The opportunity to play in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club is a highlight in any golfer’s career, and the chance to attend is a highlight for any sports fan. And over the past 20 years, thousands of University of South Carolina students have been part of one of the greatest traditions in sport by working at the Masters Tournament.
This legacy of experiential learning has been led by USC's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. It started in 2004, when Catherine Gustafson arranged for 21 students to work at the Masters. Gustafson, now retired but then an associate professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, had worked in golf club management prior to teaching at USC and knew there was no better training ground for students to gain real-world professional experience than Augusta National Golf Club.
“I really knew we had something when the next year, in 2005, 100 percent of those 21 chose to go back and work it again,” Gustafson says. “The fact that literally every single student wanted to go back affirmed to me that it was a good thing from a student’s perspective.”
USC’s hospitality and tourism management program is ranked among the top 10 in the
nation and offers a concentration in club management. What Gustafson started in 2004
with 21 students has grown into an annual tradition (now led by Senior Instructor
Jessica Chavis), with hundreds of students working on site at the Masters each April.
Students gain invaluable experience
Grace Di Nicolantonio, a retailing major, worked as a sales associate in one of the many shops at Augusta National in 2022 and 2023 and hopes to return in 2024.
“Working at Augusta National Golf Club is an amazing and unforgettable experience. It is an opportunity for so much personal growth and learning and has given me the chance to improve numerous skills like leadership and communication,” she says. “My favorite thing is the intersection of tradition and innovation that is present in so many facets of the tournament. It is an exciting environment that is truly unlike any other.”
While the opportunity to work at the Masters Tournament began with students in the College of HRSM, it is now open to all majors and has provided valuable experiences to students across campus. Honors College student Beth Warren, a marketing and human resources management major, worked as a sales attendant in 2022 and 2023.
“While the tournament does mean early wakeups and long hours, nothing can compare to the experience of working at Augusta National,” Warren says. “Everyone, from employees to patrons, is so excited to be there for the tournament and is extremely kind. I got to walk around the course on my breaks, see my favorite golfers, and watch Scheffler and Rahm win their Green Jackets. I learned customer service, time management and communication skills. Augusta National Golf Club is a workplace that values every single employee and works hard to do everything in the best possible way.”
A professional springboard
The Masters Tournament experience has launched careers for many USC students, some of whom return to work at the Masters long after completing their degrees.
Hospitality management alumnus Andrew Hahn (‘21) is now a manager of food services at Denver’s Coors Field, and has returned to work the tournament each year since graduating. “The impact of your time working in the environment of Augusta National is lasting,” he says. “I would not be the professional I am at this point of my life without my time at the Masters, as I am confident I have been shaped into an eventual leader within the hospitality industry as a whole because of the practices and procedures I was exposed to.”
Some Gamecocks, like 2010 hospitality management alumna Caroline Manning, have gone on to careers at Augusta National Golf Club.
“The experience of working the Masters Tournament paved the path for my dream job as the senior manager of hospitality experiences for Augusta National Golf Club,” Manning says. "From the very beginning, I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to combine tourism and hospitality. I love building relationships, the challenge of providing outstanding service and the ability to merge sports with hospitality. In my tenure at Augusta National, my responsibilities have continued to evolve and include all tournament hospitality initiatives, such as the management of our premier hospitality venues that serve our members, partners and patrons. This part of my role allows me to work closely with our University of South Carolina students who assist us in executing the Masters Tournament. I am passionate about remaining very involved in our college as we continue to develop a partnership of recruiting students in the program."
Ned Madden, a 2018 sport and entertainment management alumnus, was involved with five Masters Tournaments, four as a student and one as an intern at Augusta National after graduation.
“Being involved with Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament has been the defining experience of my life,” he says. “I vividly remember walking into Russell House as a freshman and seeing flyers advertising the opportunity to work the Masters Tournament. I was so excited that I took the flyer off the wall, thinking if I could limit the amount of people who saw it then it would give me a better chance of being selected. The connections and skills that I developed in my time at Augusta National Golf Club were directly responsible for landing my first full time job out of college as the golf events coordinator at Peter Millar. I am so thankful to the University of South Carolina and Augusta National Golf Club for affording me these incredible opportunities both personally and professionally.”
In 2024, students like Warren and Di Nicolantonio will return to Augusta National, and once again, hundreds of Gamecocks will take part in helping make one of the world’s most storied sporting events come alive. Their experiences at the Masters Tournament may shape their future and will certainly be one of the most memorable parts of their college careers.
A team of representatives from Augusta National Golf Club will be on campus for the USC Masters Tournament Job Expo on Sept. 20, recruiting students to work at the 2024 Masters Tournament in a wide variety of roles.