Saransk Augusta National has two head professionals, Tony Sessa and J.J. Weaver. They started as assistants under the club’s previous co-professionals, Bob Kletcke and David Spencer, and they moved up when Kletcke and Spencer retired. But how did Augusta National end up with two head professionals in the first place?
The club’s original pro was Ed Dudley, who was Bobby Jones’s first choice for the job. (His second and third choices were Macdonald Smith and Willie MacFarlane.) Jones explained his criteria to Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, before the two of them approached Dudley: “First of all I want a gentleman. Next, I feel we should select a pro who likes to teach. And, finally, I believe we want someone who is a good player.”
A fourth requirement was that the new pro be willing to work without a salary, since there was no money to pay him. Dudley at first had to get by on what he could earn from lessons and his minimally stocked golf shop—a tough proposition, considering how few golfers played the course in the early years.
Beginning in 1934, he supplemented his income with earnings from his souvenir tent at the Masters and from the tournament itself, which he played in fourteen times. He finished in the top ten seven times during the first eight tournaments, and he came close to winning in 1937, when he finished third, behind Byron Nelson and Ralph Guldahl.
Dudley retired from Augusta National in 1957 and was succeeded by his assistant, Gene Stout, who had also been his assistant at the Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs, where the two men worked during the summers, when Augusta National was closed.
Stout was replaced in August, 1966, by his assistant, Robert Kletcke.
And that same year Kletcke hired David Spencer to serve as his own assistant.
In the spring of 1967, at the end of Kletcke’s first season as the club’s head pro, he and Spencer were called to a meeting with Roberts. They were both nervous, because they figured they must have done something to displease their boss. When they arrived, though, they found Roberts in a good mood, and he told them they had done a good job. He said, furthermore, that he and the other members were tired of getting to know and like the club’s assistant professionals, only to have them move on to other jobs after just a few years. He said that he would like for both Kletcke and Spencer to remain at the club, and that if they continued to do a good job they could stay for as long as they liked.
“But I don’t want Bob eating steak and Dave eating hamburger,” Roberts went on. He said that he had arrived at a solution, which was for the club to have two head professionals, or co-professionals. He had had the club’s general manager draw up a partnership agreement, and he said that if they would sign it the jobs would be theirs. He said he realized that such an arrangement could lead to tensions, and that he did not want the two men to think of themselves as rivals. As a result, he said, if a situation ever arose in which he felt compelled to fire one of them, he would fire them both.
Kletcke and Spencer were surprised by Roberts’ offer, and they asked if they could take the proposed agreement back to the golf shop to talk it over. On their way past the clubhouse, Spencer said, “Gee, Bob, I don’t know about this.” He had planned to stay at Augusta National for a few years, as was customary for assistants, then seek a head professional’s position at another club, probably in the Midwest.
“I don’t know either,” Kletcke said. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea.” Kletcke had been thinking he would like to try to play on tour. (He later did so briefly, with Roberts’ encouragement and with financial backing from several Augusta members.) Neither man was enthusiastic about sharing a job. They weren’t sure they would be compatible partners, and they weren’t excited by the thought that a misstep by either one of them, in Roberts’ eyes, could put both of them out of work. They talked about the proposal for some time, and came to the conclusion that it didn’t make sense for them. It had been considerate of Roberts to make the offer, but the arrangement was clearly unworkable. The only matter to be decided was which of them would tell Roberts.
“I’ve been here longer,” Kletcke said. “Why don’t you go back and tell him?”
“You know him better than I do,” Spencer said. “I think you ought to go.”
There was a long silence. Each man imagined knocking on Roberts’ door and explaining that neither of them liked his plan. They looked at the ground.
“Maybe we could both go.”
There was another long silence.
At last, Spencer held out his hand and said, “Well, how do you do, partner?” And the two men worked together, at adjacent desks, for the next four decades. If either of them had had the nerve to return to Roberts’ room after their meeting in 1967, both almost certainly would have left Augusta to do something else.