Auburn hospitality students hone skills working at Augusta National for Masters

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Kayla Mosley joked that her legs "sort of went numb on the fifth day." And technically, the 2018 Masters hadn't even started yet.

For eight days, when the Auburn University senior wasn't carrying cocktails up and down the grand staircase at the new Media Center at Augusta National Golf Club, she was ferrying crab cakes back and forth between the Bartlett Lounge and the dining terrace.

On Sunday, her last day, Mosley got up at 3:30 a.m., got dressed, caught the shuttle from the hotel just over the South Carolina state line, and was helping set up breakfast by 5 a.m. She knocked off with two hours left before Monday. They got breaks, though. During one of her last, she went down to catch the Champions interview with Masters Winner Patrick Reed.

"It was pretty awesome, I'm not going to lie," she said. "How many people get to say they saw it there in the room?"

Mosley is one of 21 hospitality management students in Auburn's College of Human Sciences who from March 29-April 8, sunup to sundown, joined Augusta National's professional staff as hosts and servers for the 2018 Masters tournament. Mosley was the only Auburn student assigned to serve the media. The rest were tasked with keeping golf-giddy VIPs from across the globe happy and hydrated throughout the posh restaurants and luxury lounges of Berckmans Place, arguably one of the most exclusive hospitality facilities in the world.

"It [the Masters Work Experience] is not part of an official class or anything," said David Martin, an associate professor in Auburn's Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management. "It's just a chance for them to get out and practice what they preach."

"Our students are required to graduate with a minimum of 1,000 hours work experience."

In two years, Mosley has easily logged 250 hours at the Masters alone.

"I would highly recommend it [to future students]," she said. "But it's hard work."

However, it is work that students in Auburn's top tier hospitality program are growing more equipped at handling every year.

In 2016, the first year the school partnered with the Masters, seven Auburn students participated. In 2017, the number stayed the same. But this year, three times that many applied, and three times that many were accepted. Applying wasn't as simple as creating a login and password. The Masters sent a recruiter. They conducted interviews. The standards, Martin said, are incredibly high.

So are the opportunities for advancement.

"We talk to these kids all the time about placement after graduation," said Department Head Martin O'Neill. "When they're 18, they don't know what that means. But by the end, they're in a situation where these kids are sought after by multiple employers before they graduate thanks to experiences like the Masters."

In senior Alex Conlon's case, it was while he was at the Masters.

Conlon has participated in the program every year, serving celebrities from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Midway through the week, probably sometime between making sure table 12 at the Pavilion had enough signature pimento cheese sandwiches and spotting actor Anthony Anderson across the room, Conlon's phone rang with the news that he'd been tapped to join Marriott's exclusive 12-month leadership development program, which he'll start in Vail, Colorado this summer.

The only problem was that, in accordance with Augusta National's rules, his phone was back in his car.

"Yeah, I was back and forth playing phone tag with the [Marriott] recruiter," he said. "I told her I was going to the Masters and wouldn't have my phone on me most of the day."

Of course, the fact that he was at the Masters was one of the reasons he thinks he got the job.

"The Masters is something that's recognized everywhere," Conlon said. "When I would apply for jobs, the person interviewing me always wanted to know ‘what's the Masters like?'"

Mosley, who wants to pursue a career specifically in sports management, said she's experienced the same thing. She credits working the Masters with the internship she recently landed with the management company that handles hospitality for the New York Yankees. She'll start that in June.

But first, she had to make the dark, 4-hour drive home back to Auburn. It wasn't going to be easy.

"I still can't really feel my legs," she said.

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