The Daily Gamecock

450 USC students will work Masters Tournament

Augusta National hires Gamecocks to run annual weeklong golf tournament

At one of the world’s most recognizable sporting events, and one of the Southeast’s largest recreational events, several hundred USC students will be getting an elite professional opportunity in the next week.

More than 450 students, mainly from the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, will be working at the 2013 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., as employees of Augusta National Golf Club.

The Masters is the first of the four major professional golf tournaments each year and the only one to be played at the same location every year. The historic Augusta National course is home to the annual tournament, which this year features 93 golfers from around the world.

For the ninth consecutive year, students studying management in the areas of hospitality, retail and sport and entertainment management, as well as others in areas including communications and business, will be working 10- to 12-hour days at the weeklong tournament.

Their jobs will cover a wide range of background details necessary to run the tournament, which draws thousands in attendance each year. From preparing and serving food to selling merchandise to supervising other employees and troubleshooting any operational problems that arise, the students will be gaining practical professional experience in a large-scale, high-stress environment.

“It’s a very large opportunity, and standards are exceedingly high,” said Cathy Gustafson, an associate professor in the college’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. “They have high-quality standards that match any of your top-notch operations in the field. It’s a great opportunity for students to see how high-volume can be done well, and all in one week.”

Third-year hospitality management student Lauren Kaminsky will be working alongside the head of concessions. Her job, she said, is to monitor and respond to problems at any of the course’s concession stands. She has spent the past couple of weekends in Augusta handling administrative duties with her overseer Don Pritchard to prepare for next week’s tournament.

Kaminsky said she has been taking “mental notes” on Pritchard’s management style to prepare her for the next week and for her professional future.

“People just want to do things for him, and no one wants to disappoint him. He’s a really nice guy, but he’s firm in everything he does,” Kaminsky said. “And I feel like that’s the biggest thing I’ve been learning. You can’t learn that in class, necessarily. You can’t learn how to work well with people and be a good manager. So that’s kind of complemented all the basic knowledge I’ve gotten these past three years.”

Other students agree that learning in the field is a major benefit of the Masters experience. Second-year hospitality management student Nicole Wright said she has been hired as an assistant supervisor at one of the course’s concession stands and will oversee anywhere from 60 to 90 employees.

“You can only learn so much in the classroom,” Wright said. “The experience is really where you learn the most and get the most value.”

Wright said her position at the Masters has already worked to her advantage even before the tournament begins, helping her land a management internship at a country club this summer.

Second-year sport and entertainment management student Kelly Ballance also said she hopes to turn the Masters experience into a resume booster and plans to take the opportunity to do some professional networking.

“I’m definitely going to have a stack of cards in my pocket. You never know who’s going to come through the door,” said Ballance, who will be working in merchandising at the course’s main golf shop.

Gustafson said the reputation of the Masters and Augusta National is not only a boost to students’ resumes but to the reputation of the college.

“I think the fact that they come back here speaks volumes,” Gustafson said. “We’re good at what we do. And I don’t mean that flippantly. I think we have a unique niche (in the industry), and we work hard at accomplishing what we set out to do.”

The Masters tournament begins with practice rounds Monday and Tuesday and is scheduled to conclude next Sunday.