It’s June, the PGA TOUR is back in action next week and in celebration of another step toward normalcy, I am reminded of a story. Please join me for another photographer’s tale:
In 2008, a reasonably successful but unheralded golfer from South Africa named Trevor Immelman won The Masters, which is not only a major championship but reigns as the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. It would be Immelman’s only career victory in a major, though he had two victories on the PGA TOUR and four on the European circuit.
Immelman was a respected talent. He had won the 2006 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year and played for the International squad in Presidents Cup teams. So for about five years, Immelman was on a nice run, at one point ranking No. 12 in the world.
He’s also charming and handsome and, did I mention he won The Masters? That’s golf immortality, immediate and forever. Everything else is gravy.
Golf Magazine hired me that year to photograph Immelman for a cover and feature article and I was dispatched to Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando. The plan was to shoot several options for the magazine.
I set up a very large white, seamless background to shoot his swing sequences and started scouting around the clubhouse for places to do some environmental portraits. The main theme was to photograph him in black-and-white, looking like an old school golfer.
We styled the shoot by acquiring some wardrobe from a vintage golf apparel dealer. In terms of the look we wanted, we were thinking Ben Hogan. Trevor arrived alone, driving up to the clubhouse in his golf cart, totally at ease and easy to work with. He brought a garment bag with some of his own clothes that we were going to use on the white background and in a shot on the porch of the clubhouse.
When he unzipped the bag the first thing I noticed was another garment bag inside of it – a green one with gold stitching on the front that read ‘The Masters.’ Well, I knew what that was. I immediately thought to myself, ‘If he wants to be photographed in that, then I’m definitely getting a picture wearing it myself before the shoot is done.’
Sure enough, the first thing he said was, “Hey Marc, do you think you could do me a favor and get a picture of me wearing my Masters jacket?”
I was really excited. Number one, to get a chance to shoot a portrait of a Masters winner wearing his green jacket; and second, knowing that one of my pictures would hang in the hallowed halls of the Augusta National clubhouse.
As we were shooting the portrait Immelman told us a story of how he had to receive special permission to have his green jacket overnighted to him a day earlier so he could get the portrait, but he had to agree to ship it straight back. I did not know this at the time, but Masters champions are required to keep their green jackets in their permanent lockers at Augusta National. (Only one golfer is known to have taken home his green jacket and refuse to leave it at Augusta – Gary Player – but he also has two of them and the second one is at Augusta.)
After the shoot, I went for it. “Hey dude, any chance I could get a picture wearing your green jacket? It would make the perfect photo for my Christmas card this year?”
Trevor looked at me, smiled and said yes. My assistant and I proceeded to take photos of each other wearing the world’s most famous green jacket.
I remember peaking inside the jacket to see if there was a designers tag saying who made it and where. There was. All it said was, “Made by The Masters.”
Afterward, I made a joke to Trevor that I was probably the worst golfer to ever wear the green jacket.
He smiled and said, “Probably not. My wife put it on last night.”