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Eric Bruening: Interning at Lahinch

Home again, looking back...

Posted in Random Good Stuff 23 September 2015 · 2,653 views

My summer at Lahinch Golf Club could not have been better, both personally and professionally. It showed me that the world is far bigger than what I can see out my back door. That concept would have scared me before this summer, but it now excites me. My experiences put into context how many different people and point of views there are in the world, and that my 'normal' is strange to the vast majority of people on planet Earth. 


Professionally, I was able to see how a world class golf course was managed, while staying true to golf's roots. 'Firm and fast' is a way of life in Lahinch and you'll get nothing but a chuckle if you let it be known that you think 20 mph wind is unplayable. I was also exposed to a management style that is not common in the states, but is becoming more prevalent. Water was used sparingly, only to establish new turf and keep greens and tees out of dormancy in drought conditions. Nutrient inputs were low, and promoting healthy soil microbe activity was of highest importance.


Water was used sparingly, only to establish new turf and keep greens and tees out of dormancy in drought conditions...


Personally, there are many things I will miss about Ireland. The hospitality that was shown to me was unbelievable. I was truly treated like family there, from the grounds crew to the office managers. I have mixed feelings on the weather, as it was mostly cold, rainy and windy. A good day in Lahinch, however, is second to none and made the bad days worth it. 


I am glad to be back home in a familiar place, and am eternally grateful to everyone who allowed me to intern and Lahinch, and those who enriched my experience as the summer went on. These people include everyone at TurfNet for giving me a platform to share my experiences with anyone who will listen, and helping me along the way. I would also like to thank Jacobsen for sponsoring my blog and encouraging young people to get out and experience what a profession in turf has to offer. Also a big thanks to Mike O'Keeffe for taking me through the necessary steps to make this summer real. 


I would also like to thank Jacobsen for sponsoring my blog and encouraging young people to get out and experience what a profession in turf has to offer...


A big thank you to Thomas McInerny and his family for hosting me at their hotel for the summer. Finally I'd like to thank everyone at Lahinch GC: Paddy Keane, Anne Scales, Brian McDonagh and everyone on the crew and in management for giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity. And thank you for reading and following along!

After Lahinch: 2015 PGA Championship

Posted in Random Good Stuff 01 September 2015 · 1,922 views

After returning back home after my unforgettable summer in Lahinch, I was set to volunteer at the 97th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. I had made the commitment to volunteering before I was lined up to go to Ireland, and Brian assured me the experience there would be just as valuable as an extra week in Lahinch. It was hard to leave, but knowing what was waiting back home eased the transition.


I was a part of the ProGreens staff for the tournament. My morning responsibilities included stimping the 12th and 14th greens, reporting the speeds to the decision makers and knocking dew off the 13th and 15th tees. Everyone met in the volunteer shed at 4:30 in the morning. Doughnuts and drinks were provided before we went out, and a full breakfast buffet with eggs, bacon and hashbrowns was waiting upon our return. 


The volunteer shed during our pre-departure meeting in the morning.


Sunrise over the 12th green, where I spent my mornings all week long.


After our morning job was complete, we were free to do whatever we desired, which meant I was off to watch some golf. Personally, I enjoyed watching the players practice on the range and putting green the most. Being a golfer, I was in awe of the consistency in their ball striking, their intensive putting repetitions and their unique warm-up routines.


A sampling of the equipment on hand and ready to go in the maintenance area.


In the evenings, we were required to be back by 4:30 for dinner and our pre-departure meeting. My post-round responsibilities, along with three other volunteers, was to walk the front nine and fill divots and remove the displaced turf from the fairways and surrounds. It was a prime opportunity to see the course and set-up up close, and I enjoyed every second of it. 


Everyone getting their jobs on the 12th green done early Thursday morning.


Looking back on the picturesque par 5 5th hole.


Overall, Whistling Straits and the PGA went out of their way to accommodate volunteers and make us comfortable. The opportunity to help set up for a major is appealing enough. When you add on the chance to watch the tournament for free and meet other people in the business, it truly was a can't-miss event. It also served as the perfect cap to my summer, and lead-in to my final semester of school. 

114th South of Ireland Amateur

Posted in Random Good Stuff 17 August 2015 · 1,629 views

The South of Ireland Amateur Championship has been held at Lahinch Golf Club since 1895 and is one of the proudest traditions in Irish amateur sport. The tournament has been won by legendary golfers including Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, with Padraig Harrington finishing as the runner-up twice.


A 36 hole qualifier takes place on the first two days, narrowing the field of 100 to 64, where match play will start until a winner is crowned on Sunday afternoon. 


Preparation for the tournament includes ensuring everything is in top form, from bunkers to pathways and tees to greens. Tournament hours are from 5 to 8 am hand-cutting tees and greens, rolling greens, mowing fairways, triplexing surrounds, cutting cups and raking bunkers. Some of the crew then returns in the evening to clean up litter and do whatever odd jobs need to be done.


Mowing the 18th green at sunrise to be done and out of the way before play


During the season leading up to the event, the tees that will be used for "the South" are intentionally unused to ensure healthy stands for the tournament, especially on par 3's. The silver lining of the tournament is that it allows members' and women's tees, which have endured heavy traffic all year, a week of rest and relaxation. 


South crowds following the final group in on Sunday morning


Spectators gathered around a match with local interest on the 10th green. One of the players is the son of the Lady Captain at Lahinch


Large crowds of spectators create a unique stress for the course. Onlookers tend to take short cuts and routes not taken by golfers, resulting in trails and matted-down areas in the native marram grass. Luckily however, the natural resiliency of these grasses prevails, and no human intervention is needed for their recuperation... only time.


Post-South, the intense daily mowing and rolling is backed off. The pathways are solid tined to alleviate any compaction resulting from the heavy traffic of the tournament. Trash is also picked up and is a unavoidable result of having so many people on the course. 


Stuart Grehan of Tullamore was the eventual champion. There was a true appreciation by players and spectators of both the classic links set-up and of the top condition the course was in.

Irish accommodation and hospitality...

Posted in Random Good Stuff 03 July 2015 · 2,304 views

Accommodation in Lahinch is hard to come by in the summer, as the town comes to life from June to August when the weather heats up to a sizzling 70 degrees F. Native Irishmen and tourists swarm the beach and pubs for a summer getaway.


This quickly became an issue for me, as finding a room or apartment to rent was proving difficult. The club put me up in the Sancta Maria Hotel, just a city block away from the course. This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me.


The Sancta Maria Hotel


The Sancta Maria is run by the McIlnery family, who are some of the nicest people I've ever come across. They go above and beyond to look after me, but it seems to be business as usual from their perspective. It feels more like staying with extended family than at a hotel. 


Breakfast is normally served from 8:30 to 10 every morning, but the McIlnerys set out breakfast and a few sandwiches for lunch for me every morning, as work starts at 6:30 am. I feel like I'm back in grade school with my mother looking after me, and it's lovely.


My breakfast for the weekdays, with sandwiches made for lunch.


On any day off I am able to catch breakfast at the regular time. A full Irish breakfast is not to be taken lightly, as it includes orange juice, bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, tea and brown bread that is not of this world. I don't know if the McIlnerys have a special recipe or the brown bread is like this all over Ireland, but it is unreal.


The "Full Irish" breakfast... not to be taken lightly!


In addition, I am asked almost daily if everything is suitable and am reminded to ask if I need anything at all. The hospitality shown to is not isolated to just where I sleep. The same sentiment has been expressed by everyone, from the maintenance crew to club management and everywhere in between.


Although I am almost immediately asked what part of America I am from after merely exchanging "hellos", I still am treated as one of their own.

Typical Nebraska kid... and a first airplane flight

Posted in Random Good Stuff 24 June 2015 · 27,344 views

Hello all! My name is Eric Bruening and I have been asked by the good people here at TurfNet to write a blog on my summer internship at Lahinch Golf Club in Lahinch, Ireland. First, I'd like to start with a brief introduction of myself and what brought me to Lahinch.


I am originally from Norfolk, NE, a town of 25,000 in northeast Nebraska. I am a senior Turfgrass Management student at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. I come from a family of golfers as my father was a superintendent at El Dorado Hills in Norfolk for 25 years. In addition, both my older brothers played collegiate golf (one at UNL and one at Nebraska - Wesleyan) after successful high school careers that included Nebraska State Championships. Unfortunately I wasn't able to follow in their footsteps, and I'm still trying to shake the label of 'black sheep' in the family. No family summary is complete without mentioning my mother, who learned to love golf by spending her vacation time driving me and my brothers to tournaments around the region.


I come from a family of golfers as my father was a superintendent at El Dorado Hills in Norfolk for 25 years...


For the summer of 2014 I was fortunate enough to do my summer internship at Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, NE, which served as my introduction to world class golf course management. Anyone familiar with the club knows that Kyle Hegland and his assistant Jared Kalina keep the course at an elite level throughout the playing season. I gained a wealth of invaluable knowledge from these two, and they have really increased my desire to become a super myself.


After mentioning to Kyle that I had an interest in going overseas for the summer of 2015, he put me into contact with one of his acquaintances, Brian McDonagh, the superintendent at Lahinch. After being offered a position for the summer from Brian, the work was just beginning. This is where Mike O'Keeffe from Ohio St. University came to my rescue. Mr. O'Keeffe helped me with all the logistics of getting to Ireland, from obtaining a work visa to what I should expect when I arrive. This was a tall task as, fitting the 'typical Nebraska kid' stereotype, I had never been on an airplane before this trip.


Road signs are in English and traditional Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge).


Sorry for the lengthy intro, but I feel very lucky to be where I am today and wanted to acknowledge those who have helped me along the way. In the following weeks I will showcase the best that Ireland has to offer, from goats to golf and cliffs to culture. 


Main Street, Lahinch.


If at any time you have any questions or would like additional information feel free to email me at ericjbruening@gmail.com.


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