Lawrence Bennett has given almost half a century’s service to Augusta National Golf Club and played a key role in The Masters, yet he’s never played a single hole at the famous course.
Working his way through the ranks across more than 40 years, Bennett went from the cart shed to litter control to chauffeur and manager of the Green Jackets closet.
He’s driven down Magnolia Lane more times than any player, been saluted by the President, and has transported all of the big names to and from the year’s first Major.
Now retired, the 68-year-old shares some special memories from his time at the world’s most famous golf club.
I suppose I know Augusta National Golf Club better than anybody in the world, even though I’ve never played a single hole of golf there. I was brought up there and worked there for the best part of half a century.
My late father, Freddie, was the legendary Augusta National caddiemaster for 43 years which, oddly enough, was my length of service as the club’s chauffeur.
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I actually started working at Augusta National aged 12. My father got me working during the 1966 Masters tournament as a flag boy on hole No.8.
In 1967 I was in charge of the cart shed. That meant I took control of all the carts, alongside revered caddie Carl Jackson, who twice won the tournament with Ben Crenshaw. In 1968-70 I did litter control, for me the best job on the property, and then I started work as full-time chauffeur, aged 17. The job ran from October to May and I took members to and from the airport, and for trips into the city – that was my main job.
Every golfer who ever came to the club from 1970 until 2013, I’ve probably had in my car! Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods… you name them. Other than the amateurs who stayed in the Crow’s Nest, none of the players stayed on the property so I’d take them back and forth to the houses they’d rented and take their wives and children to the grocery store or to the movies or whatever they needed.
The first memory I had of Augusta National was before I started work there. One day in the early 1960s, my
dad took me out of school and said the President was going to be at the club. He stood me on a box and President Eisenhower, Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts were there on the first tee. When the President got ready to swing, he looked round and saw me looking at him and he saluted me and I saluted him back.
The first golfer I ever picked up was Ben Crenshaw. He was an amateur then and we’ve been great friends ever since.
One of my standout memories was the last Masters Arnold Palmer played. It was also the last tournament that I worked. I was allowed to take Mr Palmer to the airport… and we both cried driving down Magnolia
Lane for the last time! He was a super guy.
My favourite car was a Cadillac limo. We had a new navy blue limo every seven months. As times changed, we went from station wagons to the best Ford vans. There were a few embarrassing moments like locking the keys inside the car while the engine was running! I was at the airport one day and I did just that while waiting for a member. I had to call the club and they brought another set of keys out – luckily it was in the evening and the member didn’t mind waiting. From then on, whether rain, shine, sleet or snow, I always kept a window down! But in 43 years I never had a single wreck, and I’m proud of that.
Later on, my job title changed – I became chauffeur supervisor and I also became Manager of the Green Jackets Closet, a wonderful job that meant every Green Jacket had to go by me. Overall, I was responsible for around 500 Green Jackets. I never met a member that I didn’t like. Even to this day, a member will call me during the week of the Masters just to see how I’m doing.
I retired at 60 because of a bad back and the club recognised my long service with a crystal replica clubhouse. They also presented me with a clubhouse ring, with two diamonds, for 35 years of service and another with three diamonds, for 40 years. They’re the most cherished items in my house.
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