So, you want to work at the Masters? A 2023 volunteer tells us about ‘brutal’ conditions, and why he won’t do it again

AUGUSTA, Ga. — So, you think you want to work at the Masters?

Yep, that is what my wife and I thought back in March when we saw an ad for a Masters jobs fair in Augusta. We are retired from professional careers and live in Aiken, S.C., about an hour away from the tournament site.

Out of curiosity, my wife stopped by the fair to inquire. I did not go. I sent a bio brief summarizing my experiences as public relations director for the Heritage Golf Classic, World Invitational Tennis Classic and the Family Circle Cup – all nationally televised from Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island, S.C. My wife retired from a professional career as the executive director of an international nonprofit

The gentleman with whom she met said we would be a natural fit. Time went by, and the Masters employment process began with online tests, background checks and training sessions. You would have thought we were being screened for top-level security government jobs.

I thought I would be getting a job in the press room and my wife thought she would be helping in tournament operations. Those are our backgrounds.

We were assigned to concessions. Somewhat of a bait and switch. Not knowing what concessions work was all about, we thought it would be an OK way to see the Masters from the inside. We had been to the Masters many times as spectators. As a matter of fact, my wife’s family has been involved with the tournament since 1934 when it all began. Her dad and uncle, as youngsters, passed out free tournament tickets in downtown Augusta in those early days, just to get people to attend. Her uncle eventually became a Masters scorer.

Today, thousands flock to the Augusta National Golf Club on Washington Road to see what has evolved into one of the world’s great sports spectacles.

We reported for our jobs at Concessions Stand 1 where we learned that we would be working to keep the three food service bays stocked with sandwiches, snacks, and beverages (soft drinks, beer and wine). Initially, there were about 100 of us workers in Stand 1 but that number dwindled by about a third as the week and tournament went along.

Each day began for us around 2 a.m., because we allowed driving time to get to the Masters employee parking lot at Augusta University where shuttles took us to the course and then Concessions Stand 1, a cave-like space located beneath the golf pro/gift shop. We had to be there by 4:30 or 5 a.m. It was a full 10-to-14-hour day of running breakfast and barbeque sandwiches from the kitchen to the food service bays. Those bays had to be stocked each morning before 7 a.m., with ice, cups, Masters logoed snacks (popcorn, moon pies, cheese straws, potato chips, peanuts, cookies, etc.).

Snacks with prices in a concession area during a practice round for The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Network

Officially, Stand 1 was not to close until half an hour after the final golfer finished the round for the day. Usually, that meant shutting things down around 5:30 p.m. Everything that had not been sold had to be inventoried, taken back to storage, counters cleaned, trash dumped. We usually left around 6 p.m., maybe 7 p.m. on some nights. On another stand, we heard workers were not allowed to leave until 1 a.m. on the last day of the tournament.

No sitting. All day you are standing and walking on concrete floors. There was a small breakroom in Stand 1. You were given two 15-minute breaks and a half-hour lunch break.

The conditions were brutal, equal to the management style of some of the full-time Augusta National management.

One example: On the first day of the tournament, we were instructed to park in the Masters employee parking lot at Augusta University where a Masters employee with a flashlight showed us exactly where to park. So, we did. The attendant then directed someone later to park behind us. In daylight the next day, we noticed that the car that had been directed to park behind us by the Masters parking attendant had hit my car causing probably $1,000 to $2,000 worth of damage. No note was left. When I brought this situation to Augusta National Golf Club managers, I was told it was my problem, not the Augusta National’s.

As I moved the matter on up the chain of command, I was told by a senior human resources official that if I shared this incident with any manager more senior than him, I would be fired. Really? We were not helping at the Masters as some sort of strategic career move. We had had successful careers elsewhere. We did not even realize ours were paid positions until after we agreed to the assignments. This matter remains unresolved.

We have met some terrific fellow workers from different parts of the country and walks of life. My wife and I are amazed that Masters employees drive or fly from all parts of the country/world to endure the conditions just outlined. The Masters does give employees uniforms and does provide $12.50 a day for meals.

A friendly reminder of one of the rules at the Masters Tournament. (Photo: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

Not much golf to be seen. Because of the working hours and short breaks, don’t come to the Masters as a Concessions Stand 1 employee expecting to see much golf. You do get chances to shop in the pro/gift shop since it is next store to Concessions Stand 1. You have to wait for the lines of shoppers to dwindle before taking a chance at shopping longer than what your 15-minute or 30-minute break allows.

Chaos seems to be the undercurrent. Take transportation. One hundred or more Mercedes shuttle buses take thousands of employees to and from designated places at the tournament site to their cars at the Masters employee parking lot at Augusta University. This usually works well in the mornings, but in the afternoons the pickup points never seem to be in the same place. That is particularly inconvenient in the rain, which we had a lot of this past week.

What does seem orderly is the electronic check-in and check-out process where each employee has a computer-recognizable card that is swiped through a card reader in the mornings upon arrival and in the evenings upon departure. This process records for each employee in a computer somewhere the hours worked. Brilliant. This card with your picture on it hangs around your neck so you can be easily identified. Additionally, this card can be used for the $12.50 meal allowance that you get each day – if you want to buy one of those egg salad or pimento cheese or barbeque sandwiches that we kept stocked.

Working at the Masters was a very revealing experience – one that we will only do once.

(Editor’s note: This was a guest submission from Joseph F. Patterson, who has created and managed proactive communications and community relations programs for major nationally televised sporting events – the Heritage Golf Classic, the LPGA Championship, the World Invitational Tennis Classic and the Family Circle Tennis Cup. He began his career as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.)