Augusta (United States) (AFP) – Working as assistant golf club professional for real estate tycoon Donald Trump a decade ago, Jim Herman’s dream of playing in the Masters seemed destined to go unfulfilled.
But thanks in part to an investment from Trump, now a US Presidential candidate who has remained a front-runner despite controversial comments, Herman started playing competitively and Sunday won his first PGA title at the Houston Open, earning with it the final berth in this week’s 80th Masters.
“You want to dream. You want to believe that you’re going to make it. But you just don’t know until it’s upon you,” Herman said.
“I feel like maybe I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be still on Saturday night going into the final round again and I haven’t done it yet. But I don’t think that’s happening. I think we’re here.”
Herman was working as a teaching pro at Trump’s layout in Bedminster, New Jersey, and he impressed the wealthy developer when they played a round together. Trump decided to finance Herman’s bid to start a career and after 106 PGA Tour starts, a 38-year-old American who was barely inside the world’s top 200 finds himself at Augusta National this week.
“I gave him money and told him to give it a shot,” Trump told USA Today. “He got a late start because he had no money and he had to teach. So I staked him. I told him if you make it you’ll pay me back. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. You can still work for me.
“He’s what America is all about. He never gave up, never gave up on his dream. I’m proud of him.”
Trump seeks the nomination of the Republican Party as its candidate for US President in November’s election and has won the majority of state primary contests conducted to select delegates to the party convention where a candidate will be named.
Herman displays Trump property logos on his shirt and golf bag.
“He helped me early on in my years financially and maybe just a little shot in the arm of confidence,” Herman said.
As for Trump’s political bid, Herman said, “He’s doing great in what he’s doing now and we’ll see how far that goes.”
Trump played alongside Herman triumphantly in a match last month in Florida, with former PGA player Dana Quigley an opponent after having been a Trump partner just the day before.
“It’s up to him. He’s usually the game maker,” Herman said of Trump. “We get to the tee, he’s, ‘Well, I think, OK, I’ll take Jim.’
“He’s like, ‘Donald, we won convincingly yesterday and you dump me.’ A couple holes later, he said, ‘Well, I see why you dumped me Mr. Trump.’”
– ‘Pretty amazing place’ –
Herman was a spectator at the 2008 Masters and played a round at Augusta National last November as the guest of a club member. But he knows those experiences will help little this week.
“It’s going to be a total 180 from anything I was able to experience on the outside or even in that one round,” Herman said. “It’s just going to be awesome. I can’t wait.
“I’ve been a fan of golf my whole life, dreaming of playing here. Now that it’s here and upon me, still trying to take it all in… It’s a pretty amazing place.”
Reigning British Open champion and 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson was impressed with Herman’s fairy-tale feat.
“It’s a beautiful example of perseverance and patience, stick-to-itiveness, just trusting in what you’re doing,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t given to him. He went out and got it. I think it’s just an awesome story.”
Herman uses US dollar coins with faces of different US Presidents as ball markers, with a history teacher pal picking the president used each week, Augusta National likely to spark the choice of former member Dwight Eisenhower.
“I’m expecting it to be Ike,” Herman said.
One day, it might be Trump.