So you want to be the super at augusta ...
SO YOU WANT TO BE THE SUPERINTENDENT AT AUGUSTA ...
So you want to be the golf course superintendent at Augusta National Golf Club, home of arguably the greatest golf tournament on the planet, the Masters. Do you have any idea what would be in store if your wish came true?
Well, you can assume a few things. You would be paid very handsomely, and you would have a big maintenance budget. And the prestige of tending turf at the historic classical course designed by Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie goes without saying.
But what about the pressure that comes with the territory, literally, of maintaining Augusta's hallowed grounds. Could you take it?
It depends on who you are, not to mention other factors, such as the chairman you would work under and his demands.
I recently spoke to three former superintendents at Augusta who all had different views on the pressure that comes with the job and hosting the Masters. (Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to speak to Augusta's present superintendent, Brad Owen, who has been superintendent at the course since 1997, because Augusta employees are prohibited from speaking to the media.) The three superintendents I talked to worked in consecutive years from 1975 through 1989.
First up was Lloyd McKenzie, who was Augusta's superintendent from 1975 through 1981.
"Augusta was as top of a job back then as it is now," McKenzie told me.
McKenzie worked under Clifford Roberts, who co-founded Augusta with Bobby Jones and was chairman of Augusta at the time. Looking back, the 81-year-old McKenzie says being the superintendent at Augusta was the climax of his career.
"It was thrilling," he says. "But at the same time there was a lot of pressure."
The pressure at Augusta was intense, unlike anything McKenzie had felt at any other job. McKenzie felt like his performance was always under a microscope from Augusta's staff and members, the media, and even superintendents from other courses.
The pressure is why McKenzie left Augusta. He just got plain tired of it. He departed in 1981 for the Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Fla. He finished his career as superintendent of West Palm Beach (Fla.) Country Club.
McKenzie has been retired for 19 years and now lives in Blue Ridge, Ga.
"It was my career highlight ... despite all the pressure," McKenzie says. "There's no doubt about it."
Billy Fuller, who succeeded McKenzie as Augusta superintendent in 1981, was aware of the pressure, but he simply put it out of his mind.
"We were doing so much in the way of upgrades on the golf course, and we were so busy getting it done that I never thought about pressure," Fuller says.
What Fuller remembers most about Augusta was the constant workflow.
"It never let up as far as demand and time," he says.
In the summer and fall, before the course reopened to members in October, there were projects to do and overseeding to be done.
"We were trying to get everything as perfect as we could for members and keep it that way," Fuller says.
Then Fuller had to change gears and prepare for the Masters in April.
"We spent the rest of the winter and early spring on tournament preparation," he notes.
As soon as the tournament was over, Augusta's members wanted to get back out on the course. The club closed in late spring, but there was a whole new slate of projects to begin.
Paul R. Latshaw succeeded Fuller and worked as Augusta's superintendent from 1986 to 1989. Latshaw, who served as superintendent at Oakmont Country Club, Congressional Country Club, Winged Foot Golf Club, Riviera Country Club and Wilmington Country Club in his near 40-year career, wouldn't say Augusta was his favorite job, but he did say it was his most prestigious.
Latshaw came to Augusta from Oakmont, one of the nation's top high-end private clubs and known for having the toughest membership in golf. He says, "Augusta was one of the easiest jobs I ever had."
That was due in part to Hord Hardin, Augusta's legendary chairman at the time. He kept virtually everyone, from Augusta's members to the media, away from Latshaw; they weren't allowed to speak to him.
"Mr. Hardin said, 'I'll take care of them,' " Latshaw recalls. "The members would wave to me on the course, but they couldn't talk to me. Mr. Hardin was the boss, no questions asked."
There you have it: Three different Augusta superintendents and three different views.
How about you. Would you want the job?