- Getty/Rob Carr
The Masters is the most prestigious golf tournament in the world.
The only way to get tickets to the annual April event held in Augusta, Georgia, is to be on a closed patron list or win a ticket lottery.
Two journalists were fired from their broadcasting jobs at the Masters for not following these rules – one for referring to the spectators as a “mob scene” and one for saying the greens were smoothed with “bikini wax.”
To find out what it’s like to work at such an elite sporting event, we talked with former employee Jen (not her real name), who drove the players around in golf carts.
Getting the job
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If you want to work transportation, it helps to know someone on the inside at the Masters. It’s the most sought-after job at the tournament for high school students in the area, Jen says.
During the four years she worked the Masters, she says most of her fellow golf cart drivers got their jobs because of connections with one of the 300 members of the Augusta National Golf Club – who include Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
Jen says she’d work from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. for seven days straight, and made $7.25 an hour plus overtime. “But I would have done it for much less,” she explains.
“We were in a golf cart driving people so it really didn’t feel like a job,” says Jen. “I probably would have volunteered to do it for free my first year.”
She says she also received tips every now and then – but not every day.
The best tip, she says, came from pro golfer Phil Mickelson, who decided to tip the whole transportation group $2,000 to split between them one year. “We all got an extra $100 to $200 added on to our checks.”
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Getting to meet the talented players is probably the biggest perk for most people – but it certainly isn’t the only one.
Jen says during her time as a Masters employee, she was given two meal vouchers per day to eat at the Masters food court, which is famous for its pimento cheese sandwiches.
Employees were also given two to three polo shirts with the Masters logo on them as their uniform, which they would wear every day with khakis.
These free shirts were a hot commodity, she explains.
“I’d go back to college and say, ‘Here are my shirts from work’ and I would be willing to give them away for free, but people would offer $100 for them,”Jen says.
- Reuters/Jim Young
She would arrive at the Augusta National Golf Club at 6 a.m., go through security, pick up her golf cart, take it through the car wash, and get in the line of golf carts to start picking up the players.
The cart drivers only had two routes: One was from the clubhouse, where the locker room is located, to the practice tee; the other is from the practice tee to the first hole.
Work officially ended at 5 p.m., but Jen says she and her coworkers would typically work overtime until about 6 or 7 in the evening.
Off the course
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The first two to three days of the week, golf cart drivers who are 18 and older are tasked with picking up players from the airport in brand new Mercedes.
“They literally had 20 miles on them,” Jen says. “They were driven off the lot and shipped to Augusta.”
She would drive the players from the airport to the clubhouse, where each player would receive their own brand new Mercedes to use for the week. Each Mercedes had a number on the back window so you could identify golfers by their car.
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Jen says these were a few rules she was required to follow as an employee:
1. No cell phones allowed on the grounds.
2. No cameras allowed (except on the practice round days).
3. No asking for autographs.
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Jen says she joked around with all of the golfers she drove, but some didn’t say anything in response because “their heads were in the game.”
Other golfers willingly joined in on the light banter. She remembers saying “What’s up?” to Tiger Woods one year, and he jokingly responded, “The roof of this car.”
Since she drove a lot of the same golfers around for four years, many recognized her. Jen says Mickelson even had a nickname for her.
The pros and cons
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The worst part was having to get up at 5 a.m. on spring break, Jen says. And the best part was getting to talk with the golfers.
“Besides the caddies, drivers get the closest interactions with them,” she says.
Two things most people don’t know
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Jen says there’s a lot people don’t know about the Masters, but one that stands out is that many of the Masters employees are teenagers.
She says “it’s nuts how many kids are working behind the scenes” at this prestigious event.