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Peter Braun: Interning in Ireland & New Zealand

TPC Sawgrass Players Championship Volunteer

Posted in Excursions 11 May 2015 · 3,750 views

Being called the 5th major tournament is one thing, but to play and look like one is much harder. TPC Sawgrass Stadium course was very well conditioned making for a fantastic finish. from eventual winner Ricky Fowler. The volunteer program at TPC Sawgrass is only 5 years old, but is so well run that Superintendents come from all over the world to be part of the amazing agronomy team for the tournament.

For the tournament over 70 volunteers came to help from places as close as Georgia and South Carolina to places further away such as the UK and Ireland, Argentina, Canada, and even South Africa. That is a testament to the quality of the program put on by TPC Sawgrass Agronomy. Everything was very well organized. The volunteers stayed at a nearby college and had shuttles running back and forth.

The days started and finished in darkness, but no one seemed to care. Everyone arrived to the volunteer tent by 4:30AM to have a team meeting at 4:45AM. By 5:00AM everyone was out the door and one their way to making the course look its best. The crew was split into four groups: Front 9, Back 9, Practice Facility, and Landscape. I was on the Back 9 team raking bunkers in the morning and rotary mowing green surrounds at night. PM jobs were started based upon play so any where from 5PM to 6PM.

Being a PGA tournament and one of the best agronomically on tour everything is done with attention to detail. Being on bunkers I did not know how much went in to raking a perfect bunker. Using a double leaf rake the bunker has to have no blemishes, so no clumps, ripples, or curved lines. To walk a straight line is much harder than you would think but we all picked it up pretty fast. If the angle of the rake is off or the line curves then the bunker needs to be done over so we watched for any problems and fixed them before the bunker was finished.

A quick over view of went on each day for maintenance. Greens were double cut in the morning and back track mowed at night. Two pairs of mowers went out on each 9 so the greens could be cut in time. Greens were then rolled, sometimes double rolled or just a single roll. A few afternoons two rollers went out before greens mowers as well as after. Fairways were cut morning and night by four guys on each 9. Approaches were single mowed in both the morning and night by two guys on each 9. Tees were cut once in the morning by two guys on each 9. Everything but greens were burnt in. So 18 people were used to cut and roll the course in each day. The practice facility did the same but with less people. On bunkers and rotary mow usually there were 8-10 guys working. Various other jobs were done like watering, cup cutting, moisture meter, and stimp meter.

From Monday to Sunday the middle of the day was free to do what every you wanted. Some guys went back to sleep, while others stayed and watched golf. Just before dinner there were some talks from leaders in the industry. One talk was on calibration, one on turf apps, and another on chemicals/diseases. While there was some pressure to get everything perfect we did have time for fun. This made the event much more enjoyable. Check out this dance video put together by Turf Republic and fellow crew member Cole.

Turf Republic was brought in to capture the work that goes into the tournament on film. Bill Brown and Sam Bauer did a fantastic job. The videos in this blog were created by them. I thank them for doing such a wonderful job to capture the best Players Championship ever. Check out Turf Republic website for more videos or their youtube page. Coverage of the tournament and for a great turf blog (one of my favorites) go to TPC Sawgrass Agronomy's blog.

Ian Poulter (yellow) Thanks the Agronomy Team

2 Guys from South Africa

The volunteer program at TPC Sawgrass is world renown. By working my third tournament of the year I had a little clue of what to expect but the agronomy team surpassed my expectations. I really enjoyed meeting new friend from all over the world, talking turf with everyone, and just having fun. Even though I was a volunteer I did work so some may say it was not really a holiday, but for turf people this is the pinnacle of maintenance. For a comparison I think for volunteering at TPC Sawgrass like the week at a county fair for farm people. Hours are long if not longer than normal, but it is so fun to do that people keep coming back. I was really surprised to see Sean Charles, one of my classmates from SUNY Cobleskill, volunteering. That was a nice surprise.

Another really fun part to volunteering is playing the famous 17th hole on Monday morning. I put two balls in the water, but was glad to see some guys actually hit the green and get very close to the Sunday pin.

I want to thank all of the TPC Sawgrass agronomy team for putting on a great performance to bring the best conditioned golf course to the best players in the world. Without course Superintendent Clay Breazeale or Agronomy Director Tom Vlach having a vision for the best volunteer program five years ago this could not be possible. All the staff at TPC was kind and welcoming. I had only the best interactions and everyone was professional. This was a great finish to a year long global journey in turf. I could not have asked for a better finish. From the volunteer program to the playoff on Sunday I was in turf heaven.

This will conclude my blog for TurfNet. Later this week I head to Chaska, Minnesota to work at Hazeltine National Golf Club. I appreciate everything that TurfNet and Jon Kiger did for me to help get me to where I am today as well as Mike O'Keeffe and The Ohio Program. I encourage everyone to come back and follow two new student bloggers this summer on TurfNet.

Hobbiton: Magic in The Shire

Posted in Excursions 07 April 2015 · 3,019 views

New Zealand is home to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogy movies. Peter Jackson sought out the best place for the movies and decided on New Zealand. He really enjoyed the Alexander sheep farm where he had a vision for The Shire, home of the hobbits, to be built and filmed. What a place it is! The tour took me around the Shire explaining parts of the filming, locating, and tour process. Below is some of the history and information I was told.

Located in Matamata, Hobbiton as it is now referred to, the Shire was built. For the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and The Hobbit trilogy movies the Shire has a small role and is used little. Since LOTR was filmed first the set was made up mostly of cheap material. As I was told on the tour today, after filming the scenes the crew started to take it down. However the rain came forcing them out. They would try to be back during the dry season, many months later. During that time the family was having some questions about seeing the hobbit holes. So they decided to try to get the contract with the filming company to allow for some tours. This worked, but the holes were only temporary.

With the success of LOTR, Peter Jackson decided to make the Hobbit into three parts. With this new filming the Alexander family had some stipulations, the set must be remade to be permeant. Jackson agreed and Hobbiton is 100% true to the films.

The set is located within the sheep farm and the Alexander family does not want anything changed so the drive in on the tour bus is through roads with sheep wandering around. Even the gates are still just metal and chains. Not even an automatic gate at the entrance. The vegetable patches are kept up by gardeners and the place is fully irrigated. This would be a cool place to work.

As you will see in the pictures a problem with the hobbit holes being so small is that people are much taller than them. To keep the image of small, but normal proportion, actors of heights 5'2" or smaller were cast. Only Frodo, Elijah Woods, was taller at 5'4". Perspective was a huge part of the movies to make someone like Gandalf look much taller than the hobbits. We got to see a little of that today.

The hobbit holes are really cool, but most have not insides and the ones that do have only a few feet inside. Still cool to walk into a hobbit hole. The same goes for the windows and the chimneys. There were a lot of people at Hobbiton today, but it was still a magical place.

A really interesting fact I learned today is that the tree above Bilbo Baggins house is fake. In the LOTR films a tree was brought in piece by piece and had all of the leaves removed. Then 200,000 fake oak leaves were brought in and tied on to make the tree look real. At the completion of LOTR the tree was removed and destroyed. So for the Hobbit a new tree was erected. This one completely fake, but very sturdy. As the Hobbit takes place some 60 years before LOTR the tree was made smaller and more juvenile looking. Again 250,000 leaves were brought into make the tree look real. This time the Peter Jackson got sick just before shooting so it was postponed eight months. When they got back with two weeks till filming it was noticed that the leaves had faded, so workers had to paint each leaf individually to get the proper look. The things done to get a perfect piece of art.

The final stop was the Green Dragon Inn. The local pub for the Hobbits and our final event. In one scene in LOTR Frodo see the Shire being burnt down. The Green Dragon Inn actually was burnt down. So for the Hobbit movies an new one was created with it being a fully functional pub. Here everyone on the tour gets a free drink of their choice. I got ginger beer, kinda like a root beer or birch beer, but really good. I thought it was amazing. Another cool fact is that the Green Dragon Inn "sells" the most beer out of any place in New Zealand.

I just loved this place. Watching the movies and then starting the books made me want to see what this place looked like. When I first got to the Shire I thought, "this is a place I could actually see people living." I half expected to see someone come out of a hole. Maybe in the future they should carve out few more holes that are complete for living and allow nightly stays in a hobbit hole. That would be cool.

This was a great way to end the trip to Auckland. Just a day and morning till I get on a plane bound for the States. For the day I drove 343.3km (213.3 miles) making my full trip 3273km (2033.7 miles). What a trip this was. Hopefully I get to go it again.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave, Ruakuri Cave, Another Kiwi House

Posted in Excursions 05 April 2015 · 1,707 views

The second part of the trilogy package was at Waitomo. Here there are caves and many of them. In these caves and in the area are glowworms. Worms that give off a glow in the dark kinda like a firefly, but with no movement. Neat to see and can be found in the wild on sides of rocks and near rivers. You can save a few dollars and go looking for them.

At the Waitomo Glowworm cave I got to see what the cave looked like as I walked around it with the guided tour. I was fortunate to have a host who is a descendant of the original Maori finder, Tane Tinorau. I have been in a cave before at Howes Cavern in Cobleskill, NY so the formations were not new to me. The glowworms were. This cave has more than just the walking tour with a boat ride finish. At certain times of the year you can hear music in the cathedral room. Famous singers such as Glen Campbell have sang down there and the local children do Christmas songs every year. Unfortunately no photography is allowed in the cave.

The next stop was the Ruakuri cave just down from the Waitomo cave. Operated by the Black Water Rafting Company this is another cave walk with glowworms, but in this one I could take pictures. Also in the cave is the ability to do black water rafting, cave climbing and much more. More on the glowworms now. Glowworms are worms that are attached to the rock glowing from their waste material. The worms hang with sticky threads hanging down to catch any insects to eat. Then when ready undergo a metamorphosis to become a fly. These do not eat and cannot eat as they have not mouths. At this point in time their objective is reproduction. Within three days the fly will die from starvation. Hopefully her eggs, laid in clusters of 20 or 30, will survive. Why clusters of 20 or 30? The first to hatch eat the other so that provides some food to get them started.

Spiral entrance to the cave

A rock in middle at bottom of entrance that has had water pouring on it for 10 years. Showing the effect of water on rock over time.


Glowworms. Hard to get good picture.

Glowworm threads

After I decided to go to another animal preserve and Kiwi House. This was nice and I got to see the animals up close. A main attraction for the preserve is the bird dome where you get to walk amongst the native birds and they are protected from predators. I saw another Kiwi, a few Tuatara, some Kea and Kaka. Most of the animals here are endangered or becoming endangered. A nice place to see some animals that are not in America and not your typical zoo animals.


Dome over the birds

The Redwoods and Te Puia & Te Pō

Posted in Excursions 05 April 2015 · 3,767 views

Rotorua and the area is named the Bay of Plenty as it has many resources such as timber, water, and geothermal heat. Due to Earth's crust being much closer to molten magma at only 6km down and having water at 4km down lots of steam builds up. This creates pressure that needs to be released so a geyser was formed. This has brought up lots of sulphur and the area has a distinct smell like rotten eggs where the steam is released.

The Redwood forest has a few hikes ranging from a half hour to a full day as well as mountain biking and horse trails. I have only seen a few Redwood species and saw Giant Redwoods in Ireland and these ones were just as spectacular. I love how the trees are so tall, but there is very little undergrowth. One reason they can grow so tall, no competition. I did two hikes the short one and a Quarry track. A nice view of an old Quarry.

The highlight of the day was the Te Puia geothermal valley and the Te P? indigenous M?oriexperience. Te Puia has a three geysers and many hot water and mud pools. One thing I would have done was get to the site earlier. Since I had booked this as part of a package deal I thought the guided tour would take me all over the park. It did not, but I did get to see the main attractions and hear about the culture and area from a real M?ori. The pools can be 30C to 100C. So swimmable to boiling hot. Very cool to see the geysers going off during the day and at night after the cultural experience.

Hot Mud Pool

Wood carver in the 3 year carving school

Te P? is a M?ori experience where we got a full on tribal greeting as would happen back in the day. Then a great show with music, dance, weapons, and the Hakka. The Hakka has become world known from the NZ All Blacks rugby team and I'll post a video below. Great to see this first hand and that the M?ori allow us a little look into their lives. After the show we got a fantastic meal that was prepared in an underground oven using the thermal heat to cook the food. It was tasty. As I stated before after we went back to the geyser and saw it erupt under the night sky. Lots of cloudy steam though. A fantastic experience. I did not do that much travel so I won't post the distances. As part of the Middle Earth Trilogy package I am going to the Waitomo glow worm caves tomorrow.

Dinner coming from the ground

Hakka dancing

Night time geyser blowing

Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Posted in Excursions 04 April 2015 · 1,802 views

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a very popular 19km day walk in New Zealand as the scenery is amazing and many scenes and locations in Lord of the Rings were filmed here. However this is not the easiest and can be dangerous. As I found out today the crossing can be extremely windy at higher elevations making it cold as well. This hike can be done from either end to the other, but transport is needed in between. I was lucky to stay at a lodge with a shuttle so I got first class service to and from the hike. The hike can take between 7-9 hours for the average person, but somehow I did it in 5:45.

The morning part was very cloudy and misty. I could not even see much of the surrounding mountains and as I was crossing from Soda Springs to the South Crater and the Red Crater I could not see much. It felt very desolate and seemed like something the moon may be like. The climb to the Red Crater was so windy I was afraid if I fell I would not stay on the trail. At one point you have to use a chain attached to the side of the hill to climb up and keep you footing. The shuttle driver said that less than an hour after I crossed a gust of almost 100km was recorded on top.

Soda Springs

The views were much better as I descended to the Emerald Lakes. This area is an active volcano and volcanic area so there was only volcanic matter and the climb was very loose so at times everyone was sliding. Once I got to the Emerald Lakes in a few minutes the clouds lifted a bit and a short while later the sun came out. The Emerald Lakes are blue/green and have the rotten egg smell from sulphur. Their color is from minerals being leached out from the mountain side.

Emerald Lake

The final part is a walk through the Volcanic active zone. So there are many warning lights to let you know if it is safe. The volcano has not been very active but erupted in only 2012. So precaution has to be taken. That eruption even sent rocks and boulders over 2km away and actually crushed rooms in a hut for sleeping. No one was in it that time and not the hut is closed for camping.

The Volcano is still active

Damage from the 2012 eruption

Glad no one was in there

This was an incredible walk that could have been better if the clouds were not there in the morning. Still to be walking on a volcanic site is pretty incredible. New Zealand is amazing, in three days I have seen a glacier, rain forests, and a volcano.

A short drive from the National Park Village to Rotorua that took only 218.8km (135.9 miles) so now I have 2708.3km (1682.8 miles) on my journey. Due to my procrastination and not sure of where the trip would take me each night as well as this being Easter weekend I am staying in a holiday park where I get to sleep in the car. Oh well the facilities are really nice and it is cheap.

Cook Straight Ferry

Posted in Excursions 03 April 2015 · 1,496 views

Lots of driving, a ferry ride and a walk around. I did not have anything planned today, but to take the Cook Straight Ferry from Picton to Wellington. After walking around the beautiful harbor town of Picton I got on the ferry for my 1:15 ride. The ferry ride was just over 3 hours and the ferry was very cool. From wireless internet for purchase, to food courts, and even a movie theater the ferry ride has everything for anyone. In some areas there were tv's setup that could be watched. The ride was smooth and the views amazing. I have left the South Island and am on the North Island. The hardest part today was knowing that after my ferry landed in Wellington, the capitol of NZ, I would have to drive almost 4 hours north to the National Park Village for my lodging tonight. As I was coming in the road was very windy meaning that a 100km road was now about 75/80 max and around some turns 30km. That took a little longer than planned. For the day I drove 469km (291.4miles) bring the total to 2489.5km (1546.9miles).

A similar ferry I took.

Loading the ferry

Goodbye South Island!

Oh hello North Island. Good to see ya!

Pancake Rocks, National Kiwi Centre, Seal Colony

Posted in Excursions 02 April 2015 · 3,491 views

Today I headed to the National Kiwi Centre, the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, and a Seal colony. Not a bad day for it and an easy drive up the coast. Tonight I have stopped in Nelson and am spending the night at a backpackers.

The National Kiwi Centre is more than just Kiwi's. There are fish, frogs, a lake for catching crayfish, and the second most popular attraction, eels. The eels are in a large tank where they can swim around, eat, and relax. All of the 40 eels are females. I got to see the feeding of them. These eels are quite receptive to it, but I would not trust myself with them in the wild. Since eels are blind any loud movement in the water is though to be prey and they will attack. The most popular attraction is the kiwi house. In there the kiwi's are in the dark because they are nocturnal creatures. Hard to see in there, but I managed to see one of the Kiwi's active. A little bigger than a chicken the kiwi does not fly, but runs around on the ground looking for food. Very cool indeed. No photography is allowed inside.

The grandma. Notice the curve in her back. That is from old age and not being in the wild to breed.

After I drove up the coast to the Pancake Rocks. Carved out over time by wind and water the rocks resemble stacks of pancakes. Under these are caves and openings that allow water to be blown up and out when the tide is right. The blows can be small or very large. I was lucky to see them at the tide and some of the blows were magnificent. There is even a hole where just air comes out very loud. Another attraction here is a cave just down the road. Not very big, but still cool. I only had my phone's light so I could not see the further back I went. I'm not sure if the cave kept going once it got quite low to the ground.

A Weka

After the Pancake Rocks I decided to find a Seal Colony I had seen posted. When I found it the walk to the seals was short and easy, but the weather had changed and rain was starting. Still the seals were awesome and enjoying the weather. They were lying on the rocks and in the water playing around.

Seals surround the water in the middle of the picture. Hard to see them as they blend in very well.

A few more pictures from Hokitika and the drive.

For the day I drove 394.3km (245miles) bringing my four day total to 2020.5km (1255.5miles). I head to the North Island tomorrow so come back to see more on the travel up New Zealand.

Heading up the West Coast

Posted in Excursions 01 April 2015 · 1,521 views

Heading out of Arrowtown I took the Crown Range to Wanaka and the West Coast. Before the crack of dawn I left the place I had called home for the past 6 months. I enjoyed my time and will have memories for a lifetime. Today I had planned to go to the Franz Joseph Glacier where you can see the terminal face and the the West Coast Treetop Walk.

At Franz Joseph Glacier, after a long four hour drive up the West Coast through Mount Aspiring National Park and Westland Tai Poutini National Park, I finally got a chance to stretch my legs. I took two hikes with views of the glacial riverbed and the glacier. Sentinel Rock Walk was very short and steep, but had great views of the glacial riverbed and a glimpse of Franz Joseph. The longer walk, Franz Joseph Glacier Walk, took me through the riverbed to the terminal face. Today the only was to safely access the glacier is by Helicopter. The end of the walk is some distance from the glacier but I could see how impressive it is.

Sentinel Rock Walk

Franz Joseph Glacier Walk

After the glacier I traveled up to the West Coast Treetop Walk. A 1.2km walk on an elevated platform 20m (65ft) in the air gives an up close view of the tops of the trees and vegetation. Many plant interactions take place higher up than we can see normally, but with this we can see what is going on. The highlight is the tower which stands 40m (131ft) up with views of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea.

This evening I am staying in the beach town of Hokitika. A little town with lots to do. I plan on going to the National Kiwi Centre tomorrow for viewings of the Kiwi's, Tuatara, and Eel's. I got to go to the beach tonight and as I got there I remembered the stick art spelling out Hokitika. A cool beach with lots of other stick art made from the washed up branches.

For the day I put in 503.1km (312.6miles) bringing my three day total to 1626.2km (1010.5miles). Come back tomorrow for another fun filled day.

Mount Cook

Posted in Excursions 31 March 2015 · 1,520 views

Standing at 3,754m (12,316ft) Mt. Cook is New Zealand's tallest mountain. At that height the mountain is in snow all year round making for great views and pictures any time of the year. That is if the weather holds up. I have been told that Mt. Cook can be hard to see at times. One guy told me, "you could come up here 6 times and never see her." Well I guess I was lucky because I could see Mt. Cook all day and around 1:30pm the clouds behind left giving an even more spectacular view of the peak.

After stopping into the visitors center, which is amazing, I took two trails: Hooker Valley and Kea Point.

Hooker Valley is an easy hike winding over the Hooker River taking about 3 hours round trip. The end of the trail is the glacier lake. Here actual small glacier pieces can be see in the water all around. Mount Cook stands proud behind the lake with the Mueller Glacier on the left. Kea Point was a short hour hike to the Mueller Glacier moraine wall. The wall is debris left from the retreating glacier. Great views wherever you are on either trail.

Hooker Valley

The first woman to ever climb Aoraki/Mt. Cook was Freda du Faur. Her well know picture after the climb shows her standing in front of this rock.

A memorial to those who died in the park.

One of the suspension bridges that is crossed over the river.

Mt. Cook at last!

Glacier Lake

Mt. Cook in her glory!

Kea Point

A few pictures from Cromwell and the drive to Mt. Cook

For the day I traveled a total of 530km (329miles) bringing my two day total to 1123.1km (697.8miles). Tomorrow I leave Arrowtown for good. Check back each day for the next adventure.

Next Stop Antarctica

Posted in Excursions 30 March 2015 · 1,498 views

New Zealand is one of the furthest countries south. So at the bottom edge there is nothing but water till you reach Antarctica. Stewart Island is part of New Zealand and further, but for main land New Zealand this is the furthest you can go before crossing water. So there have been a few sign posts made that show how far to the South Pole, the Equator, and a few cities.

Slope Point is the actual furthest point south for New Zealand, even though Stirling Point gets more attention. Both were fantastic. Stirling Point was easier to get to with easier roads to travel on. Slope Point is accessed by dirt roads and a farmers field. I grew up on a dirt road and I know after the amount of rain we have been having the roads would be in rough shape and they were. Pot holes all over, a logging company made lots of mud, and the road reminded me of narrow Irish roads. Really cool to look out and know that there is nothing till the snow and cold of Antarctica.

New York only 15,008km (9325.5 miles) away

Well Antarctica is closer. Bye!

Love to see the word of the Lord being preached because "...with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26

Links guys: this should look familiar

Weird to think that out there is the bottom of Earth.

Having decided to travel to the signs I looked into more things to do in Southland. Not much, but I remembered that the movie The World's Fastest Indianwas based upon New Zealander Burt Munro. I looked up where he was from and low and behold Invercargill. A little more searching and I found that Southland Museum and Art Gallery had an exhibit on his accomplishments. I was impressed at what they had there. The motorcycle was on site as well as the shell. You are even allowed to get into the shell. Too bad I did not have anyone to take a picture.

After seeing the exhibit I was surprised at what else was in the museum and the area. There is a Tuatara habitat (tuatara are lizards with ancient beginnings). Lots of old Maori artifacts, ships and crews, a Victoriana exhibit, and a large park called Queens Park. I was really shocked at the sight of Queens Park. This park spans almost 80 hectares (197 acres) loaded with Subantarctic and rose gardens, animals, sculptures, and even a golf course. I could have spent more time here and would have if I had know about the park. Overall a really great place to go to. The road may be boring at times since Southland is flat with lots of farming, little people, and run down buildings, but the 591km (367mile) trip was worth it.


Maori tools

Whale Bone

Boat with real rocking and swaying

Queens Park entrance

Stop back each day for a new adventure as I drive up the West Coast to Auckland.

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