Home Sports Local Sports A behind the scenes look at the Masters

A behind the scenes look at the Masters

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Thomas Owen, right, stands with Gerina Piller. (Submitted Photo)

Sports Editor’s note: On Wednesday, RDR Sports looked at Goddard grad Thomas J. “Tommy” Owen Sr., and how he was able to play the Masters golf course in Augusta National Country Club in 2007. Today, RDR Sports was given an inside look at what it is like to work at the Masters Tournament from his son Thomas J. Owen II, who had the best seat in the house at the 2007 Masters championship. He secured a job as a dishwasher and was promoted to cook.

Thomas Owen holds a bottle of wine in a wine cellar at the Augusta National Golf Course in 2007. (Submitted Photo)

Thomas Owen II, a college student in 2007, was one day talking with his dad, Thomas Owen Sr., and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I worked at Augusta National Country Club?” Both father and son are avid golfers.

Thomas Owen Sr. laughed and didn’t give it another thought, because he knew tickets were restricted to 30,000 people on a list. Thomas Owen Sr. knew the only way for his son to see the tournament would be for him to play in it or work the tournament.

Getting hired

The Masters is the hardest ticket in sports to get. There is a waiting list and families have willed them to future generations. It is easier to hit the lottery than attend the Masters.

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One day while attending Augusta State University, there was a man in a suit and tie sitting at a table in the student union with a sign that said Augusta National Golf Club. They were hiring for a bellboy and dishwasher.

Thomas Owen II walked up to the guy eating a cream cheese bagel, and told him he was interested in working there. After an initial interview, Thomas Owen II was hired as a dishwasher and permanent employee of the Augusta National Country Club, but only after meeting the head cook on his fourth interview and passing a drug screening, plus the requirement of getting letters of recommendation. Thomas Owen II cooked in high school at one of the officers’ clubs where his father was stationed in the United States Air Force, and was promoted to cook while working at the country club.

The week before

The week before the Masters, some of the players started to arrive. Amateur players are housed in a place called the Crow’s Nest. It has bunk beds and a table in the middle for players to gather and talk.

The kitchen staff will have visiting chefs come and start preparing enough food to feed an army. They will cook and prepare gumbo, soups, pimento cheese sandwiches, chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches, which they vacuum-seal. The food is stored in travel trailers and made with the freshest ingredients. Many folks think the food would be expensive at such an exclusive event, but the prices are in keeping with the 1970s. Sandwiches are $2 and drinks are $1.50.

Augusta National Country Club will set up in a mini building and put out a sign that says they are hiring for temporary staff positions for the Masters.

Masters week

The rest of the players arrive and can practice two days before the tournament. Fans have a chance to buy tickets to watch the practice rounds. This is when the country club would assign people their jobs on Monday, which range from line cooks, second- and third-shift cooks, to delivery person and dishwasher.

Thomas Owen II worked the third shift taking orders. His shift started at 6 p.m. and lasted until 8 a.m. the first day. There were times during the week he would put in 18 hours. When his shift was over, he would walk the course with his family in his chef’s uniform and Dickies.

Every year at the Masters Tournament, the club has a master chef flown in. The year Thomas Owen II worked there, they had a master chef from Scotland to work the dinner.

The head cooks for the club worked as well. Also, the club would invite several culinary art schools such as Johnson and Wales, Culinary Institute of America, Blue Apron, and Cordon Bleu cooking school to cook at the Masters.

Tuesday is the champions dinner. The previous year’s winner has the opportunity to choose the menu. Tiger Woods, the winner of the 2019 Masters Tournament, chose the menu for this year’s dinner.

On Wednesday, the course is open for the Par 3 tournament, which is the tournament before championship play begins on Thursday. Fans can buy tickets to see the event. The players dress up in caddie uniforms and play the course with their children.

“It was the best job I had and the worst job,” Thomas Owen II said, “I had to work so hard. It was the most rewarding because I could step outside the kitchen and watch the sunset over the No. 1 green and it was beautiful.”

While working at the main club during non-Masters week, Thomas Owen II met Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. They shook hands and chatted with him. He saw other dignitaries who visited Augusta National.

When the tournament ended in 2007, the winner was Zach Johnson.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times working at Augusta,” Thomas Owen II said. “I had to work my butt off being in the kitchen. I could enjoy the scenery, it was the best course I have ever been to, worked at, and played. When people say Augusta is beautiful, that’s an understatement.”

Employee Appreciation Day

Thomas Owen, left, stands with his mother Mary Beth at the Masters. (Submitted Photo)

Once the tournament is over, the club will shut down once a year for Employee Appreciation Day. Employees can golf on the Par 3 course, play the tournament course, fish in the pond, or all three. Employees get to bring one person to play with them. He brought his father, Thomas Owen Sr.

“Magnolia Lane is pristine and perfect,” Thomas Owen II said. “It’s like heaven. When you drive up, there is security 24 hours a day. You cannot see the course from the road. It’s in the city limits of Augusta; it’s really unique. When I drove on the course, I got tingles in my fingers.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.