Inside The Ropes at The Masters

To most golf fans around the world, the first sure sign that the new golf season is underway is the virtually commercial-free television coverage of the Masters in April. America’s most prestigious of the four PGA majors, the Masters holds a sense of magic and mystique that is “a tradition unlike any other” as the CBS tagline rightfully declares.

Unmatched in exclusivity, Augusta National Golf Club (host of the Masters) located in Augusta, Georgia has turned down membership requests from the likes of Bill Gates and Michael Jordan. Unrivaled in dclv08i01-fairways-trenchard-1991-Mastersbeauty, the few fortunate who have experienced Augusta tell of an aura that no video or photograph can truly capture.

The chances of personally knowing someone who has played a round at Augusta may be as slim as knowing someone who has visited the moon. The odds of stepping foot on the course or stumbling across a ticket to the Masters are a little better, but not much.

The year is 1991. It is the second Sunday in April, and for most golfers around the world, this day means only one thing…Sunday at the Masters.

This is the day a single champion will emerge from the elite field of the greatest golfers in the world. In victory, he will be presented with his new, custom-tailored, green jacket. His name will forever be enshrined in the sacred grounds of Augusta. And from that day forward his life will never be the same.

Prior to the ‘91 Masters, six of the past nine champions have been European and the American crowd is hungry for a hometown hero. Sunday’s final twosome holds two golfers vying for the lead:  crowd-favorite and American, Tom Watson, and the small, feisty Welschman, Ian “Woosie” Woosnam.

As they make their way through Amen Corner, a famous stretch of three holes on the back nine, they come to the tee box of hole 13, a par-five, dogleg left. This pivotal hole, named Azalea, has often been viewed as one of the instrumental holes in determining the Masters’ winner.

Watson strikes a beautiful drive down the middle much to the American fans’ delight. Little “Woosie,” in his Celtic red-plaid pants, hits a duck hook that lands in Rae’s Creek that runs along the left side of the fairway. The gallery, gathered on the opposite side, cheers at Woosman’s mishit. The soon to be champion will later proclaim that the outburst was unsportsmanlike, yet it motivated him to victory.

Deeming his ball unplayable, Woosnam assesses himself a penalty, takes his drop, and grumbles under his breath, “That oughtta make the Americans happy.” Although this snide remark seems newsworthy, it was never publicized. Why? Because the only two people that heard him say that were his caddy and the nearby rules official, Peter Trenchard of Sister Bay.

What led Trenchard to this improbable position inside the ropes of one of the sports world’s most revered competitions is an unusual path. This remote happenstance may be likened to being a referee at the Super Bowl or, as Peter described, “It’s like being at the World Series, and pulling a chair up right behind the pitcher’s mound.”

In 1976, Trenchard purchased Bay Ridge Golf Course in Sister Bay, and continues to own, operate and live on the premises of the quaint nine-hole golf course, along with his wife, Dianne. Many Door County residents and visitors also equate the Trenchards as being the owners of Cherry Hills Golf Course in Sturgeon Bay for nearly two decades, beginning in the mid-‘80s.

With a professional background in management consulting and marketing, Trenchard has been viewed by many as an innovator in joint promotion of golf on both the local and national level. “There weren’t a lot of golf courses back then as there are now,” commented Trenchard. “I wanted to make Door County a golf destination, but promoting the game of golf in the United States was equally as important.”

Years of commitment and service to the Golf Course Owners Association offered valuable networking with the who’s who on the national golf scene. Ultimately, this led to Trenchard’s election to the elite Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association (USGA), an esteemed group of only about 10 people in the country.

With his three-year stint with the USGA (1990, 1991 and 1992) came the automatic opportunity to become a rules official at both the Masters and the U.S. Open. It was an unpaid, volunteer position in which Trenchard was required to pay for his own traveling expenses and time away from work on the peninsula. It required learning and knowing the intricate and mind-numbing rules of golf, about which he admits, “The testing of officials is much more stringent now than it was back then.”

Rules officials dressed in suits and ties. They were assigned to one hole each day, and a long day at that, often from sunup to sundown. They were given strict orders to avoid being seen or heard by the television cameras, and were only to be available when a player needed assistance with a ruling. “I was amazed at how the golfers really don’t know the rules,” chided Trenchard.

Called into action on his first day at his first Masters in 1990, the twosome of Jack Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw approached his assigned hole, hole number three. Crenshaw’s drive on the par three landed on a sprinkler head, causing Trenchard to investigate. Peter explains, “Here comes Jack Nicklaus, who’s my hero, and walks right up to me, points a finger at me and says, ‘He gets a free drop, right?,’ and of course I said, ‘Uhhh yeah, right that’s a free drop.’”

His agreement with Nicklaus was correct, but in the ensuing play, Trenchard admits to making an incorrect ruling in not requiring Crenshaw to return his live ball that had inadvertently moved during his practice swing. This incident proved that even officials are human, and that knowing all of the rules of golf and being able to act on them in a moment’s notice is no easy task.

Now at age 71, Trenchard reflects on small, special moments of his three years at the Masters that took place nearly 20 years ago – too many to mention. Just the simple memory of helping Arnold Palmer look for his ball in the bushes is one Trenchard cherishes.

He smiles as he reminisces of a moment with the late Payne Stewart. Trenchard recalls almost having to put him on the clock for slow play while Stewart took a bathroom break. As Trenchard anxiously awaited his return, Stewart snuck up next to Peter and said, “I heard there’s a good game going on today, can I play?”

A no-nonsense man himself, Trenchard admired the way Augusta ran their club by commenting, “If I were to have an army, I would have them run it.” He further explains that the club’s suggestion box clearly stated:  “Include two items, your suggestion and your letter of resignation. We will act on one.”

He recalls his first ride up stunning Magnolia Drive where an attendant directed him to park his car, reserved for officials. “Over there?” Trenchard questioned. “That’s a putting green.” The attendant replied, “No, that’s a parking lot.”

During the Masters, both Trenchard and his wife received badges that allowed them access to places where only members and players were allowed. “It was like I was royalty,” recalls Dianne.

They both recall a Friday when Peter was assigned to hole 18. Due to slow play and the onset of twilight, there were no golfers between holes 16 and 18, and the crowd had dispersed. Dianne met Peter on 18, took off her shoes, and together they walked down the fairways of the final two holes. “It was a magical moment,” recalls Dianne. “The sky was just beautiful and here we were all alone, walking down the fairways of Augusta.”

Says Trenchard of the stunning grounds and unsurpassed charm of Augusta, “If there is a heaven, I’m sure that’s what it looks like.”

Trenchard was an active rules official during the years of 1990, 1991 and 1992 at both the Masters and U.S. Open.

The Masters

Year    Champion       Course

1990    Nick Faldo       Augusta National (GA)

1991    Ian Woosnam    Augusta National (GA)

1992     Fred Couples    Augusta National (GA)

U.S. Open

1990    Hale Irwin       Medinah (IL)

1991    Payne Stewart    Hazeltine National (MN)

1992    Tom Kite       Pebble Beach (CA)