A Denton County attorney lends a hand at one of the nation’s greatest golfing events. With its immaculate landscaping, bold green jackets, Amen Corner, and pimento cheese sandwiches, the Masters Tournament is highly celebrated among golf aficionados. While thousands flock to Augusta each year to watch big-name pros battle it out, few can say they know the grounds as intimately as Denton County attorney William Brotherton, who has been serving as a Masters gallery guard since 2006. Here, Brotherton talks about his passion for the sport and his experiences working the event. An extended version of the interview is available at texasbar.com/brotherton. How did you get started working at the Masters Tournament? I had been volunteering as a marshal at Lantana Golf Club. The course was a venue for “Q-school,” where new golfers could try out for the Professional Golfers’ Association of America. A childhood friend, Walter Huber, was happy to help me locate a contact at Augusta National. The director of volunteers called me the Friday before the Masters to let me know there was a sudden vacancy on the 14th hole. He asked if I could be there by 6 Monday morning. I gave a very enthusiastic yes. One of the interesting questions I was asked was whether I could make a commitment to stay at least 10 years. I told him I would plan to stay for the rest of my life. What are your responsibilities as a gallery guard? We can work at a number of locations on the 14th hole. Gallery guards on the crosswalks halt traffic across the fairway when players are hitting from the tee box and then when they walk up the fairway to their balls. This entails not only ensuring patron safety but also answering questions and providing directions to different parts of the course. Gallery guards also work the point, which is where there are a number of trees, azalea bushes, and other vegetation that can consume golf balls. Our job is to help locate any lost balls, to be on the lookout for balls going into the crowd and to shout a warning if possible, and then to move the crowds back away from the ball so that the golfer can hit his shot without interference. We can also work the green, again keeping an eye on the approach of the ball and hollering a warning. We typically work eight- to 12-hour days depending on whether it is a practice round or the actual tournament. What contact do you have with fans? Constant interaction. If you are not a people person, this is not a job for you. I have a pretty good ear for regional accents—I was born in South Carolina, raised in Georgia, attended school in North Dakota and worked for the railroad there, served as a trainmaster in Denver, lived in coastal Georgia, and then made it to Texas as quick as I could. As a result, I can usually tell where people are from and they are always delighted. In addition, people ask a lot of questions, and we are happy to do our best to answer them. Many legends have played at Augusta National Golf Club. Do you have a favorite golfer? I’ve had several conversations with Bubba Watson, and he is a friendly, likable guy. He’s probably my favorite because he’s so unpretentious. I also really like Jordan Spieth. I spoke briefly to him last year, and I’d like to see him win the Masters this year. It doesn’t hurt that he’s from Texas. You see golfers after they finish up at Amen Corner. What is the atmosphere like at the 14th hole? Amen Corner is the name for the 11th (par four), 12th (par three), and 13th (par five) holes. It was given the name because on so many occasions, those holes can make or break a player’s chance at winning the tournament. For example, when Phil Mickelson won several years ago, it was in large part because he was able to eagle not only the 13th hole but also the 14th. People are always excited at the Masters—especially when they see historic shots like what happened with Phil. You can always tell something special is happening by the roar of the crowd. A birdie is one thing, but eagles provoke noise that would shatter any decibel meter. And if there’s a hole-in-one—it rivals the noise of a landing passenger jet. Have you had one of the tournament’s famous sandwiches? I’ve eaten so many pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches over the years at the Masters that I generally don’t eat them anytime else. They’re wonderful, only $2, and people have to have them when they go to the Masters. Gallery guards receive certificates allowing them to get pretty much whatever they want to eat during the day. The barbecue pork sandwiches, though, are probably my favorite. There’s also an ice cream sandwich with peach ice cream that is out of this world. What do you enjoy most about golf? It’s good for the heart and soul. I generally play two to three times a week at Grapevine Golf Course and belong to the Grapevine Golf Association, which sponsors monthly tournaments. I also like to go out, usually on the spur of the moment, and just walk up at twilight, which is 1 p.m. during the winter and 3 p.m. during the summer. If you’re by yourself, the pro shop will put you together with three other golfers, usually people you’ve never played with before. I’ve made some lasting friendships with people I’ve met on the golf course. One such example is a former Atlanta Braves pitcher. He’s now a pitching scout for the Tampa Bay Rays and lives in Atlanta. Whenever I pass through there, he and I always play at his club. And did I mention I’ve gotten some pretty good clients off the golf course?
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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