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Nate McKinniss: Interning at Co. Louth/Baltray, 2016

"Not where you go, but who picks you up..."

Posted in Impressions 16 August 2016 · 2,509 views

"It's not where you go, but who picks you up." I remember Dr. Danneberger saying this about his traveling stories. Personally experiencing this on my own excursions and adventures this summer, I couldn't agree more.


My side trips have been to several spots in Ireland and one to Holland. With each adventure I met many new people, each adding to the experience.


All roads led to County Louth Golf Club at Baltray, my home for the summer.


Arriving first at the village of Baltray. It was this small seaside village that became my summer home. County Louth Golf Club will always be special thanks to all the employees and members of this club. Many from County Louth have assisted my summer excursions in more ways than one.


All who I have met there showcased the Irish hospitality. Knowing I was so far away from home, they wanted to make me feel as close to home as possible. With everything brought about for me, they succeeded.


The clubhouse/restaurant at County Louth Golf Club. My accommodations were above.


Outside of Baltray, I've met other passionate people in the golf industry. Most of these connections came from volunteering at the Irish Open. Had I not gotten to know the volunteers at the K Club, my trips to Portmarnock Links and The Dutch would not have been the same. The visits were fantastic. Each golf course was class, more importantly though the people that picked me up made it all the better.


I did not drive a car in Ireland. Public transportation was the key to traveling. It took a while to get used to, however transport was made easy thanks to Damien Keenan and the Matthews Bus Services. Damien had supplied passes that covered trips to Dublin and Dundalk. The Matthew bus was always on time, comfortable and convenient. 


The big Matthews white bus, right on time.


Dr. D was right; I have learned the best trips come about by who picks you up. My excursions this summer were made enjoyable from the Matthews Coach getting me to and from plus the people guiding me along the way. I wouldn't say Baltray is the number one place for everyone to visit in Ireland; however, for me, this summer, the people I spent this experience with made it the greatest place to be. 

Excursion: Side trip to The Dutch

Posted in Excursions 08 August 2016 · 1,927 views

Over the weekend I hopped on a flight to the Netherlands where I was introduced to The Dutch. Not only am I talking about the people but the reason for the trip was to visit a golf course called The Dutch.


Dutch GC flag.


Connections can take you anywhere, right? Back during the Irish Open I met Mossy Daly, an Irishman currently working at The Dutch. More than another contact, Mossy quickly became a friend. Surely I was grateful for the invitation to Holland to view the course he talked very highly of.


Instantly I saw for myself just how impressive The Dutch is. The course was constructed in 2010 and opened for play later in 2011. Although The Dutch is very young, it is hosting the KLM Open upcoming in September. What a feat, only 5 years old and the golf course hosts an Open!


Me on the green at The Dutch.


The Dutch is inland but a links-style course; located just outside of Gorinchem, a small city where Mossy lives. Constructed from scratch, its a wonderful turnout of land that was once completely flat. Although it is not within sight or sound of the sea, there is a links feel to it. But one thing is for certain, theres never a shortage of waterways in Holland.


Busy canal in the center of Gorinchem.


Now on to my experience. The day starts off with a bicycle ride to the course. There are many, many bicycles in the Netherlands! Within cycling range, its a great way to start and finish the work day.


Mossy riding to work


After introductions to some of the crew I tagged along with Mossy to help with a project of his. The King's Course is a putting track near the practice grounds. I was happy to assist with a sodding project to lengthen one of the holes.


Area needing to be sodded.


Sod laid down.


On a trip halfway around the world who knew I would meet fellow Buckeyes! Ill tell you who would expect this, because so many times Ive been asked this summer, "Do you know Mike O'Keeffe?" Yes, I do, he is a legend! Quite a few working on the Dutch's green crew had been part of Ohio's Global Turfgrass Program.


Paul O'Donoghue is now the Superintendent there. He had been at Ohio State in 2007. I was thrilled talking to Paul about Columbus and places we both knew. Quite honestly, it pumped me up for this school year too!


Mossy and Paul


Other Buckeyes there are David Howe, David Dukelow, and Andrew Cowie. There sure is one fine crew at the Dutch!


An important note is that The Dutch is not completely finished. The course will continue to be a fantastic sight while the gorse plants, marram grass and other links type plants grow in full. Even with the course in progress, it is in fantastic shape! I am excited to see how itll look down the road. And certainly I am grateful for the visit, and pleased to have been invited back.


Me wearing The Dutch polo.


Until next time, Holland. Cheers!


A week off to play tourist...

Posted in Excursions 04 August 2016 · 3,018 views

A week off work allowed me to put on my tourist shoes. My girlfriend, Jenna, and I spent the time traveling and checking off some Ireland must-dos.
Starting in Cork County, our first stop was at the Blarney Castle to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. While I believe I already have the gift of the gab, it was a great experience with a breathtaking view.
Blarney Castle
The Blarney Stone isn't exactly where one might expect it to be...
Kissing the Blarney Stone
The night was spent in Cork City where I was glad to introduce Jenna to Irish pubs. Specifically for a proper pint of Guinness and enjoying live Irish music.
Irish "session" music
The weekend in Cork was lovely. I felt I'd need a whole week and a car to enjoy all the sights and beauty this county holds.
Next stop: Dublin, where the number one tourist attraction can be found.
Jenna and me at the Guinness Storehouse.
Yes, the Guinness factory is constantly flowing with more than just beer. Visitors come to learn the brewing process of Ireland's iconic stout and treat themselves to a fine pint with a view of the whole city.
It is important to note a proper pint of Guinness is not poured like any other beer. A multi-step process is involved. The tour offered an opportunity to learn the signature pour.
Pouring the "Perfect Pint"
Best part is you get to drink your perfect pint!
Jenna and me with our pints of Guinness
Dublin is also home to Trinity College which holds the Book of Kells (ancient Bible gospels). We were unable to visit the historical library however a tour through the campus is still very much enjoyable.
Jenna and me at Trinity College Dublin.
Leaving Dublin Jenna and I travelled to Howth, a fisherman's village on the coast for a fresh seafood dinner.
The last couple days now will be spent exploring Drogheda and introducing Jenna to all the great people who have made Ireland feel like home.

Visit to Portmarnock Links and the Brennans

Posted in Excursions 18 July 2016 · 2,050 views

Pokémon Go has not been the drive for my summer adventures. Learning the links golf management is the fuel getting me out and about. No disrespect to any Pokémon trainers out there, I grew up wishing Pokémon were real and now look; however, this summer is geared to training in real golf links of Ireland.


This weekend I made a trip to Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links. I met course manager Fintan Brennan and his son, Mike (who is also Fintan's assistant/deputy) after volunteering at the Irish Open. Fintan has been greenkeeping on the golf links at Portmarnock since it was constructed in 1994.


Mike and Fintan Brennan


Behind the Brennans in the photo you can see Portmarnock Hotel. What some people don't know is that the land is on John Jameson's (of Jameson whiskey fame) old estate. Jameson's house still stands but now as part of the hotel and restaurant.


This lounge bar was once Jameson's living room!.


John Jameson and family are buried in the cemetery along the first fairway at Pormarnock Links.


Another remarkable fact is the greenkeepers operation center was once John Jameson's horse stables. Much has been restored but in some rooms you can see exactly what they would have looked like.


Some of the greenkeeper's sheds that were once horse stables.


Fintan and Mike gave me a tour throughout each golf hole. They were very well informative but I could tell they were even more motivated to besting the links past its potential. Fintan got the trust of the owners early on after successful projects and renovations. Being fine golfers themselves, both Fintan and Mike continue renovation on the links looking from a golfer's perspective too.


Like other Irish golf courses, management-wise they only have the help from only a handful of guys. The Irish Links Initiative states courses should apply 'minimal intervention' which I have learned first-hand. However the crew at Portmarnock is anything but minimal work; if there is a problem, they fix it.


Continuous walking through the same path will wear any turf down let alone fescue. But keeping up with todays technology can solve almost any problem. Fintan has turned to hybrid grass for his solution. A netting of artificial turf which fescue seed can be thrown into the mix.



Topdress the hybrid grass plus fescue seed and you will have a good-looking, wear-resistant walkway. The netting protects the crown of the plant and only if you look extra close below will you see the artificial turf.

Just as uncle Ben first taught me, No problems, only solutions.


(Pathway renovation photos courtesy of Mike Brennan)


Touring the course they pointed to many projects put in. A lot of hard work but it was easy to see the pride from the father/son combo. In only a couple hours they taught me much on maintaining a links course, keeping up on improvements with today's technology, and also the importance of having a good eye in golf design.


Great work to these men and their crew at Portmarnock Links! I will be sure to take them up on their offer to play a round, definitely though after a week or two on the driving range.


Me in a pot bunker.


Portmarnocks crest reads "LUX, AMOR, PAX", which is Latin for "Light, Love, Peace".

Fun weekend of pirates and a wedding...

Posted in General good stuff 11 July 2016 · 2,342 views

A weekend full of fun and a good ol' Irish experience. I was lucky to have been a part in the making of this weekend but I was not the luckiest one you see.



I do not mean I was out on the drink all weekend; work was still to be done. Sunday morning was an early start on the golf course to prepare for the club Presidents Prize. The bunkers having been washed out made for a set-up difficulty you wouldn't particularly enjoy on a Sunday. When the others left I chose to stay for a couple more hours using the elbow grease to scrub our operation center (locker rooms, canteen, etc.)


I'm not saying raking bunkers or mopping floors was the fun part of the weekend. When I finished though I rode my bicycle into town (head on with a strong wind which wasn't fun either) for the Irish Maritime Festival. The port in Drogheda was set up as a fairground for the weekend. A Viking and pirate themed event gave the port character and made for a show having themed ships come into port.





Pirate fights filled the river, ships lined the port and spectators gathered around. On land the Vikings had stations on their daily life, just about everything except pillaging.


Viking blacksmith forging a weapon


Styrofoam swords, but still kids get all the Viking fun


I did have a little 'Captain' in me as the adult fun came at the start of the weekend. Friday night I was invited to an Irish wedding. Only two months here in Ireland and I experienced not just the wedding but I also attended the stag (bachelor party) the weekend before!


As I said earlier though, I was not the lucky one this weekend. Assistant Greenkeeper Joe Mooney married his long time love Amanda! It was an honor being one of the guests to celebrate with Joe and Amanda but may this special weekend be for them to remember.


Joe and Amanda at the altar. Best wishes to the two!


Their first dance. You can do it!


Volunteering at Croke Park: Gaelic football and hurling

Posted in Excursions 08 July 2016 · 1,614 views


Croke Park (pronounced crow) is the largest stadium in Ireland and hosts the Irish sports of Gaelic football and hurling. On Sunday, June 26, I volunteered with the Croke Park ground crew for two Gaelic football matches.


(l-r) myself, Kyle Daves and Sam Kingston


Sam Kingston, a regular volunteer, is responsible for bringing in other volunteers who help with simple prep before the match begins and then repair pitch marks on the field during the match. This day only three were able to work (the Ireland national soccer team was playing in the Euros -- which meant you would find most of the Irish in the pubs).


Sam Kingston repairing pitch marks, Kyle there in the background


The tool of choice is a pitch fork, and the object is simple; repair any indecent indentations therefore the players are not at risk for injury, as in twisting ankles for example. The fans may not be able to see the unsightly divots, but that is not the point - it's for the players' safety.


Gaelic football players are all amateurs. Therefore, no pay... only "pride of the parish" as they say. I could describe this sport by combining the use of a soccer ball plus rugby in a sense. Scoring is accomplished hitting into a soccer net ("goal"- 3 points) or kicking over the field goal post (1 point).


You can see the scoring net behind me - to the left of the Dubliners on the famous Hill 16.


Gaelic football is interesting to watch, especially so as these athletes are not getting paid for their brutal contact sport. Hey, I wasn't getting paid either to repair their pitch marks, but I did get the front row seats right on the field of play (photo below)!




One week later I revisited Croke Park for another volunteer opportunity, this time for hurling. This was not just any hurling match but for the Leinster Province Finals - the best of the best. Kilkenny vs. Galway.


Hurling is a very skillful game plus the Irish brutality factor makes it fun to watch. It is the second fastest land sport game after hockey;  mix of hockey, lacrosse and Gaelic football.


The hurl (left) is the "bat" used to control and hit the sliotar, which is very similar to a baseball.



Hurling has similar scoring as Gaelic football; a goal into the net for 3 points and hitting the sliotar through the uprights for 1 point. What impressed me was how accurate, powerful, and easily they could score through the field goal posts. A fifty yard point looked as simple as a layup.


These players are amateurs as well. No play, but pride for the province they're from. Kilkenny has been the powerhouse for the last couple years which the win verse Galway made this their third Finals win in a row.


My only job wasn't just watching the hurling match; again, I fixed the divots. This time thankfully there were more volunteers. Stuart Wilson, the superintendent at Croke Park, was there too and explained to me the following week breakdown of repairing and preparing the field for the next games. This week he has a more difficult task on hand as he is preparing the stadium for a Beyonce concert.


Stuart Wilson and me.


Travel by taxi, train, bus, boat and… duck?

Posted in Excursions 30 June 2016 · 1,187 views

My travel to Dublin over the weekend consisted of many adventures, and even more ways of transport.

I took the bus to Dublin and back home to Baltray.  I then hired a taxi to meet up with TurfNet's Jon Kiger (here on vacation), with whom I toured for the next two days..
Jon and I took the train to Howth, a seaside village with postcard-perfect sights. There we boarded a ferry boat which sailed around Ireland's Eye, an uninhabited island but populated by many birds and seals on the rocks. It is possible to step on shore but our tour only took us around the island.
Approaching Ireland's Eye by boat.
The remains of an old fort and a church dating to the 8th century are the only signs of previous habitation.
Me with Ireland's Eye in the background.
The train from Howth back to Dublin brought us back right on time for our other tour. This tour involved a combination of a bus and boat. The D.U.K.W. (pronounced duck) is the vehicle of choice for the Viking Splash Tours.
The D.U.K.W. is made for land and water. Each one made in the U.S.A. during WWII, these machines are almost 75 years old!  Each letter has a meaning, D- fourth year USA in war (4th letter in alphabet.) U- Utility vehicle. K and W for Six Wheel drive.
I had the opportunity to talk with the mechanic, Liam O'Connor, about these GMC beasts. Liam mentioned how most parts are original so routine maintenance is required. Most importantly that brakes are checked, changed and each vehicle is all sealed up for the drive in to the water.
Liam O'Connor, mechanic, driver, and tour guide
Connor, who was our tour guide, and myself
Cruising around Dublin with the Viking Splash Tours is one great way to learn about the city and Irish history. Every passenger wearing Viking helmets, roaring as such while driving on the streets, then plunging straight in to the canal is one exciting tourist attraction.
What tour bus or boat can compete with the duck? Not only did I board a bus and boat, but the combination of both, plus the train and taxi! Just two days in Dublin and I had more different rides than ever before.


OSU Buckeye at the U.S. Open...

Posted 16 June 2016 · 2,728 views

Ohio State Turf has something extra to be proud of this summer. Many students of OSU, local and international, have been found volunteering at tournaments around the world.


I was grateful to represent Ohio State at the K Club for the Irish Open. Back home, Mike Sanders, Ohio State Turf Club president and good friend of mine, is not just volunteering this week for the U.S. open, but training all summer at Oakmont Country Club. He sure does have one great gig at that historic course!


Mike Sanders is the big guy standing to the right of me.


Regarding the volunteers, Mike told me, We have volunteers who have traveled from all over the world and are from some of the best courses. and its crazy to be working side by side with them.


Mike and others at the US Open


In a long text to me in which he described his opportunity, Mike indicated that words cannot fully describe the experience of volunteering for the Open among such heady company. John Zimmers tells us every day that we are the best of the best, and he holds us to the highest expectation. I see why he has a Buckeye on his crew!


A summer at Oakmont sure will be one to remember for you, Mike! Congratulations and keep up your great I mean, BEST... efforts!  More photos from Mike below:





A visit with St. Oliver: Priest, Bishop, Educator, Martyr

Posted in Excursions 15 June 2016 · 1,061 views

I first want to say I do regret currently having a poor attendance on Sundays. Regular Mass I mean, which I would attend every week due to growing up in a private Catholic school. My mom will be proud though, when she reads that I went to a church over here in Ireland!


St. Peters Church


St. Peter's Church in Drogheda is not the city's only church, but it is the only one with a sacred head. Seriously. The church is also known as The St. Oliver Plunkett Memorial Church, a shrine is dedicated to St. Oliver... where his head resides.


St. Oliver: Priest, Bishop, Educator, Martyr


Nate, what do you mean there is a head in the church? Well friends, in 1681, Archbishop Plunkett was hanged, drawn and quartered. A few of his remains were rescued, most notably his head, plus some random bones.


The remains of St. Oliver.


The prison cell door of St. Oliver Plunkett


I was slow to walk into the church, not knowing when I'd come face to face with the 335 year old skull. Don't be frightened, lads, the head does not pop out at you! It was quite difficult to find in this magnificent church, but if by some chance any one visits do enjoy the beauty of this sacred place.


The head is incased in the grand golden temple structure


The transept is where the Saint's memorial resides. There are candles around to light and pews facing the Relic for prayer. Notably Pope John Paul II visited and prayed before St. Oliver's Relic.


Pope Paul VI canonized Dr. Oliver Plunkett to sainthood 


I still don't understand how the head is preserved so well, being so old. One thing I am sure of is that miracles happen, not so much along the lines of Miracle-Gro, but every now and then we all get one of some sort!

Final day: Red sky in morning, jobs well done...

Posted in On the course, East of ireland Amateur 06 June 2016 · 2,399 views

Final day at Baltray for the Amateurs in the East of Ireland Golf Championship. Misty morning on the course but the fog cleared for the first golfers teeing off.


Red sun in the morning Golfers, take warning. 


Vincent Mooney, long-time greenkeeper here at Baltray, said the red sun can be a sure sign for bad weather. However, the sunny day could still hold through the final round of play. Lets hope.


Again I set up the back nine in the morning. Tees, trash, divots and bunkers.


Behind me is the shot of the Par 5 hole 11. Foggy enough this morning that you cannot see the fairway!


Raking bunkers is not the most enjoyable job to do, especially alone. But the positive side is they are not too large, plus I like to believe it substitutes going to the gym.


After job completion and a big breakfast, the greens crew head back to their houses for the day. Surprising for a golf tournament in Ireland to have such perfect weather conditions. I hope I dont jinx myself now To the crew- a job well done this week lads!


Supt. Paul Malone happy with his toy for the week, Jacobsen AR522 the big guns


Finally, good luck to the competing golfers, finish strong!





Greenkeeping, the Next Generation is presented by Jacobsen.

Nate's internship in Ireland is partially underwritten by a grant from the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association.

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