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Marty Richardson: Interning at The Island Golf Club

The Irish Open at Portstewart: An experience to remember...

Posted in Excursions 27 July 2017 · 408 views

My recent experience at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2017 was one to remember! This tournament was the start of three weeks of top-class links golf in Europe, followed by the Scottish Open in Dundonald and The Open at Royal Birkdale. Portstewart Golf Club was the host for this year's event.


Upon arriving I could clearly understand why Rory McIlroy said, "Portstewart is an excellent links course and one of Northern Ireland's hidden gems." Additionally, when tour officials visited the course, they too dubbed it has having one of the most spectacular front-nines in Great Britain and Ireland -- on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Imagine how thrilled I was to be a part of maintaining this amazing course.


One of the first tee box complexes at Portstewart.


Once settled in, John O'Brien, our group leader, showed us around the entire course. I could see that the Course Team of Portstewart had already completed so much hard work. Everything was ready for the pros to play. Many people don't understand the many months, sometimes years, of preparation it takes to get a course ready for tournament play, way before the first ball is even hit in practice rounds. The Course Team works diligently to maintain, protect and develop the course which can include plastic mats for protection, roping off certain areas of the course, use of forward tees and, on occasion, topdressing of greens.


Sunrise at Portstewart.


When you work a major tournament like this, workdays for the Course Team typically begin about 4:30am and ends around 8pm. There is preparation before play in the morning and then after play later in the day; and every day has pretty much the same schedule. My main duty for the week was mowing the tees on the eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth holes. Unlike many courses that use riding mowers to manicure their course, at Portstewart we used Baroness walk-behind mowers. To give you an idea of how big the course is, I walked 43 miles in three days mowing these five tees!


This was my mower for the week, labeled PM (for Pedestrian Mower) #29.


Overall the days were long but my stamina came from so many sources of gratitude:

  1. that TurfNet provided me this opportunity of internship in Ireland;
  2. that Portstewart offered me a position for the week to work the DDF Irish Open and I worked side-by-side with an amazing leader John OBrien and Course Team;
  3. that I had the chance to help maintain one of the most beautiful courses in the country; and
  4. that my time at Hazeltine National Golf Club working the 2016 Ryder Cup through the guidance of Chris Tritabaugh provided me the experience and expectations to work a tournament of this magnitude.

By the end of my adventure at Portstewart Golf Club, I was able to say that I had valuable experiences that I will be able to apply to my future career in this field. I am thankful that they regarded me as one of their teammates. 


Early morning view of one of the tee boxes I mowed each day at Portstewart.


The 18th green complex at Portstewart.

People and Places: Different yet Alike

Posted in Reflections 14 July 2017 · 1,436 views

When I accepted my international internship, my primary focus was to build strong, professional relationships with managers and colleagues within the golf industry during my short time in Ireland. What I didn't realize was the amazing people that I would encounter, professionally and casually, that have not only been incredibly friendly but have gone out of their way to help me.


Being in a new place, especially a foreign country, can be a difficult transition but I've always been very interested in different cultures and learning of the people and their everyday life... both at work and at home. My time so far in Ireland and working my first international tournament, the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open held at Portstewart Golf Club in Northern Ireland, has provided me many opportunities.


Since I have been here, I have worked with Dave Edmondson, head greenkeeper at The Island Golf Club in Donabate. Through his guidance and patience, he was the first to show me how to maintain a links course.  He has encouraged me to question him; as well as to offer some of my ideas which I gained when working at Hazeltine National Golf Club. I appreciate all of his teachings and, also, understanding the importance of working an international tournament and allowing me the time away from The Island. In fact I was one of two Island Club staffers working at the tournament; Kevin Cavanan is the other.


My Island Club compatriot, Kevin Canavan (left) with Billy Johnson of the Portstewart Golf Club staff.


One of the greatest joys about working abroad is that it makes you comfortable talking with strangers. It can be a little intimidating because you never know if they will understand the way you talk or how you do things. Two people that I had the pleasure of meeting over here were actually Americans: David Escobedo, head golf course superintendent at Westbrook Village Golf Club in Arizona and Dana Chase, long time equipment manager at Glen Ellen Country Club in Massachusetts. Along with Jon Kiger they became my bunkmates for a week and it was a blast. Between them the knowledge and experience in the turf industry is remarkable and I am very glad that I was able to pick their brains and get to know them. It was great to find like-minded travelers who are just as gung-ho on the tournament as I was. 


One of the greatest joys about working abroad is that it makes you comfortable talking with strangers...


Despite the long hours and catching up on our sleep we had a chance to have a few excursions away from the course during the week, such as a visit to Royal Portrush Golf Club to see their preparations for hosting The Open Championship in 2019.


I'm all ears as Graeme Beatt of Royal Portrush Golf Club chats with David Escobedo. Royal Portrush will host The Open in 2019.


Going from one links course to another within the same country (actually, on the same island but two different countries... since The Island is in Ireland and Portstewart is in Northern Ireland) is fascinating. Immediately I noticed the differences such as wild lands and native grasses. Also, the use of sand was different as well. The Island is built mostly on natural sand dunes left as they were while Portstewart has many man-made mounds and undulations. Depending on the location within Ireland, links courses can vary greatly.


The terrain at the Island Golf Club (above) is mostly natural, while Portstewart Golf Club (below) incorporates man-made mounding... both to great effect.


To understand all the natural elements of a course and use them to their full advantage in challenging golfers is the true testament of a head greenkeeper, and Bernard Findlay at Portstewart Golf Club did not disappoint. Through his direction, he guided the Course Team consisting of 60 others and myself with a schedule and expectations that delivered the golf course in its finest form for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. I appreciate that Bernard and the crew were accepting of my work and offered guidance to me when it was needed. I was anxious to learn about the terrain of this course and how it is maintained.


As my week progressed at the tournament, Portstewart provided all workers hospitality (food and beverages) and gave the Portstewart crew free tickets to attend to tournament when we weren't working. I have realized that one thing is certain whether I was in the States for the Ryder Cup or in Ireland for the Irish Open, that the great sport of golf brings people from all over the world together and that you can always depend on the kindness of strangers.


Me with David and Dana on a rare night out in Portstewart.


Working in Ireland has taught me to be more social, adapt quickly to new situations, and to better understand verbal and nonverbal communications. I am more independent, more open, and overall, just a better person. This will help me as I further my career within this industry as I work/volunteer at future tournaments. No matter what, I know that I am very fortunate to have these experiences and grateful to the many teachers along the way. 


Jon Kiger introduced me to Eddie Donlon, who retired in 2015 after 42 years as head greenkeeper at Rush Golf Club near Dublin. Eddie is a fixture on all TurfNet visits to Ireland, as is Gibney's Pub in Malahide where we were able to enjoy a Guinness or two and talk turf.

Captain's Day and STRI visit...

Posted in On the course 15 June 2017 · 497 views

The next few weeks at the Island Golf Club are going to be very busy. Starting with this weekend we have the Captains day and then the weekend after that we have the Open qualifier. Captains day is a member tournament put on by the course and the elected captain of the course. Its a one-day tournament coming up this weekend. It is normally teams of four that are competing for the best score to win great prizes. Its also a great time for members to talk more with one another and a good time for the captain to play the course.  So the next few weeks are pretty busy around the course.


The golf course is looking fantastic with all the little spots of rain we have been having the course is in tiptop shape. Course Manager Dave Edmondson has only put out about 16 kg/35 pounds of actual nitrogen on 1.1 hectares/2.7 acres of greens thus far in 2017. Height of cut on our greens is 5mm and they are going to stay at that height for a while.



A couple weeks ago we had STRI (Sportsturf Research Institute) visit the course. The STRI is the worlds leading authority on the design, construction and maintenance of golf greens and courses. Their head office is based in West Yorkshire UK. They offer a variety of services not only to golf but also to other sports turf industries. To golf courses though they offer assessments and recommendations to help improve  any problem areas on your greens or course and provide a quick and efficient solution to that problem. They also provide pest, weed, and disease ID and mapping along with many other services.



While they were at the Island they were testing the trueness of the greens to see how they would play for the upcoming tournaments. They were using a machine called the STRI Trueness meter. All though I do not know the numbers on the trueness (and doubt they would like me to share them), I know they have been testing the greens for the past three years now at the Island and the greens seem to be improving.  


The Island Golf Club: a brief history

Posted in History 09 June 2017 · 994 views

The Island Golf Club was founded in 1890, making it one of the oldest golf courses in Ireland. Besides being one of the first twelve golf clubs founded in Ireland, it is the third oldest in the Dublin area. The Syndicate was the name of the group of ten founding fathers of the club. According to the club website, "In September of 1887 four men rowed across the channel which separates the North Dublin village of Malahide from the spur of land to the north known locally as the Island. Their mission was to survey the wilderness and assess its suitably as a golf links."


Looking across the estuary to the village of Malahide.


The club is unique because back in that time the club had no military connection (most established clubs did) and was initiated as a private proprietary club.


The original clubhouse, a quaint wooden pavilion, was situated at the far end of the links and overlooked the Malahide estuary. It was abandoned when the boat service to and from the links was discontinued in 1973 but some of the foundation can still be seen in the area. The present clubhouse is located more centrally on the property and dates from that time.


Golfers either took the Boat or traveled the long way home.


When golfers were taken over to the Island by boat from Malahide they were completely dependent on that boat to get them back. Many stories have been told that a normal golfing day would go from good to bad with the change of the weather. Usually the weather would turn bad while the golfers were out and the boat would not be able to return to the Island to pick them up. So for some, the only way to return home would be to travel the long way around through Swords, which back in the early twentieth century, was a long journey.


I am honored to work at such an historic course. 


A plaque at the club memorializes the days of "the Boat".


Links turf management, and a project of my own...

Posted in On the course 01 June 2017 · 533 views

Now that I've had a few weeks to settle in a bit and share my experiences about Ireland, it's time to focus on the golf course. During my short time working at The Island Golf Club near Dublin, I have learned new practices for maintaining a links golf course.


The mission of turf management is a careful balance of providing players the best and most beautiful golf course to play while understanding the environment, terrain and monetary budget set forth by the golf club. For the most part, all the greens that I have encountered on the Island are fescue/bent entwined with a little bit of meadow grass (Poa annua). A sprinkling of ryegrass also occurs in some areas but mostly in the rough. The fairways, tees and approaches are all fescue/bent but they are going to try and spray out the bent in the future. 


My experience so far has been great and I look forward to learning more about maintaining a spectacular links golf course.


Because a links course is by its very nature rugged, maintaining it is fairly straightforward. A little mowing, fertilizer and water go a long way on a links course. This allows the crew time to pursue other projects and improvements around the course. Fescue and bent grasses are perfect for this area because of their lower water and fertility requirements than other turfgrasses. They also have higher wear tolerance and are more feasible in price.  For these reasons, these grasses are ideal for this terrain but, when mixed, the attributes of each are compromised which is why we are going to remove the bent grass.


Earlier this week I was given a solo project on the course. The cart path on the 3rd tee box had become worn and patchy. My task was to remove a good portion of the cart path with a sod cutter and change the turn from natural to "artificial", the kind that ryegrass is sown over and grows up through. I was especially grateful to Kevin who taught me some time saving techniques for dealing with the artificial turf. The bottom portion of the 'after' picture shows a future project that will be down the road.


Before: sod cut to make way for the artificial surface.


Freshly installed artificial surface ready for the ryegrass to establish. 


After: The ryegrass is getting established through the new artificial surface at the top of the photo. The area in the bottom/foreground will be similarly converted as part of a future project. 


As you can see, I've already learned a lot about maintaining a links golf course. I look forward to the rest of the summer when I will help maintain this well-manicured, rugged and beautiful course for the members of and visitors to The Island Golf Club.

Road trips!

Posted in Excursions 26 May 2017 · 895 views

After settling in these first few weeks it was time to explore Dublin and the surrounding area. First stop was the village of Malahide, which is just across a narrow estuary and very visible from the Island Golf Club. I walked around there all day, visiting the cricket pitches and Malahide Castle. Malahide Castle was built in the 12th century by the Talbots, an English family who had arrived in England during the Norman invasion with William the Conqueror.


Malahide Castle


Mowing the cricket pitches in Malahide.


Malahide is also home to Gibney's Pub, a favorite watering hole of TurfNet members during several of the TurfNet trips to Ireland. Jon Kiger and I enjoyed a Guinness or two there on my first day here in Ireland.


I also visited the town of Swords, just west of Malahide in County Fingal, which dates to the 6th century. Swords Castle was built in the 1200's (there are a lot of castles in Ireland). I spent all day there just exploring and seeing what the town had to offer.


Last on my touring over the past several weeks was the village of Howth, located on the peninsula of Howth Head which separates Dublin Bay from the Irish Sea. Howth has to be one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Ireland so far. Howth Castle is a private home rather than a museum or a hotel, and has been in the same family for over 800 years. Howth has two golf courses and amazing trips out to the Irelands Eye island. There is also a mountain you can climb for some amazing views of the surrounding area.


Ireland's Eye (above and below)


It was kind of a gloomy day when I went there but it was still unbelievable. Howth is clearly my favorite place to have visited so far, but I have been told there are places in Ireland that beat it.  



I also was able to make it to Dublin City over the past three weeks and one of the most memorable adventures down there was to see singer Sean Keane. Sean is an Irish born singer from Galway; he sings traditional Irish, folk, and country songs. The London Independent calls him the greatest musical find of the 90s. It was amazing to see him sing and play all of his traditional Irish instruments and to hear his unique voice. He plays every Tuesday night at the Hampton Hotel in Dublin. 


The Sean Keane band (above) and me with Sean (below).


An Irish Blessing...

Posted in Introduction 19 May 2017 · 1,818 views

As I am going on week 2 in Ireland, I first want express my appreciation to all who helped get me here. The dream of working in Ireland at the Island Golf Club began mid-summer 2016 with Chris Tritabaugh, my boss at Hazeltine. Chris introduced me to Mike O'Keeffe from Ohio State who, in turn, put me in contact with Jon Kiger of TurfNet who ultimately put me in touch with Island Club superintendent Dave Edmondson. The hard work of these four men was fundamental in aligning me for this opportunity and internship.


Me with Mike O'Keeffe of the Ohio State international internship program.


This lead me to Tampa, Florida, the first week of May 2017, where I attended the annual TOCA (Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association) meeting with Jon Kiger and John Reitman from TurfNet. While there, I met many suppliers, agencies, and media representatives and the TOCA staff (special shoutout to Kristy Mach for her help with my travel arrangements to the meeting).


May your troubles be less and your blessings be more and nothing but happiness come through your door."


I learned a lot about writing for the turf industry; and I played golf at the beautiful Saddlebrook Resort. After a long Minnesota winter, I enjoyed basking in the sun! But most importantly, I met Jose Milan and Pat Morrow from Bayer - the sponsor for the TOCA Media Internship. Without Bayer's financial support this program would not be possible. I thank TOCA, Bayer and TurfNet for this incredible opportunity.


The group at the recent TOCA meeting in Tampa.


The final thanks go to my family. In the late 1800s, when a family member would leave Ireland for America, the family would hold a long sendoff party called a "Parting Glass" since it was generally understood that the individual leaving would not be coming back to Ireland. Although I will be returning to the United States (I think), I was fortunate to have my parents, sister and her fiancé join me in Tampa for our own version of my "Parting Glass" as I left for my summer in Ireland. I can't tell you how much it means to have the love, support and a little financial backing from my whole family, including those who are back in Minnesota.  


As the Irish blessing states, "May your troubles be less and your blessings be more and nothing but happiness come through your door."

Hello from just north of Dublin!

Posted in Introduction 12 May 2017 · 84,088 views

My name is Martin "Marty" Richardson and I am this year's TurfNet student intern. Minnesota born and bred, I just finished my first year in the two-year Golf Course Grounds Management AAS program at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minnesota. The program has just eight students but all graduates say it is phenomenal.  As a smaller school it doesn't have the many clubs and activities you'd expect at a larger college, but I've been fortunate to play intramural hockey at St. Cloud State since I live on campus there.


Like most golf course maintenance programs, Anoka encourages students to work at a golf course during summer break. Last year I was given a great opportunity to work under head superintendent and longtime TurfNet member Chris Tritabaugh at Hazeltine National Golf Club -- host of the 2016 Ryder Cup.


Last year I was given a great opportunity to work under head superintendent and longtime TurfNet member Chris Tritabaugh at Hazeltine National Golf Club -- host of the 2016 Ryder Cup.


This was easily the best job I have ever had. The crew was fantastic, the assistant superintendents were phenomenal at directing the massive crew, and Chris was a great leader. Together we pulled off an amazing tournament. I earned the lead role on one of the four bunker crews. That responsibility and working a tournament of this magnitude gave me invaluable experience, tested my work ethic, and allowed me to be in close proximity to some golf legends (Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, etc)


Me at the 2016 Ryder Cup with 2014 TurfNet Ireland intern Peter Braun. 


Until this point I hadn't had an opportunity to travel internationally so this experience is a first for me. I could not be more excited. Working on a links golf course like The Island Golf Club is also a new experience for me. I look forward to learning about links golf management from Dave Edmondson, the links manager here. I am also looking forward to traveling around this beautiful country.


The Island Golf Club. Links course management will be one of many new experiences for me.

Greenkeeping, the Next Generation is presented by Jacobsen.

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

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