped build skills that might assist them later in their careers. Be it working the range mere feet away from the best golfers in the world to assisting the operations at Berkman’s Place, one of the most famous VIP destinations in all of sports where the tournament’s elite observed the spectacle just behind Amen Corner, Augusta National provided what no other week-long occupation could in terms of skills — think of it as an internship unlike any other.
But, among many lessons learned down Magnolia Lane, the attention to detail required at a course where perfection is the standard is what left the most palpable impact. “The week itself was a very long work week, but it was our job to give everyone the ‘total Masters experience,'” said senior Chris McCue. “Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts wanted everything about The Masters to be the absolute best, so it was our job as the staff to focus on constant improvement and paying attention to the smallest of details.”
But, for all the hard work endured, the memories and mental snapshots would last a lifetime. After all, a ticket to The Masters is one of the most difficult to attain — you’ll find better luck getting into Game seven of the NBA Finals or the Final Four. Hopeful patrons wait years — sometimes longer — for the opportunity to walk those legendary fairways as some tickets get passed from generation to generation. The experience wasn’t downplayed, especially from somebody like McCue, who had the honor of working the tournament for consecutive years. “It’s a surreal experience to walk down Amen Corner, with the blue skies, Georgia pines, and colorful azaleas lining the course,” McCue said. “It is truly something that should be on everyone’s bucket list, and pictures don’t do it justice.”
But, aesthetics aside, the experience allowed students to rub elbows with the industry’s elites — which provided a significant networking platform unlike any other. “The awesome thing about working with the staff down there is that they import golf professionals and PGM students from all over the country,” McCue said. “There’s even professionals from all over the world that attend — we had one pro from Royal County down in Ireland come work during the week. It is an unbelievable networking opportunity to spend a whole week with these guys — and in the end become great friends because of the long hours we put in.”
The tradition of Penn State PGM students at Augusta is one of the proudest of any program of Penn State; the memories created — and the opportunities forged — are hard to replicate anywhere else but at the most historic venues in golf. Next year, a new crop of students will venture to the tournament to create their own memories, but the time spent for this year’s seniors is something they’ll never forget.
“I hope I can return there again,” McCue said. “I’m just so thankful for the experience.”