"You know it's been an amazing week when you start getting regular texts from Mossy in the Netherlands, Paddy in Mullingar, and Josh in the UK..."
It has taken me a nearly three weeks (and getting over a nasty cold picked up over there) to compile my thoughts on just what our week of work at the Irish Open meant to me. It greatly exceeded my expectations on so many levels.
First -- I have the utmost respect and admiration for Course Manager Gerry Byrne. He and his team had to do so much in advance of our arrival that I can't imagine how the months leading up to the Irish Open stressed and demoralized the regular staff. Even after we volunteers arrived and the staff swelled to 25 or so there was still so much work to get done in advance of the Wednesday Pro-Am. Gerry brought out the best in us. I personally worked harder that week knowing how hard the in-house staff worked before we got there.
Gerry, Jamie and Philip provided steady leadership for many of us who had to learn our way around the golf course (or in the case of the contract labor learn ABOUT a golf course.) There were few tense moments but then I realized that these crew leaders didn't have that much recent experience organizing a large staff.
Second -- I had always heard about the monotony of certain tasks around the golf course, but that week I gained a real appreciation for how the monotony challenges your motivation. Keeping a staff motivated and having them take ownership of their work must be a constant challenge.
Third -- I learned that this profession really is meant for people who can accept that their performance will be judged by many factors that are out of their control. Weather is the primary factor, but sponsoring organizations, owners and other factors are all part of the challenge.
"These friendships were forged in the bunkers and the canteen but will be nurtured over many years to come..."
Fourth -- Responding to these outside forces and challenges helps people rise to a level of performance that they didn't know was possible. Working under these conditions also brings people together. Teamwork, bonding, friendship, and appreciation are all byproducts of being focused as a group on the tasks at hand.
Fifth -- It was confirmed to me that the golf maintenance industry is made up of some of the nicest and friendliest people one is ever going to meet. I was certainly looking forward to getting to know Team TurfNet/Irish Open a little better during our time together, but came away with so many more new friends from a variety of locales. It's great waking up to a text or instant message from Mossy in The Netherlands or Paddy from Mullingar. These friendships were forged in the bunkers and the canteen but will be nurtured over many years to come. Seeing Josh from The Belfry post photos of his son being born was especially meaningful after having gotten to know him over the course of the week.
Finally, thanks to everyone who played a role in this "Week of a Lifetime". I am indebted to our hosts, my fellow crew members, family and co-workers who carried on my absence, and of course our blog sponsors who supported the project. The only remaining question is, "Where do we go from here?"
Rory McIlroy poses with the greenkeeping staff after winning the Irish Open for the first time.
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open flag signed by the 2016 greenkeeping crew at the K Club. Note: Liam Neeson was NOT on the crew (Irish humor)
It's hard to put into words my final thoughts on this past week, not knowing where to start. The words "icing on the cake" come to mind.
All the hard work, all the long hours, all the frazzled nerves and frustrations with the weather were washed away in the rain.
Knowing that we were all a part of history made it very special. Reading the Irish newspapers the day after, really brought it home that we were a part of that.
For me it was even more special as three of my students were on the green with me. And I had an integral part in each of them being there.
Joe Carthy just returned from the States where he was interning at Pebble Beach. He mentioned to me over a week ago, that he had applied for a job at the K-Club but had heard nothing. I made a quick phone call to Gerry and bingo, his first day of work was the Monday of the tournament...
Three Ohio Staters: Joe Carthy, Nate McKinniss and Graham Walsh.
Nathan McKinniss, reminded me I talked him out of going to Torrey Pines to come to Ireland. Graham Walsh told me he never would have plucked up the courage to volunteer before I helped him volunteer for FOUR tournaments while on the Ohio Program.
Again, it was the icing on the cake to share this victory with some great people.
All finished now with last week's volunteer experience at the 2016 Irish Open. The week flew by. However, the early mornings until the late nights made each day seem as long as a week. And each day held its own adventure.
Through each adventure, the greenkeeping crew became closer. The crew was made up of many great individuals in this industry whom I am grateful to have met. Each person brought key skills and characteristics to the group creating a well-rounded and very entertaining atmosphere. I have heard nothing but compliments from golfers and spectators about the quality of the golf course.
I got a chance to meet, make friends with and learn from many people, including Dana Chase, one of Team TurfNet's equipment technicians from the Boston area.
The weather conditions which Ireland is known for plus the fatigue felt from little rest created a tough challenge. The whole crew, though, was ready for the grind and even though the days were hard we had plenty of good craic (laughs) literally from sun up to sun down. This will be an experience I will never forget.
I do not want to say I called Rory Mclroy winning... but I did! His final holes were phenomenal. The greens crew's satisfaction of the successful event might just be as satisfying as Rory's finishing two-foot putt.
I want to thank K Club head greenskeeper Gerry Byrne for providing so much during this extraordinary experience, Jon Kiger and the TurfNet team creating this opportunity, and last but not least Mike O'Keeffe - I would not have taken part in this experience without them.
Check out my photo/video montage: https://splice.gopro.com/v?id=AV1o7Bl1L
Sunday brought a 5 AM start and a quick spin around the course. A handful of groups would be out at 7:30 starting on 16. We raked 18 first as a large group (as we had done each day) and then split into our smaller groups to work through the back nine.
As we finished up at 15 the players were arriving on the 16th tee so I decided to catch a few tee shots. After breakfast at the K Club employee canteen we returned to Lucan to rest up and watch the tournament when coverage started.
The storms of Saturday had cleared, and Danny Willett (in red) tees off to finish his third round.
I was thrilled to hear Gerry Byrne and the greenkeeping staff mentioned on the broadcast at least three times, including once when they mentioned the help he received from a group of Americans (that's us!). I haven't watched that many golf telecasts in the US, but I suspect the superintendent isn't mentioned nearly as often.
Rory McIlroy was leading by a shot or two for most of the day, but could never fully shake those in the hunt. We decided to head back to the course around 12:30 to catch the last half of the tournament. As we arrived at the maintenance facility, a group was already headed out to squeegee greens. Rain was coming down and play had been suspended. Just when you think you can kick back and enjoy the afternoon, Mother Nature makes other plans.
A few more stops and starts (including one for hail on the greens) and we headed with the rest of the crew to the 18th green. Rory's approach shot on the 16th was one for the ages. It was particularly memorable to watch as I had spent 6-7 hours on that hole (between bunker raking and filling divots) during the week.
I was thrilled to hear Gerry Byrne and the greenkeeping staff mentioned on the broadcast at least three times, including once when they mentioned the help he received from a group of Americans (that's us!).
There was nothing like being at the 18th green with thousands of fans as we all welcomed the winner of the tournament. Rory didn't disappoint as he hit another great approach shot with his three wood from 253 yards away. The ball landed two feet from the pin and was an easy tap in for eagle.
Fans line the 18th green as they (and we) await Rory's arrival.
During the awards ceremony many mentions were made and thanks given to Gerry Byrne and the staff of greenkeepers. Rory said the course was phenomenal. He also posed with us immediately after receiving the trophy. I didn't even mind that he walked across a bunker I had raked several times during the week.
Rory during his speech: "To the greenkeeping team - the course was phenomenal. We will be back."
No worries, Rory. This is one of the many bunkers I raked this week.
Post-event, Mike O'Keeffe, Dana Chase and Pete Williams celebrate a job well done for the week.
Gerry Byrne sharing his thoughts, thanks and goodbyes with the crew Sunday night at the Lucan Spa Hotel.
The crew got another serving of traditional Irish music from the band Home Brew, this time with Mossy Daly from The Dutch sitting in on bodhran.
Rory McIlroy's win and donation of 650,000 purse to charity makes front page news in all three national Irish papers.
Final thoughts and reflections to come, but for now its a flight back and the chance to determine just how to describe this incredible week to friends and family back home.
After two days of relatively good weather, the rainy day we all knew was coming arrived on Saturday. We experienced two lightning warnings in the afternoon and a steady then lashing rain.
We did our best to mow fairways and fill divots when it was safe to be back on the course. It was of course, all hands on deck for volunteers and full time staff. Many hands made light work and we were pleased that all this happened during the smaller field. Fewer players means fewer divots to find and fill.
Waiting out one of the three rain/lightning delays on Saturday.
Fans heading home and equipment heading back out onto the course creates a bit of a traffic jam.
We may have Danny Willett to thank for the ultimate suspension of play as he was seen describing in great detail how the rain and darkness was so harsh that he couldnt see his ball.
Play was suspended around 8:30 PM and we were relieved to be sent back to the hotel to dry out. As is commonplace at courses and maintenance facilities in Ireland, we hung our waterproofs in the drying room and they were ready to wear this morning.
Crew drying room. Radiant heat in the floor dries waterproofs overnight so they are ready to wear in the morning.
Sunday morning we arrived at 5 AM and immediately headed out to tidy up the bunkers around the course. Most of the fairways, tees and greens were also mowed. We spread some mulch on pathways, had our breakfast and will now return to the course mostly as spectators for the rest of the day (save for one crew remaining on call for rain duty.)
One of the last calls of duty: spreading mulch on the pedestrian paths.
A handful of groups returned to complete their rounds over the final three holes. With rain anticipated later this afternoon, tournament officials announced a split tee start after 9:00 AM. With any luck the winner should be determined by 2:00 PM.
Anticipation is building as tournament host Rory McIlroy is in the lead by three shots.
Reporting to work at 4 AM creates a special bond. This is my friend Neil McCarrick from County Meath. He works for a construction company there but is working the golf tournament this week. Neil and I are on the back nine bunker crew so we spend the first three early hours of the day together. As has been the case with so many people I meet in Ireland we are instant friends and the craic and banter is non-stop.
Neil has four kids - three boys and a girl all of whom are involved in sports (mostly rugby and GAA Football) so we have lots to talk about as get the back nine bunkers ready for play each day. Thankfully we have had help on the back nine for the past three days and the work has gone fairly quickly.
As you can see from his cap, Neil is one cool cat.
Neil doing his early-morning bunker grooming.
When we arrived to start work on the Irish Open at the K Club we were surprised to meet two other Americans in town to help with the event. John Fleck (Colden, NY) and Brian Coyne (Hamburg, NY) are longtime friends of Gerry Byrne's and worked during the 2006 Ryder Cup.
They were back to bring their many years of golf management expertise to tournament week. John is currently with Professional Turf Services and Brian is a longtime superintendent in upstate New York. They were instantly deemed honorary members of Team TurfNet.
They have been here all week, rolling (or 'greensironing' in the local vernacular) greens in the morning and then blowing bunkers and surrounds. It has been great fun sharing this international experience with them and hearing all the stories from over the years.
They bring strength, stamina, and expertise the many jobs they do around the course. They are also having a great time along with the rest of us.
Brian Coyne rolling a green at the K Club
John Fleck blowing out a bunker.
Frank Byrne (Gerry's brother and a local turf supplier) with Brian Coyne.
Lifelong friends John Fleck (left) and Brian Coyne (right) enjoying the craic in Ireland.
It's been really neat to volunteer with Jon Kiger and Nathan McKinniss at the Irish Open.
Nathan reminded me that he initially came to me (at the Ohio State intern program) looking at going to Torrey Pines in California and I somehow talked him into going to Ireland. He is very happy I did as he will have an Open tournament on his resume and a 'pot of gold experience' as a result along with a massive network of great people in the industry.
This was Jon's first tournament also. As a result he will have so much more understanding and respect for what goes into putting on a tour event. The hours and the hard work that goes into this event are all on display when the camera is on Rory and the other players.
As I reflect on our week together, pride and endurance' are two words that come to mind. A sense of pride in every job we do, be it raking a bunker or making sure every divot is filled.
As I reflect on our week together, pride and endurance' are two words that come to mind..."
I'm sure both Nate and Jon will not forget their first tournament and I will not forget the chance to share the experience with them for the week.
Jon, Nate and Mike in front of the signature Number 16 green.
Nate and I take time for a quick photo while Nates mower is refueled.
After several consecutive days of helping Pat in the shop, we were offered the opportunity to have a little fun Friday afternoon. I often fish for bass at the pond at Framingham CC before starting work, so I jumped at the chance to try fly fishing for trout in Ireland. Burnout Bill (the K Clubs nickname for him, not mine) mows rough, valets cars, and serves as the resident fly fishing guide at the K Club.
We took a utility vehicle up to the K Club's Fishing Lodge and checked out our gear. Within minutes I had a fly in the water. It didn't take long for me to land my first trout, the biggest catch of the day. It was also the largest trout I have personally caught. I could hardly believe that I was trout fishing at a course adjacent to where Rory McIlroy and other pros were competing, but that is the magic of being in Ireland.
Yes, they have rainbow trout in Ireland!
After an hour of fishing, I decided to watch some of the golf. Thats why Im here after all to support the tournament. Katie Stilwell a fairway mowing volunteer from England, our only woman on the crew, and a very experienced tournament volunteer showed me around the course.
Katie Stillwell and I stop to chat with a Rules Official during our walk around the course today.
I've never seen guys hit the ball so far with such accuracy. It was fun being on the course that is being manicured by the equipment I am helping to maintain. After a few hours on the course, it was back to the shop to help get this ready for the afternoon shift.
I've never seen guys hit the ball so far with such accuracy..."
Today has been one of my best days so far in Ireland!
With the prospect of rain for Saturday and Sunday it seemed like Friday afternoon would be the best chance to catch some of the competition. Josh Dunn, Mossy Daly, Mike OKeeffe, Pete Williams, Katie Stillwell and I decided to walk the course for a few holes. I must say seeing the crowds and players around bunkers I raked and divots I filled was a personal thrill. When youre out on the course alone its hard to visualize the end result of your work on the course during the tournament.
Every once in a while a tournament courtesy car (in this case a BMW) gets mixed in with the equipment caravan to the Palmer course.
Mossy Daly (from Co.Cork but currently at The Dutch Golf Club in the Netherlands) chats with a course marshal during competition. They see each other daily as he is coming in from mowing tees and the marshall is taking his perch for the day.
One observation of a difference between tournament golf in Ireland and the US is the primary lack of grandstands here. Golf is a walking game and spectators are expected to do the same. And this being Ireland, everyone has rain gear or an umbrella should the odd shower pop up (as they have every day so far.)
Crowds follow Tournament Host Rory McIlroy as he completes his round on Hole #9. He started Friday on Hole 10 since there was a full field.
More greenside action on Number 9 at the Irish Open.
There are more young people at this tournament than comparable events in the US. What a great way to grow the game organically by having kids see the best players around.
There was a threat of rain coming in around 4 PM but it wasnt as heavy as expected. Had play been suspended Friday they would have had to complete this final full-field round tomorrow. That would no doubt change our scheduling in the morning. Assuming the golf is completed today, we will be better off as a crew after the cut since there will be fewer golfers out on the course. The difference with Saturday/Sunday play however will be that all players will play from the first tee.
We are halfway through the competition. Everyone is still in good spirits as we approach the halfway point in the tournament.
The Pro-Amateur round is held Wednesday, the day before the Irish Open tournament begins. By now the course is ready and rolling well. Comments from approaching golfers have been nothing but positive!
Sunrise, reporting for duty at 4:15 AM
Again I began the day making my laps on the intermediate rough. The morning start was very early in order to get ahead of today's golfers. There's no complaints, though, as we are used to starting before the sunrise.
The afternoon shift consisted of filling divots. The fairways needed to be cleaned up from the Pro-Am which took two teams tackling either the front or back nine holes. And I can personally say, you will not find a missed divot on the fairway. The motto was If it's brown, throw it down!
From sun up to sun down the K Club was putting together the final touches. I'm excited for tomorrow morning and the kick off of this year's Irish Open.
Sunset at the end of a long day... made even longer by the spread-out divots from the pro-am.
Wednesday afternoon at the Lucan Golf Club...
With the Irish Open Pro-Am in full swing at the K Club, we were given the afternoon off before returning to fill divots on the course. We were invited to play the Lucan Golf Club (adjacent to the Lucan Spa Hotel our headquarters hotel for the week) by course manager Richie Doyle and sponsor on the day, Frank Byrne.
Lucan Golf Club was established in 1897 and is a fairly typical parkland course in Ireland except for some of the elevation changes on the front nine. Gerry Byrne arranged a few sets of hired ('rented' in American English) clubs from the K Club pro shop and we were on our way.
We had nine golfers so we set out as a fivesome and foursome. Your first tee shot is over the road to the clubhouse and the seventh hole requires someone to be a lookout to ensure of the all clear from passing cars.
A motion activated recording plays and doesnt turn off until someone is in the road lookout position pressing a button. Hole No. 7 at Lucan Golf Club
It is definitely a members club with a few blind tee shots, which are hard to get your arms around as a first time visiting golfer. Richie had the course and especially the greens in outstanding shape.
Those of us on the bunker raking and divoting crews at the K Club, however, had to avoid the instinct to fix every divot and smooth out every line on the bunkers we passed. To add to the Irish golf experience we played about three holes of the nine in the rain. Irish rain is described (in order of severity) as spitting spilling or lashing and we experienced all three. It is easy to see why every serious Irish golfer carries their waterproofs around all the time. Youd never get a full round in if you only played when the weather was fit.
Those of us on the bunker raking and divoting crews at the K Club, however, had to avoid the instinct to fix every divot and smooth out every line on the bunkers we passed...
The members we met were all very gracious and welcoming us to their club. If there were an award for best outside golf outing Richie, Frank and Lucan Golf Club would win hands down.
Golf at Lucan Golf Club (all from Ireland unless otherwise noted): (l-r): Josh Dunn (UK), John Fleck (US), James Brennan, Jon Kiger (US), Frank Byrne, Mike OKeeffe, Nate McKinniss (US), Seamus Walsh, Brian Coyne (US), and Richie Doyle (host superintendent.)
Mike OKeefe, Lucan GC host superintendent Richie Doyle, and Brian Coyne
Walking the golf course with "trolleys". Golf as it was meant to be played.
Nate, Mike and I are on a split shift. We arrive at the course at 4:15 AM and head out to rake the bunkers (or in Nates case to mow intermediate rough.) After breakfast around 9 AM we are sometimes free to return to our hotel in Lucan until returning to the course at 4 PM for an early evening session of divoting.
Loading up divot mix.
On Tuesday we had a relatively easy day of divoting as we were only repairing divots from the relatively few number of pros who were practicing Monday and Tuesday. Naturally they focus most of their preparation on the greens. Since most pros hit the ball about the same length off the tee we needed to only look for divots in a strip of about twenty to thirty yards in their typical landing area. While we did a full sweep of each fairway, that small area held most of the divots needing repair.
Wednesday brought the Pro-Am and the host of amateur players. It was also a much larger field than either the full field of the tournament or the post-cut field. Not only were there many more divots but they were scattered up and down the fairways and even in the first cut of rough.
We had a larger divoting crew last night but collecting the pelts and filling in the divots still took much longer than anticipated. We didnt arrive back at the hotel until nearly 10 PM but we knew our work was critical since television coverage started the next day.
Collected pelts without a home to replace them in.
I often hear about the challenges superintendents face keeping their crews motivated when their staffs are faced with repetitive tasks. I now know first hand how monotonous some of those tasks can be.
What a way to start an adventure.
Upon my arrival in Ireland, via England, I found myself settling down in the great village of Dundalk and meeting up with Jon Kiger, who has now become an old friend.
Jon's knowledge of Ireland is awesome. From a local barber shop, smartly located behind a candy store, to a locals pub named the Cobblestone in Dublin. After some great food, great music and I'm sure you'll figure out how I feel about the pints, we made our way towards the K Club.
Getting a hot towel shave in Dundalk on Thursday morning.
Where in the States can you do that?
Getting acquainted with Nate McKinniss at the Market Bar in Dundalk, Thursday night.
As we arrived in the shop, Pat Freaney, the equipment manager, greeted me with a smile that removed any and all apprehension. His confidence in Pete Williams' and my abilities was obvious from the start. I was immediately impressed by the amount of daily work Pat accomplishes on his own.
Diving right in by grinding a few units, repairing 2 stroke equipment, sealing oil leaks, changing tires and a plethora of other typical tasks made us feel right at home. We already knew that our services would be much needed in support of the Irish Open but Pats acceptance of our skills and experience was humbling. We were immediately assigned tasks of importance that are considered extremely sensitive at most courses around the world.
Pat Freaney, Pete Williams and I in the hotel employee canteen for breakfast.
Today we shifted into tournament mode so we are on a split schedule and Pete and I are on our way back in. Tune in next blog for our dynamic duo's further adventures.
It was great to catch up with one of my past interns who is now a full time employee here at the K-Club. Joe Carthy interned at the prestigious Pebble Beach resort while on the TOP program. He was involved in three tournaments while at Pebble Beach, the last being the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.
Joe said the time in the States prepared him well to start into working at The K-Club the week of the Irish Open. Joe just lives 20 minutes away, having work previously at Naas GC with David Behan before going to the States.
Joe Carthy and me at the K Club golf operations center.
Monday, first full day of tournament week. In the morning I got back on the sidewinder to burn in the lines of the intermediate rough around tees, fairways, bunkers, greens and the players walking path. Patrick (Patty) and I were placed with this task going hole to hole. It is only one pass along the tees and fairways but maneuvering around the mass of bunkers can be very tricky.
Getting fueled up...
... and getting out and at it.
After completing the intermediate rough and enjoying a filling lunch break, I, with Patty, got on a different riding mower - and on a different course. We were to mow fairways on the K Clubs Smurfit course. The course will be open for corporate hospitality golf while the Irish Open takes place. This course is right beside the Palmer course but it is completely different because its more of a links style layout. Even though the Smurfit course is not hosting the Irish Open it still is a spectacular golf course which has held European tour events in the past.
The Smurfit (formerly South) course at the K Club is more of a links-style course.
I was glad I got to see the difference between the two courses at the K Club. I was surprised with how different they both were despite being on the same piece of land. To be honest though, I was most surprised that I was sitting on a riding mower all day. There can be no complaining there. Day 1 = done.
With everyone onsite by Sunday afternoon, Gerry Byrne hosted a kickoff night complete with that staple of Irish culture: Irish music. Volunteers were entertained by the sounds of Home Brew. TurfNet Ireland 2015 trip participants will recall hearing them on our final Saturday in Dublin last October. They played a nice mix of Irish ballads and classic favorites.
It wasn't a particularly late night, however, as we were due at the course by 5:30 to start dialing in the tournament conditions.
A brisk early morning start...
The course looked great Monday morning, with the greens in particularly good shape from an application of seaweed and iron from blog sponsor OGT. The recent warm weather was crucial to the current conditioning as the resulting rise in soil and air temperatures created strong growth and consistency in all fine turf and rough on the golf course. Even if the anticipated rain forecast for later in the week does arrive, the course should perform well.
A spritz of seaweed and iron lit up the greens for the start of tournament week.
Monday also brought the first sight of golfers arriving for the event. The range was full by midday and they were taking their first practice rounds by mid-afternoon.
Parking spaces reserved for the players...
...who headed directly for some putting practice.
I started my assignment for the week with initial preparation and presentation of the 62 bunkers on the course. Mike O'Keeffe was a great coach on proper techniques. I will head up the team of bunker workers on the back nine for the rest of the week. Today, however, we worked in a couple of larger crews and prepared all the bunkers in order.
Mike O'Keeffe showing me the bunker edge technique.
And there I am... a long way from the TurfNet Atlanta office.
Now that everyone is onsite I asked Gerry Byrne what it meant to have the tournament fully-staffed with volunteers. He replied, These volunteers were such a welcome to our team as the guys integrated with the team to create a cohesive and dynamic force to deliver the turf for the event. They also brought a fresh impetus and passion to the team which was much needed. It has been a very tough winter for the in-house guys and having the extra crew to support and work to deliver the event is a breath of free air."
Here's a Viewer's Guide to the Irish Open.
Friday of last week arrived and after a full days work, my family drove me to Logan Airport in Boston. As mentioned previously this is my first international trip and I was excited about the opportunity. I was surprised to learn that the woman sitting next to me on the plane was from Boylston just two towns over from me.
After no sleep on the plane I caught my first glimpse of the Irish countryside Saturday morning. I was struck by the incredible asymmetrical countryside. All the farms had been laid out in an ancient patchwork of shapes and sizes in stark contrast to the grid pattern of American farms. Naturally the countryside was also very green.
After some apprehension about going through Immigration and Customs upon arrival, my concerns were laid to rest as it was a very easy and even welcoming process.
Since Saturday was our first work day, I went immediately to the course and met Gerry Byrne, our host for the week. I was collected at the airport along with two other volunteers from The Belfry in the UK.
It took some real getting used to being driven on the other side of the road as we made our way to the K Club. Overall, I find Ireland extremely friendly, particularly among the volunteers who are here for the week.
Monday of Open Week, tournament prep shifts into high gear. Below are some photos from this morning's activities around the K Club. Quite a different scale from the major tournaments in the US.
Lead technician Pat Freaney compares notes with TurfNet volunteers Pete Williams and Dana Chase.
Pete and Dana setting up a Flex 21.
Volunteer John Fleck dew-whipping greens after rolling.
Morning mow. The weather has been beautiful so far but rain is expected tomorrow (Tuesday).
One member of our TurfNet Team at the K Club this week is Nate McKinniss, a fourth-year student at Ohio State who is currently interning at County Louth Golf Club/Baltray, just north of Dublin near Drogheda. He is taking the week off from Baltray to work with us at the K Club. But all is not work...
Plunging right into Irish culture, Nate has earned himself a new nickname: Nate McGuinness (get it... McKinniss/McGuinness?). Below is Nate (left) with K Club course manager Gerry Byrne (center) and Mike O'Keeffe, director of the Ohio State international intern program who is also volunteering with us this week. Mighty craic abounded.
Nate "McGuinness", Gerry Byrne and Mike O'Keeffe
I got in early on Friday afternoon. It was great to catch up with Gerry Byrne and some of his friends from the States, Brian Coyne and John Fleck from upstate New York. We set off rolling greens with a greens roller, or as they say in Ireland a "Greensiron".
Saturday morning saw me knee deep in geraniums and other colorful flowers being planted in the privet hedge logo of the K-Club in front of the Palmer club house.
I fell in with a temporary staff who knew very little about the club or golf but they were planting flowers as fast as possible as the weather was great and the pressure is on.
We were very well looked after and I was surprised come 10 am tools were dropped and everyone headed to the hotel canteen for 'morning tea'... something I miss in the States.
I was surprised come 10 am tools were dropped and everyone headed to the hotel canteen for 'morning tea'... something I miss in the States...
It is really great meeting all the guys from different clubs "Mossey" from Cork who is working in Holland at The Dutch GC with a number of my past interns, Andrew Cowie, and Paul O'Donoghue to name a few. Joe Pitt from the Belfry who also knows a number of current and former interns from our Ohio State program.
This morning we were out helping Philip, the lead horticulturist, putting in big planters on the 10th tee box and around the balcony of the clubhouse. We are working to create an instant impact, filling planters to the brim with beautiful color, and they had an instant impact as a young lady walked by who said she loved the flowers.
I have to say, working behind a desk and now lugging large planters along with bags of mulch and planting upwards of 100 flats of flowers has taken a toll on us. Meaning I was in bed last night by 9.00pm... but tonight is another story.
This morning we reported for duty at 6 AM and I was assigned with local volunteer Stephen Rynne to sweep off and remove moss from a players pedestrian bridge that was formerly covered in astroturf.
As we completed the cleanup of the bridge, course manager Gerry Byrne was concerned that it would now be too slippery given the anticipated rain later in the week. He wanted to add a layer of sand to the grooves in the bridge. He started to order up a utility vehicle of sand and two shovels for us to complete this task.
As I heard him radio in that request, I suggested that instead of us hand shoveling the sand onto the bridge that he consider using a topdresser to put a uniform layer of sand down on the bridge. I figured he had to fill up something to get the sand out there so it might as well be a topdresser rather than a buggy.
It would have easily taken two of us between 1-2 hours to sand the bridge when the topdresser completed the task in one or two quick passes. I guess being around all those TurfNet Tips and Tricks video shoots has me in that innovative mindset.
This players' bridge was deemed a slipping hazard if wet weather arrived. So...
My "Tips & Tricks" suggestion was to simply run a topdresser over it, and voila!
Having that task taken care of so quickly allowed us to join Mike OKeeffe in planting about 200 flats of begonias and geraniums around the K Club clubhouse, below.
After a few days spent visiting friends and adjusting to the time zone change, we are finally assembling at the K Club for our first day on the course. Most of the volunteers arrive today and we will be fully staffed by midday tomorrow.
The warmth and sunshine of the last two days was much needed and welcomed by not only course manager Gerry Byrne but everyone we spoke to. There isnt a more weather-obsessed country than Ireland.
When I first thought of coming to Ireland to help on the crew for the Irish Open, I envisioned a sort of golf course maintenance fantasy camp since I have never done this sort of work before. As the assignments and schedules came over from Gerry Byrne it hit home that I will be expected to be a fully contributing member of the crew (raking bunkers and filling divots no one is crazy enough to turn me loose on a piece of machinery).
The scale of the event finally hit home when I arrived at Dublin airport and saw all the signage for the Irish Open. I saw the collage of expected players and thought, these guys will be teeing off on grass mowed by Nate, they will be in bunkers raked by me and Mike, and all the equipment will be maintained by Pete and Dana as they assist head technician Pat Freaney. This is real.
Everyone (even non-golfers) knows about the tournament and is handicapping how all the Irish players will do. Naturally the country is especially focused on tournament host Rory McIlroy. Coverage of his play this week at TPC Sawgrass is front page news.
Tonight we will be joined by many of our Irish superintendent friends for a welcome reception. Tomorrow, it gets real.
The first tee awaits at the K Club.
Jon Kiger: Advertising/Membership/Video for TurfNet
Background: I am the primary advertising/sponsorship salesperson for TurfNet and also produce much of our video content. Ive enjoyed covering tournaments and events for TurfNet.
Previous International Travel: I have lost track of the number of times I have been to Ireland for TurfNet business or vacations visiting friends. I thoroughly enjoy helping people experience this great country, particularly in off the beaten path places and through different experiences.
Previous Tournament Experience: None. Ive been fortunate to attend a number of golf tournaments, including some of the Majors either as a spectator or correspondent for TurfNet. When the opportunity to volunteer for the 2016 Irish Open came up I thought it was time for me to get my hands dirty as an active participant rather than a casual observer.
Role in Ireland: I will rake bunkers in the mornings and fill divots in the afternoons. I will also organize and produce the content for this blog.
Hope to Experience/Bring Back: There are so many aspects to this trip that I am looking forward to. As much as I enjoy traveling around Ireland it will be nice to stay in the same place (our base hotel in Lucan) for the week. To introduce members of the Irish golf community to other TurfNet members will be a lot of fun. I anticipate that lifelong friendships will be made.
Ive been fortunate to visit several hundred maintenance facilities during my time with TurfNet, but to finally be an active participant on a crew for the week will be especially rewarding. I am looking forward to seeing Ireland through the eyes and ears of the rest of the TurfNet On Tour team as we blog about our week together.
Nathan McKinniss, TurfNet student intern, County Louth Golf Club, Ireland
Background: I am a senior at the Ohio State University, and interned on the greens staff for two summers at Brookside Golf and Country Club. During the school year I work part time in the greens dept. but mostly Food and Beverage in the clubhouse. Every summer since I was 16 I have been employed with golf course maintenance.
Previous International Travel: My international travel experience began two weeks ago when I flew to Ireland to start my internship (arranged through TurfNet and Mike O'Keeffe at Ohio State) at County Louth Golf Club, just north of Dublin. I am doing a blog for TurfNet about my experiences there this summer. I had never been out of the country before that.
Previous Tournament Experience: Both summers at Brookside Golf and Country Club we hosted a U.S. Open Qualifier. That included all the preparations of tournament play without the large spectator factor. Similarly, we prepared for the country clubs member annual invitational. The members had the highest expectations for conditioning so it was our duty to deliver.
Role in Ireland: During the Irish Open, I will be mowing the intermediate rough in the morning and members/ visitors tees in the afternoon. Im excited with these tasks and ready to get them done the best I can. The whole time I will also be learning all I can from this experience in Ireland.
Hope to Experience/Bring Back: I hope to bring back another perspective of turfgrass and tournament management practices. Im especially interested to learn how these practices differ due to climatic factors and smaller crew sizes. This volunteer opportunity will be rewarding when the final results of the Irish Open are seen, played and enjoyed! I cannot express my excitement through words, but I will with a wide smile ear to ear.