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The Mystery Behind Magnolia Lane

The Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf club is one of the most special weeks in all of sports, and even pro golfers want to make the most of it
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Matthew McConaughey, March/April 2011

(continued from page 2)

There is a party atmosphere at one of the houses rented by Mike Weir, the Canadian who won the Masters in 2003. There is an abundance of wine (his own label) and beer, thanks to his sponsor Molson. The Masters has turned into a large production for Weir, who gets major help from his brother Jim, longtime teaching pro and friend Steve Bennett (known as “The Guv”), and IMG, the huge player agent group that takes care of renting dozens of houses in Augusta annually for its clients.

“It’s a real gathering of family and friends,” says Weir. “My brothers come, my parents sometimes, a lot of friends I grew up with come. We have 15–20 people there each year. I try to invite a couple of friends who have never been before to give them that experience.

“We rent the same house every year, but I don’t stay there. I rent another house close by or stay in a hotel. I’ll go to the big house after the day’s over at the club, have dinner and hang out with friends, then go back to my place and chill out, get a good night’s sleep.”

His brother Jim is the chief organizer, particularly when it comes to tickets. “We get eight tickets as players and get a few more for the practice rounds,” says Weir. “We often scramble to get tickets from maybe the international players who might not have family and friends coming. It means that sometimes they have to be shared and not everybody can go every day, so they just go play golf.  My brother helps keep everything organized.”

Bennett, “The Guv,” is the chef de cuisine for the week. Bennett was the club pro at Huron Oaks in Brights Grove, Ontario, where Weir learned the game. He’s still a teaching pro in Canada, but for one week out of the year in Augusta, Georgia, he’s Emeril Lagasse.

“I’m invited every year and they can’t get rid of me,” says Bennett.

“We feed 15–20 people every night and have a breakfast every morning. Monday night is the traditional Guv Burgers night. I put lots of good things in them: Worcestershire, garlic and stuff. Tuesday night is pasta night, but Mike can’t be there because of the Champions Dinner so I will double up on what I make so that we can have more of it again. Wednesday and Thursday are new menu item nights. I start watching the cooking channels in March for ideas.”

Bennett is one of those people in Weir’s life who he has rewarded with the Masters experience. Bennett has seen the grateful look, the sense of awe in the faces of many people who Weir has invited.

“He invited a guy from Australia who took him into his house when Mike was playing the Australasian Tour,” says Bennett. “He invited his high school buddies last year who were bag room boys at Huron Oaks when Mike was playing there. They were 12 or 13 at the time, then 25 years later, Mike invites them to the Masters. They could have never come on their own. That’s what Mike does.”

Bennett got his own special reward at the 2004 Masters. “I played with Jack Nicklaus at Huron Oaks in 1981,” says Bennett. “When Mike asked me to caddy for him in the Par 3 tournament the year after he won the Masters, he arranged for Jack to play with us. That’s the way Mike is. With such a big tournament going on, he still wants to take care of his friends.”

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