The Irish Open at Portstewart: An experience to remember...
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:
- that TurfNet provided me this opportunity of internship in Ireland;
- 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;
- that I had the chance to help maintain one of the most beautiful courses in the country; and
- 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.