The Masters: A first-timer’s perspective

By |  April 6, 2018 0 Comments

Michael Hughes, superintendent at Whitinsville Golf Club, Northbridge, Mass.

There was an empty space at a table near Amen Corner, room for two more Masters patrons. So Golfdom publisher Craig MacGregor politely asked the two men having lunch if we could join them.

“Not a problem,” said one of them, “especially for a guy wearing a Golfdom shirt!”

It was at this moment that we met Michael Hughes, superintendent at Whitinsville Golf Club, Northbridge, Mass., and Michael Poch, superintendent at Foxborough CC in Foxboro, Mass. Luck would have it that we would happen upon this table and meet two Golfdom readers.

For the two Michaels, as well as my co-worker Craig, it was their first time ever at the Masters. The four of us marveled at the beauty of the course, the quality of the experience, the ideal weather. We wrapped up lunch and as we walked alongside No. 13 fairway, we saw another friend by chance: Quali-Pro’s Paul Blodart, also was experiencing his first ever footsteps at Augusta National.

Only at Augusta, it seems, is it so easy to have good luck and happen upon colleagues in the industry and strike up new friendships.

I called Hughes Thursday evening and caught him as he was about to board his flight home. We discussed what he thought of the whole experience, and what was it that had inspired the 5-year superintendent to make this the year he took advantage of the amazing GCSAA benefit, courtesy of Augusta National, that allows Class A members to attend the Masters for free.

“I saw an article in the GCSANE newsletter about the benefit of the Masters,” Hughes told me. “There are not a lot of times we can de-stress in this industry. We fret about the course, about our crews. The article advised, ‘Don’t get caught in the hamster wheel,’ and I listened.”

As a “child of the ’90s” Hughes is a huge Tiger Woods fan. With talk of a Tiger resurgence, as well as that GCSANE article, an early date for the Masters and the qualification of Matt Parziale, a Brockton, Mass.-firefighter, Hughes and Poch decided this was their year. And Hughes says that after doing the trip once, he thinks this will now become a ‘tradition unlike any other’ and he will convince fellow supers to join the two Michaels next year.

“This experience has been unbelievable. Everybody built it up so much; I was ready to be underwhelmed,” Hughes says. “It was inspiring, it was like a trip to Mecca. I saw the conditions we’re all trying to achieve. I’m pumped up to go back to my course and to try to achieve perfection.”

Hughes and Poch skipped the par three tournament to walk the entire course and see what “MacKenzie and Bobby Jones did” on Wednesday, then returned on Thursday to get in the first day of play. Then it was back to work today.

“I’m fortunate, I got the blessing of my golf club (to travel to the Masters), they thought they would see something in return, that it would better my ability to do my job,” Hughes said. “And I’ve got an assistant in Hunter Mott, along with a great crew, they’re not going to miss a beat while I’m gone. I look forward to coming back next year. It’s hard to put into words, but I highly recommend everyone take this opportunity.”

Photo: Seth Jones

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About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 25-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at

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