AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jim Herman finally had the feeling as if fate had picked him out, called him up and said, “You’re hired.” A 38-year-old journeyman, who once gave lessons and sold shirts in a pro shop owned by a prominent candidate for U.S. President, earned his way into the Masters on Sunday.
“I was planning on watching,” Herman said Monday at Augusta National, which became a last-second surprise stop on his schedule after he won the Shell Houston Open. “I really enjoy watching the Masters. I’ve been a fan of golf my whole life, dreaming of playing here. And now it has happened.”
Herman outlasted challenges from bigger names on Sunday in winning the final pre-Masters PGA Tour event, which carries an invitation to Augusta. A whole lot of thoughts crossed through his mind and bubbled up into tears. “That was, I guess, nine years of traveling, playing professional golf on the Web.com and PGA Tours. It just all came out there at the end,” he said after an early Monday flight to Atlanta and a drive across Georgia.
Among the moments that hit home was one in 2006, soon after he had taken a job as assistant pro at Trump Bedminster in New Jersey. He played a round with the proprietor, Donald Trump, who was impressed with Herman’s game and asked him why he was folding shirts instead of playing against the big stars. Trump encouraged him to give the tour another try.
“I don’t know what it is. When I play with him I usually play pretty well,” Herman said. Trump reportedly halted his preparation for a campaign appearance in Wisconsin Sunday night to watch the end of the tournament. The GOP frontrunner told USA Today, “He’s such a good guy and he deserves it. He’s what America is all about.”
The first-time Masters participant will be forever grateful to his former boss, but not only to him. Herman spoke of ultimately — after nearly 90 minutes of interviews and autographs — calling his wife Sunday night.
“She was crying and, you know, ecstatic,” he said. “She couldn’t believe she was going to be coming up today an join me here at Augusta National. She was with me before I was struggling on the mini-tours and I was a club professional. The PGA Tour seemed pretty far away at that time and she was right there by my side.”
He did have a solid, unusual tuneup a week ago Saturday. Herman played a match at Trump International West Palm Beach as partner of you-know-who. Trump had teamed with PGA Tour Champions player Dana Quigley in a match the previous day but when he and Quigley reached the first tee on Saturday, he said, according to Herman, “Well, OK, I’ll take Jim.” Quigley was miffed until he saw Herman shooting 64 and said, “I see why you dumped me, Mr. Trump.”
Herman has a history-teaching buddy who supplies the pro’s ball marker for every tournament—a medallion with a different President’s likeness each time. He figures this week it will be Dwight Eisenhower, a former Augusta member. But might there be a more familiar POTUS coin in his pocket one day? Herman said of Trump, “He’s doing great in what he’s doing now and we’ll see how far that goes.”
Olympian perks. The heads of organizations that conduct major championships held a news conference, announcing that the winners of the men’s and women’s golf gold medals at the 2016 Olympics will be given exemptions to all of their respective majors the following season. Masters chairman Billy Payne, who ran the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, said: “I have personally experienced the magnificence of the Olympic Games and I thank the International Olympic Committee for including golf in its program.”
The 20 first-time Masters participants in 2016:
* Denotes amateur