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TurfNet covers the return of golf to the Olympic Games

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Saturday Brings Three New Olympic Golf Medalists into History

JON KIGER AUG 21 | If one of the goals for course set up between the Men's and Women's Olympic competitions was parity the organizers succeeded. South Korea's Inbee Park claimed the Gold Medal to end the tournament at 16-under the same score that Great Britain's Justin Rose shot to win Gold on the Men's side. The seven time major champion became the first woman in 116 years to earn Olympic gold.   New Zealand's Lydia Ko finished at 11-under to earn the Silver Medal and China's Shanshan Feng finished at 10-under for the Bronze.   (L-R) New Zealands Lydia Ko - Silver, South Koreas Inbee Park - Gold, and Chinas Shanshan Feng - Bronze   While golf's usual refrain for those who don't win is "wait until next year" Olympic participants and those who stayed home will have a four year wait to have a chance at Olympic glory. And with such a long wait until the next competition it is only fitting that the top three competitors are honored compared to the "winner take all" attention paid to traditional tournament winners.     The 120 golfers who participated can forever add "Olympian" to their resume and the 41 countries represented have reason to take great pride in being a part of golf's return to the Olympic stage after 112 years.   If there is another Gold Medal to award it's to Olympic Golf Course superintendent Neil Cleverly, his local crew and the volunteers from around the world. To pull tournament conditions off (TWICE!) under these circumstances was nothing short of remarkable.   Working double shifts for three weeks and enduring travel, lodging, security and other logistical challenges was beginning to take its toll on the volunteer crew by Saturday morning. Several volunteers reported general fatigue. Being a part of history in a special setting and the camaraderie of the rest of the crew carried them through the final hours of preparation.   Neil Cleverly (front in blue jacket) with local crew and volunteers for the Olympic Golf competitions.    One of golf's enduring qualities is its ability to bring people together whether you're joining a threesome at your local muni or meeting colleagues from around the world to do something never before accomplished in the modern era. In Rio in 2016 it definitely accomplished that in abundance.   Welcome Back, Golf. See you in Tokyo in 2020.

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Q&A with Vicky Whyte, Founder, Public Golf Association of Japeri and Olympic Golf Volunteer

JON KIGER AUG 19 |  During the Women's competition I caught up with Vicky Whyte, an Olympic volunteer and golf activist in Brazil.   JK: Please tell us about your background. VW: I am Brazilian, and have lived in Brazil most of my life. I went to high school in England and university in the USA.   JK: When did you decide to try to volunteer for the Olympics? VW: The whole process started back in 2014. It was a very long process.   JK: Are you a golfer yourself and if so, where do you play? VW: Yes, I play golf out of Gavea Golf Club here in Rio de Janeiro.   JK: What will having golf in the Olympics in Brazil do for the sport here? VW: I think the sport is going to benefit a lot because so far in Brazil golf has only been a sport for the elite because we don't have any public courses. And now with this -- a public course --  I think it's going to do us all a lot of good.   JK: What is your main volunteer role at the Olympic golf competitions? VW: My role here is purely as a volunteer. I'm in charge of the standard bearers and getting them to the tee on time. But in golf itself I have been president of the Rio de Janeiro Golf Federation and vice president of the Brazilian Golf Federation.   JK: As a resident of Rio, what does it mean to you to have the Olympics here? VW: It's absolutely fantastic. I know the whole world was very frightened and we had a lot of bad press leading up this but this was very important for us to show that we can do a major event -- any major event.  But this one is especially important as it is sporting but its overflowing into other areas. People are making friends and having a happy time and I think in general it is a huge success. So it's very important for Rio to have shown this to the world.   ...the whole world was very frightened and we had a lot of bad press leading up this but this was very important for us to show that we can do a major event -- any major event.   JK: Do you have any comparisons between the Men's and Women's competitions? VW: So far I feel the Women's field is a little stronger comparatively but that doesn't take anything away from the men. The Men's week was absolutely fantastic. It was better than any of us had dreamed of. Hopefully the same will happen this week.   Vicky Whyte's (l) volunteer duties included marshaling standard bearers.   JK: You mentioned you are a member of Gavea Golf Club. How many members would you estimate are volunteers here at the Olympics? VW: About twenty.   JK: Any final thoughts about having golf in the Olympics? VW: I worked very hard for it because I was on the International Golf Federation for eight years. I was one of the people really in favor of it, because when any sport that's an Olympic sport gets government funding that's terribly important for the poorer countries. In most of Europe and the USA golf is a healthy sport financially but it's not in South America. It is very important for us and we hope it stays in the Olympics.   Learn more about Vicky Whyte's activities with the Pubic Golf Association of Japeri here.

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Wednesday: Bring on the Women!

JON KIGER AUG 17 | With all the excitement of the Men's medal round finishing on Monday, it could be easy to forget that there is a whole tournament of women's golf starting today. Unfortunately here, as is often the case in the States, the women's golf has a way to go to match the popularity of the mens competition.   Women's golf has actually been absent from the Olympics longer than the men (only played at the 1900 Paris Games.) Still there was a 7:30 AM first tee shot to witness and I was sure to be there  to capture it.   Volunteers with the first scoring standard in Womens Olympic history in 100 years. Will the stands fill up on 18 green?   The first thing that struck me was that the grandstands behind the first tee were empty. There was only a handful of spectators and media on hand as the first group of women approached the tee, so getting "up close and personal" with the golfers was no problem.   As was the case on Thursday with the men's competition, a Brazilian golfer -- Miriam Nagl -- was given the honor of hitting the first tee shot. She was joined by Leona Maguire from Ireland and Kelly Tan from Malaysia. One quick announcement, three tee shots and women's golf was underway.   Miriam Nagl (Brazil) Leona Maguire (Ireland) and Kelly Tan (Malaysia) are announced on the first tee.    Geography is shrinking in today's world and Miriam Nagl (@NaglMiriam) is a prime example. She was born in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1981 but her family moved to Germany when she was eight years old. She attended David Ledbetter's Academy in Florida and then went on to play at Arizona State. Now a dual Brazilian/German citizen, she played on the German national team until 2015, and currently plays on the Ladies European Tour.  She was expecting her first child when approached by the Brazilian Golf Federation about playing for Brazil in Rio.   Brazil's Women's Golf team: Victoria Lovelady and Miriam Nagl.   Brazil's Miriam Nagl showing fine form for the opening tee shot.   From the groups I watched it seemed like all the women were familiar with each other and greeted each other in a friendly way. Unlike their male counterparts, they have the chance to beat the Brazilian heat by wearing shorts or skirts.   The women players seemed more congenial with their competitors than the men.    If the men's rounds represented a relaxed, laid back approach to spectator golf, the women's competition is even more so.   Monitors around the course (here on the rear of some grandstands) advise on Golf's Do's and Don'ts.   I look forward to seeing how this competition plays out and hope that it serves as inspiration for women golfers young and old in Brazil to take up the game.

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Men's Medal day at Olympic Golf

JON KIGER AUG 15 | It's difficult to imagine that an Englishman could have a home course advantage on a golf course in Brazil, but that's what happened yesterday when Justin Rose won the first Olympic Gold medal in 112 years. Superintendent Neil Cleverly is from Great Britain and must have taken great satisfaction that his course helped his home country in their medal count (Great Britain is currently third in total medals.)   The day could not have been more perfect. Sunny skies, a nice breeze and the largest crowds of the week. Clearly Brazil is interested in golf. The demonstration areas (real clubs and balls this time) had a constant stream of participants from all the demographic groups we're trying to grow the game with here in the States.   The golf demonstration area outside the Olympic Course had a steady stream of new golfers.   Fans spread out on the golf course and filled the 18th grandstand well before the last group came down the fairway. There was talk that match play should have been the format for Olympic golf, but stroke play proved to be exciting as Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose were tied at -15 until the final hole. American Matt Kuchar (the locals even had the KUUUUU chant down pat) was a lock for the bronze medal.   Fans relaxing in the shade (grandstands are only on a few holes near the clubhouse).   Rose birdied 18 to win the gold medal. The greenkeeping staff, however, wasn't on hand for the presentation. Handwatering was the order of the afternoon.   Henrik Stenson (Silver), Justin Rose (Gold), and Matt Kuchar (Bronze) display their medals for the fans at 18 green.   The medal winners' national flags are raised over an Olympic golf course for the first time in 112 years.   No sitting around watching the medal ceremony when there is hand watering to be done. UK volunteer Gary Walters waters after the medal round of Olympic golf.   The crew gathers to confirm watering assignments after Sundays Medal round.   After all the women start practicing in earnest today and start their competition on Wednesday. I was invited out on the course for the evening shift.   It was great to be in Rio for this historic day in Olympic Golf.  

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Audiocast: Rick Holanda on working in Brazil

In this Syngenta Welcomes Back Golf audiocast, Jon Kiger chats with native Brazilian Rick Holanda about his recent stint as superintendent at SantaPaziena Golf Club in Sao Paulo, Brazil.   Holanda emigrated from Brazil to the Philadelphia area in 1989 as an aspiring fashion photographer, and took a job on the crew at Merion Golf Club under Dick Bator. Rick was hooked on golf turf management, and went on to superintendent positions at Aronimink Golf Club, Chestnut Ridge CC in Maryland, Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California, and then Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. After Shadow Creek he went to Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, CA to be closer to his two daughters. The job at SantaPazienza beckoned, so he returned to Brazil for three years before coming back to the States recently to take over at Scottsdale National Golf Club.  

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Focus on Olympic volunteer Tom Harper

During the men's portion of Olympic golf in Rio, TurfNet caught up with Tom Harper, a retiree from England who was volunteering as a marshal on the 17th green.   Harper, who has lived in Brazil for the past 2-plus years, volunteered his services as soon as the call went out.    Like so many, he is hoping the return of golf to the Olympics will generate interest in the game in a country of 200 million people, many of whom follow soccer, sand volleyball and basketball much more than golf, said Harper, who is married to a Brazilian woman.   "Let's hope lots of Brazilians get involved in playing the game, because it's a game that isn't played much by Brazilians," Harper said.   "It's up to the Brazilian golf federation now to ensure that happens."   He also is looking forward to playing the course when the Olympics are over . . . as long as it is made public and affordable for all Brazilians.   "This is the big thing for us amateur golfers; we want to play the Olympic course after the guys and girls," he said. "Hopefully within a month we'll be playing this course and we're really looking forward to it. It will be a challenge, but it's always nice to play a hole which the professionals have played."   Harper says he has noticed many Brazilian families in the gallery. Their knowledge level of the game, he says, makes them easy to spot. Unlike those who are accustomed to viewing championship golf, many locals don't know to be still around greens when players are putting.   "They are not familiar with etiquette," Harper said. "(They) walk by greens not seeing if there is anyone on the green putting."  

John Reitman

John Reitman

 

Catching up with Olympic GC superintendent Neil Cleverly

JON KIGER AUG 14 |  Despite having the eyes of the world on the Olympic Golf Course in Rio, superintendent Neil Cleverly spent some time with me on Saturday of the Men's competition to share his thoughts on preparing for and hosting this historic event.   JK: You've had the course pretty much to yourself for the last three years, what's it like finally having the golfers and the spectators here for the Olympics?   NC: "It's good to see that the golf course is being played as a golf course instead of just being maintained as a golf course. When the first flag went in and the first tee markers were put out during the test event in March you could see the value of the golf course. You could see the design in its true form. Now the Olympics are here you see the Olympic flags and the Olympic tee markers out and it brings to reality what we've been doing for the last three years. So it's great to see spectators walking the golf course, and the pros doing what they do best and that's play golf on a great golf course."   JK: Tell us a little about your anticipation and expectations of this particular piece of land and what it meant to build the golf course here.   NC: "The expectations from everybody when they realized that golf was back in the Olympic games were that this parcel of land lends itself to having a great-designed golf course. And this is a great design. Gil Hanse and his crew put a golf course together and took it from paper to reality -- and we all had a hand in it from Day One from construction, to grassing, to grow in, to where we are now. Did we expect the golf course to be as good now as it is? I did. There were some others that had some difference of opinions but we all saw the value of having this golf course here and we're seeing it right now."   Did we expect the golf course to be as good now as it is? I did."   JK: Were you at the first tee for the first group (on Thursday) or was there work to be done elsewhere?   NC: "Unfortunately I was working on the golf course when the first tee shot was struck. I think the organizers got it right. The Brazilian golfer Adilson da Silva -- great guy, I've met him a few times -- had the honor of opening the first round and that was great move by the organizers."   Adilson da Silva takes the first tee shot of the 2016 Olympic Games. (Alex Miceli photo)   JK: I heard from some other members of the crew that when that inaugural tee shot was struck and the word came over the radios at 7:30 that folks did pause to realize what an historic time this was for golf. Explain a little more about how you and the crew felt at that particular time.   NC: "It was a great sigh of relief when the first golf ball was hit from the first tee. Almost relief more than anything else that we got where we needed to get to for the first round and the golf course looked great!  (Leading up to the Olympics) the weather wasn't really paying attention to what we wanted but we got through it. It's been quite a bizarre winter in Rio considering what the locals are telling me, but we got through it and now we're on Day Three (Saturday.)"   JK: You worked with mainly local workers until the volunteers arrived.  Tell us a little about the impact the volunteers are having now that they are here.   NC: "My crew comes from zero turf background. There's no turf school in this country. Everything they knew I taught them to do with the help of other people that I've been in the business with for a number of years. The crew jelled and became a team prior to the tournament, so we've been maintaining this golf course as best we can with what we had.   The crew jelled and became a team prior to the tournament..."   Obviously the volunteers are required to maintain the golf course in tournament condition in a very short space of time. The number of crew that I have are not the numbers that are required for this tournament -- or any tournament. So we definitely had to have volunteers from the industry itself -- many from Latin America, some Europeans, and some Americans. It was vitally important that we had people that understand golf and understand what we are trying to achieve and what we need to do. And that's what we have right now."   Volunteers - many from Latin America, Europe and America - at the ready.   JK: We are three days into the Men's competition. Do you anticipate any changes in your operation as you look ahead to next week and the Women's competition?   NC: "Not really. We have the program where we need it to be. The only thing we can't control is the weather, so we adapt the program to whatever weather we get. The golf course should play the same in terms of parity between men and women.   The organizers will place the tee markers where the ladies will hit their tee shots and second shots in parity with the men, hopefully. Pin positions will more or less be the same where the men are playing them now -- just again to get parity between both ladies' and men's tours."   JK: What have you enjoyed the most about your time in Brazil?   NC: "Training the crew in terms of work because it's been seven days a week work. I've enjoyed seeing them learn how to use a machine or understand why we do certain jobs at certain times. Even weed picking -- they never got it, they never understood it -- but it was unfortunately one of those necessary evils that you get on a golf course when you're not allowed to use any herbicides. Having a crew now after three years doing what they're doing so well. They're my heroes. That's what I've enjoyed."   Full crew meeting before the Saturday afternoon shift at the Olympic Golf Course maintenance facility.   JK: What is the most meaningful thing you'll take away from the experience?   NC: "The willingness of a lot of people who didn't understand golf -- I'm talking about the crew again --being willing to work long hours in the rain, in the sun, in the heat doing what they knew nothing about. And then seeing them enjoy what they do. That's one of the lessons I've learned from this particular task, having been around the world in other countries doing the same thing training other people on different golf courses. Achieving what we've achieved in respect to how difficult it has been is a takeaway point also."    Afternoon downtime for the crew. "Zero turf background" among the local staff. "They're my heroes..." - Neil Cleverly   The technical support staff, including several specialists from Jacobsen.

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Behind the scenes: the Rio Mower Parade

Jon Kiger Aug 13 |  One thing differentiating golf at the Rio Olympics from other major golf events that I have attended is the much more relaxed on-course security and crowd control from course marshals. Naturally I was interested in taking a peek at activity around the maintenance facility and was invited back by the support staff.   One thing differentiating TurfNet is that we don't do the usual, like the almost-cliche' photos of fairway mower formations on the course. So... I was lucky to be at the maintenance facility Thursday afternoon when the fleet of fiveplex and triplex mowers was going out for the second cut, led by superintendent Neil Cleverly... the Rio Mower Parade!    

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Rio 2016: What's for sale?

JON KIGER AUG 13 |   I have a theory when I'm at a special event. If I see a shirt, gewgaw or other item for sale that I like, I buy it then and there rather than wait until later, even if it means carrying it around all day. Too often in the past I have returned to the merchandise tent only to find that the item had sold out.   That seems to be a good practice here at the Olympics. There are two main Olympic merchandise stores one at the main Olympic Park and another on Copacabana Beach. Additionally, every venue has a smaller store that has the basics and anything that might be specific to that sport or venue.   The Megastore in the Olympic Park   There was a very popular Brazil flag pin that sold out in the first five hours of Day One. No re-orders or re-stocking. On the third day, the Copacabana store sold out of all their hats.   The selection is smaller than usual and what one would expect, in every category. Brazilian and South American culture is much less about accumulating things and more about living a sustainable lifestyle. Part of that echoes the European tradition where homes are generally smaller and don't have a lot of storage; another factor is Brazil's well-documented economic downturn.   It was difficult to find golf-related items until I got to the actual golf course. I was pleased to find Olympic golf flags on sale and even Olympic golf ties. For the first few hours during Thursday's golf session, the VISA payment system wasn't working so they only accepted cash.   As for food, there is a basic selection and the menu is the same at each venue. By American standards it would be slim pickin's. One brand of beer (Skol), Coca-Cola products (the Atlanta-based company is the oldest Olympic sponsor) and about four types of sandwiches. You have a choice of chicken, a hot dog, a double cheeseburger, or a cold sandwich.   With such a limited menu one would expect service to be fairly quick, but it is a two part system where you order your item at one counter (paying cash or with VISA another Olympic sponsor) and are given vouchers for what you bought, You then move to another counter about four feet away with your vouchers to pick up your items. The line to order and pay takes longer than you would expect despite photo menus that international visitors can point to. The good news is you can come back at any time with your vouchers and bypass the payment line. Hot food is hot and the drinks are cold.   Lines to pay for food can be particularly long at larger venues.    Americans are also used to venues having everything on the menu available at all times. That's not necessarily the case here. On Tuesday we were at the Rugby 7s session (about four hours of rugby) and they ran out of beer at the entire venue a third of the way through the session. No word on when they would get more... just a shrug that there was no more beer.   they ran out of beer at the entire venue a third of the way through the session. No word on when they would get more... just a shrug that there was no more beer.   Could you imagine if a sporting event in the States ran out of beer? One would think that someone in F&B here would have anticipated the mostly male audience and the tendency of us to drink lots of beer.  Or, at the very least, supplies would have been monitored and restocked early on.   Surprisingly, tickets to many events are readily available. The ticket office at any Olympic venue is set up to sell tickets for there and any other available event in Rio. This means if you find yourself already in the Olympic Park with a couple of hours between events you can usually buy a ticket on the spot to see something in the area. That is in contrast to the 2012 London Games when no official tickets were for sale during the events and very few were available on the secondary market.   Two tickets for the historic first round of Olympics golf in the modern era.    One Olympic sport is collecting the beer cups that include many of the Olympic sports. When the beer stands are busy you get the random cup for rowing, equestrian, swimming, etc. When it's not as busy you can usually request your preferred sport. I have even traded with a few fellow fans for a coveted golf cup.   Collectible, event-themed beer cups.   On the entrepreneurial side, there are many independent vendors on the public trains that aren't dedicated to Olympic transportation. You can buy cookies, chips and a variety of household items from people who move between the coaches.  

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Jose' Francisco: Local perspective on Olympic (and public) golf in Rio

JON KIGER  |  The effect of the reintroducing golf to the Olympics will linger long into the future in Rio de Janeiro, as the Olympic Golf Course will be the first (and to this point, only) golf course in Brazil that will be available to the public.    As I waited for the gates to open early Thursday morning for the first day of golf competition, I chatted with a local Rio resident, Jose' Francisco.  Mr. Francisco, an 18-year golfer himself, was also eager to witness the first group teeing off.  Needless to say, he is excited about golf returning to the Olympics but also on a high quality, public level in Rio.    

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Paul McGinley: "Don’t count Harrington out" and "this course could be in Ireland"

JON KIGER  AUG 13 |  In addition to watching the events, the Olympics are about new experiences and meeting people from other disciplines. Golf course superintendents, more than most professionals, enjoy sharing details of their craft with others inside and outside their industry.   Such was the case during Thursday's opening round of modern Olympic golf when Sinead O'Carroll, one of just two news editors covering the Olympics for Irish online news outlet The42.ie, was drawn to volunteers Eamonn McCarthy and Damien Coleman after hearing their Irish accents.   The journalist was at the course to report on golf's return to the Olympics after a 112 year absence. Naturally the Irishmen (and your faithful TurfNet correspondent) were keen to catch up with Padraig Harrington's group to see how he was playing. Harrington was in the second group of the day and the volunteers had assignments to finish before their midday break. They were happy to give Sinead an overview of the course as she hadn't covered many golf events prior to these Olympics.   Sinead OCarroll of the42.ie interviews volunteers Damien Coleman and Eamonn McCarthy during Round One of Olympic Golf.    In a stroke of Irish luck our group caught up with Irish Team Leader Paul McGinley as he tracked the progress of both Harrington and Seamus Power, who plays on the Web.com Tour.  McGinley had time for one interview as Harrington finished out the hole so I deferred to Sinead. What follows are excerpts from her interview (the full article may be found here.)   When asked what the Irish representatives have done prior to the start of golf, McGinley replied, "We've taken it all in. I think it's important if you're going to be an Olympian that you get inspired by all the other sports. It's kind of what we've been trying to do - get to as many sports and take in as much of the experience as we can. I think that will help us as golfers."   Asked about the weather for the week he added, "The wind has picked up a bit now which was exactly the forecast. This (Thursday) is going to be the windiest day of the four. As the week goes on, the wind is going to decrease a little bit and the temperatures are going to go up. But this is a good Irish breezy day. Four days like this, we'll be very happy."   O'Carroll asked McGinley about the goals of the Irish team and their chances to medal. "There is a huge desire with this team to win an Olympic medal," he replied.   "Obviously, with Rory and Shane on the team, we would have been real, legitimate favorites to win a medal. But you never rule Padraig Harrington out. And Seamus Power is having a really good season in the secondary (Web.com) tour in America. We Irish, we'll keep on fighting. And we have a lot of spirit, that's for sure. It's a big coup for him (Power.) He's so excited about it. He's been going to all the events with us and taking everything in. It's a learning experience for him. For me, he's won already. Nobody has any expectation on him. He's an Olympian and if he wins a medal on top, that would just be amazing."   Padraig Harrington (in green, naturally) prepares to tee off during Thursdays historic inaugural round of Olympic golf in the modern era.   McGinley explained that Harrington's experience may just lead to a medal. "Padraig has shown a bit of form in the last month and he's really energized about the Olympics and golf being in the Olympics.  With all his experience, if he gets any kind of a chance come Sunday. I think his experience might come to the fore."   She couldn't spend the afternoon with two Irish greenkeepers without asking a turf question. Here was the Irish Team leader's reply, "The course if fantastic. It's just exactly what we experience in Ireland. The grasses are different but the guys play such an international schedule now, they are used to the grasses."   "But this is a course you could see anywhere around the coast of Ireland. It has a linksy feel to it. There's nothing here we haven't encountered before."   Eamonn McCarthy (yellow) chats with Irish Team Leader Paul McGinley during Round One on Thursday.   Scoring update: After Friday's second round, Seamus Powers stood tied for 10th at six shots off the lead with a score of 138. Padraig Harrington was tied for 22nd at nine shots off the lead with a score of 141.   Special thanks to Sinead O'Carroll (@SineadOCarroll) for recording and transcribing the interview and to Irish Team Leader Paul McGinley for taking the time for an interview during Round One of Olympic golf. Read more at www.the42.ie   OK, here's a takeaway tidbit for you: How does one properly pronounce Pádraig? In Irish Gaelic, it can be pronounced several ways according to dialect or preference:  Pauric, Paurig, Pahdrick or Pahdrig (all phonetically, of course).

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Focus on Olympic volunteer Damien Coleman

Like everyone else this week, this is Damien Coleman's first Olympic rodeo, but the Irishman is an old hand when it comes preparing for major championship golf.   The superintendent at Galway Bay Golf Resort, Coleman, 30, is one of two greenkeepers from Ireland to volunteer on Neil Cleverly's crew at the Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro. Since graduating in 2008 from Myerscough College in England, he has crewed at the 2011 Solheim Cup and the 2006 Ryder Cup Matches, as well as two European Open championships and a PGA Cup.   Working as one of 50 volunteers on Cleverly's crew, Coleman, pictured below right with Irish Olympian Padraig Harrington, says he's in Rio to scratch his tournament golf itch and the once-in-a-lifetime experience the Olympics offer.   "I am volunteering for the Olympics because I love tournament golf," Coleman said, "and the buzz surrounding (the Olympics)."   He made his way onto the crew thanks to an R&A scholarship program, and is looking forward to learning more about managing warm-season grass, and weather challenges he might not encounter in Galway.   "I expect some challenges to overlap such as weather pressure, albeit a different form of weather," he said. "Also the pressure of disease as a direct result of the weather conditions will be quite different. I expect working in an environment where warm-season grasses dominate to be an exciting challenge also."    

John Reitman

John Reitman

 

Play away! Golf returns to the Olympics

JON KIGER |  At long last it was time for the return of golf to the Olympics. I took a 5:30 Uber to the golf course only to learn that the gates didn't open until 7:00 AM, so I defaulted to what is probably routine to many of you: a trip to the local AM/PM for coffee and some breakfast. It was also my first cup of coffee-to-go after a week in Brazil.  Coffee here is much more social and you are expected to sit and enjoy it.   After a short line at security I made my way to the first tee. It wasn't surprising given the logistics involved (some trains/buses didn't start running until about that time) that only about fifty golf fans were on hand for the historic first tee shot of the modern Olympic area.   Three players were introduced: Adilson da Silva, Brazil; Graham DeLaet, Canada; and Byeong Hun An, Korea. da Silva was given the honor of representing Brazil for the inaugural tee shot in his home country.   First group on the tee: Adilson da Silva, Brazil; Graham DeLaet, Canada; and Byeong Hun An, Korea. (Alex Miceli photo | Golfweek)   Adilson da Silva representing host country Brazil takes the first tee shot of the 2016 Olympic Games. (Alex Miceli photo)    I was told that back in the maintenance facility when word that the first group was on the tee came over the radio that several of the coordinators had the local crew and volunteers stop and take in the moment that had been anticipated for so long. Golf was back in The Olympics.   The course is in immaculate shape. It is a very open course and you can see action on several holes at the same time. It is very easy to navigate from a spectator standpoint.   While it feels like a regular golf tournament, you soon realize that all the sponsor logos, hospitality areas and other trappings of professional golf tournaments are missing, per the Olympic standards.   Most of the volunteers were off duty by 9 AM and had until about 2 PM to rest, take in the golf and grab lunch with the other volunteers.   Here are more scenes from the opening day of Golf s Return to the Olympics.   First things first.   The Olympic Golf Course in Rio is one of the most accessible venues at the 2016 Olympics. You can literally be dropped off at the main gate.   Superintendent Neil Cleverly takes some of his local crew out on the course for some last minute finishing work on Day One of Olympic Golf in Rio.    One of the first groups of Olympic golfers to finish at 18.    Jake's in the house: adjusted and lined up for the afternoon mowing session.    Irish Volunteers Damien Coleman (left) and Eamonn McCarthy (right) catch up with Irish Team Leader Paul McGInley (center.) Many volunteers took advantage of the break between 9 AM and 2 PM to watch some of the first round of Olympic Golf in over 112 years.    That's me in the black jacket in this Snap from The42, an Irish sports news service.

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Growing the Game? Try “Introducing” the Game….

Jonathan Santos may be the future of golf in Brazil. He has played once but is looking forward to playing the Olympic Golf Course when it opens to the public.   JON KIGER | Brazil has approximately 75 golf courses, none of which are open to the public. One of the goals of Golf's return to the Olympics is to introduce the people of Brazil to the sport. The Olympic Golf Course will open to the public after the Games. But how do you encourage participation when there is virtually no basis for public participation?   The Rio Olympics has a number of sport demonstration areas at various venues usually around the second tier venues. On Monday, there was an archery demonstration where you could actually shoot a couple of arrows at a target (it was refreshing that participants didn't have to sign a waiver of liability just strap on the forearm guard and fire away!)   At the Deodoro venue (which hosts Rugby 7s, Field Hockey, and a few other sports) there are hands-on demonstrations of a variety of sports, including golf. No fancy golf simulators on hand, just kids-style oversized clubs, balls and easy to hit targets. During our brief time there between Field Hockey and Rugby 7s, I saw adults and kids trying out golf for the first time.   No fancy golf simulators on hand, just kids-style oversized clubs, balls and easy to hit targets.    One of the adults trying golf was Jonathan Santos a resident of Rio. I spoke with him after his session. He has played golf only once. He is excited about the new course coming online and being open to the public.   In order to see the game played first hand he has tickets to see the Women's competition next Friday. As you can see from the photos there were a number of parents and kids learning about the game still in its infancy in Brazil.    Jonathan Santos of Rio tries out golf at a demonstration area at the Deodoro venue. Oversized clubs and balls keep it easy and keep it fun!   Jonathan Santos was at Deodoro to watch Brazil vs. USA in the Rugby 7s. In order to learn more about golf he bought tickets to see the Womens competition next week.    Families took advantage of the golf demonstration area in Rios Deodoro venue. A festival atmosphere was created to take advantage of downtime between events.   

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

A preview of preparing for Olympic golf...

With Jimmy Walker capturing the earlier-than-usual PGA Championship at Baltusrol (props to Mark Kuhns and his group of staff/volunteers for managing a very rainy weekend), eyes turn to golf's next big event - Golf at the Summer Olympic Games Rio 2016 (officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad).   Play doesn't start for almost another week (and I don't arrive until tomorrow, Saturday the 6th), but we promised to have boots on the ground for unconventional coverage of golf's historic return as an Olympic sport.   For a look at the last time golf was played in the Olympics (1904) view our video with Joe Wachter, CGCS, and Robert Stewart at Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis.       The official website for the Rio 2016 Games has a brief description of each sport, presumably to help those unfamiliar with certain sports to understand how they are played. The description is called Aim of the game. I found the following description a humorous yet somewhat refreshingly simple return to the essence of the game of golf.   Aim of the game: Players use a selection of clubs to get their ball from the teeing ground into a hole in the fewest number of shots possible the player who completes the 18-hole course with the lowest shot total wins the round.   For a taste of what it might be like to visit the golf competition in person, download the Rio2016 Golf Spectator Guide.   Enjoy this early look at the final preparations for golf in Rio. Photos by TurfNet staff.   Typical scrub out of which the golf course was created.   Spectators are asked to avoid the scrub areas to protect native and protected plant species.   Grounds staff on and around 18 with the main scoreboard in the background.   Rio2016 graphics on the 18 green grandstand.   The main grandstand at Hole 18. As is customary at The Olympics, no corporate logos.   Panorama of the 18th green complex from the top of the grandstand.   Temporary protective walkway to 18.   TV towers are everywhere, ready to bring Olympic Golf to the world. Hope there's room for TurfNetTV!    An understated clubhouse whose architecture reflects its locale.   Irrigating sod and ornamental plantings in front of the clubhouse pavilion.   TurfNet Quiz: What are all five colors of the Olympic Rings? (answer below)   Rio de Janeiro International Airport awaits the Olympic crush.  

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Globetrotting Superintendent: Eamonn McCarthy volunteers in Rio

Suffice to say, most superintendents probably would be happy finding one job they could settle into for 30-40 years, then call it a career. Eamonn McCarthy is not that superintendent.   A native of Cork, Ireland, McCarthy, 39, recently completed a three-year contract position as superintendent at Nirwana Bali Golf Club in Indonesia. With other career stops in places like Barbados, Cyprus and the United States, McCarthy has visited dozens of countries around the world, including Brazil, where he is volunteering on superintendent Neil Cleverlys crew during golf's return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.   He is one of about 50 volunteer greenkeepers that includes three from Great Britain, one from Spain, four from the PGA Tour office in Ponte Vedra Beach, fellow Irishman Damien Coleman and about 40 others from South America.   "This is the first Olympics since they brought back golf, so it's going to be pretty cool to get this on my resume," McCarthy said. "This will just be a new experience for me."   When thinking about the Olympics, McCarthy remembers the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open played in consecutive weeks at Pinehurst and is eager to be part of a similar situation in Rio.   "That's what I really want to see," he said. "I want to see how they are going to play it, what the green speeds will be for the men and then the women, the setup and how friendly they are going to be with the pins. I've done tournaments for men and ladies, but not at the same time."   "I want to see how they are going to play it, what the green speeds will be for the men and then the women, the setup and how friendly they are going to be with the pins. I've done tournaments for men and ladies, but not at the same time."   A globetrotter at heart, McCarthy's gig at the Olympic course runs through Aug. 21, but since he is considering Latin America for future employment he has yet to book a return flight, opting instead to keep his networking options in South America open.   "I've thought about working in Latin America," he said. "I need to make more contacts there."   A 2002 graduate of Britain's University of Central Lancashire and Myerscough College, which work in tandem, McCarthy has become quite an anomaly - an Irishman with expertise in managing warm-season grass, thus his desire to work in, among other places, Latin America.   "I'm trying to pick up some agronomy tips, especially on warm-season grass," he said. "I have no interest in cool-season or living in the UK. It's too cold for me."   "I'm trying to pick up some agronomy tips, especially on warm-season grass," he said. "I have no interest in cool-season or living in the UK. It's too cold for me."   The Olympic course features SeaDwarf paspalum greens and Zeon zoysia fairways. McCarthy has worked a lot in the past with paspalum, including in the Dominican Republic and in Florida with Tim Hiers, CGCS. He says the PGA Tour, which is coordinating greenkeeping efforts at the Olympic facility, picked the right man for the job in Cleverly, also a Myerscough graduate with extensive paspalum experience.   "Neal has been around as well," said McCarthy, who was recruited by Cleverly for the Olympics during the 2015 Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. "He is a paspalum guy. He knows that grass inside out.   "Zeon zoysia is the new grass at the moment. It requires more grooming, but it is definitely the newest thing, especially in Asia where we've had all sorts of issues with Bermuda."   It was while studying at Myerscough that McCarthy was bitten by the travel bug. As part of his curriculum, he spent three years in the United States under Ohio State's international program.   Since then, he has visited about 75 countries and has logged so many frequent flier miles that his 3-year-old beagle Amor (see the 2016 TurfNet Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar, presented by Syngenta) has her own passport.   "She is free to travel anywhere within the European Union, though I'm not sure how Brexit will change that," McCarthy said.   After McCarthy's contract in Indonesia expired, getting the beagle back to his home in England was no small feat and included a two-day car ride, more than 7,000 miles in the air and a ride on the train. All that after a hang up in the paperwork kept Armor in customs limbo for four days instead of four hours.   "The third world is not as accurate in their record-keeping as other countries," McCarthy said. "It took so long it was driving me crazy."   Through the years, McCarthy has worked at U.S. clubs in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, including Harbor Town in Hilton Head, and other high-end clubs around the world.   McCarthy doesn't anticipate much in the way of culture shock during his time in Brazil. He's packing his own mosquito netting for his bedroom and plenty of insect repellant so that he doesn't come home with a case of Zika virus. And although he doesn't take lightly challenges associated with the growing threat of global terrorism against western travelers, or an inability to speak Portuguese or Spanish, he doesn't let such things deter him from his desire to see the world.   "Neal speaks Spanish, so it shouldn't be much of an issue," he said.   "There were 140 on staff at the resort in Bali and only about seven spoke English. I've found that if your core staff speaks English then you can work around language."   McCarthy's travels have largely kept him away from his native Ireland. Although he still owns a home in Ireland, the former K Club employee hasn't lived there in 18 years.   After arriving in Rio but before reporting for volunteer duty, McCarthy found time to attend an early, pre-opening ceremony Brazil vs China women's soccer match at the main Olympic stadium.   Like any seasoned traveler, McCarthy has found places and things he likes, and those he does not. His favorite destination has been New Zealand.   "I miss the Caribbean, and Asia was good," he said. "New Zealand is the most beautiful place I've ever been."   One of the things that can be an issue in world travel is food.   "In Indonesia you can't drink the tap water, and in India, you can't put ice in your drink, because the water is so bad," he said. "But when you go to these places you have to try the food."   His favorite has been Greek food as well as a dish of fish, peas and rice from Barbados that is served with something he called "macaroni pie."   The worst? "Tibet was a terrible experience. The food was horrible," he said. "Have you ever eaten yak meat? It's like chewing rubber. I lived on Snickers bars for 12 days."   Food and culture challenges aside, McCarthy is looking forward to his Olympic experience.   "I'm always learning," McCarthy said. "People think you're getting paid for this, and you're not. I just want to enjoy it and learn."   -- John Reitman

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

Glen Echo Country Club: Host of the 1904 Olympic Championships

Jon Kiger recently visited Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis to speak with Joe Wachter, CGCS, and Robert Stewart, GM, about the club's place in Olympic history as host of the 1904 Olympic Golf Championships.   Robert takes us through the formation of the club in 1901, how they maneuvered the Games away from Chicago to St. Louis, and what that historic event means to the members at Glen Echo and the city of St. Louis. Joe Wachter, CGCS, a longtime TurfNet member, talks about the club's preservation of the course and what the history of the course means to him as caretaker of it.          

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

 

TurfNet in Rio: Figuratively and literally!

To celebrate the return of golf to the Summer Olympics, TurfNet and Syngenta will be presenting this multi-media blog series to capture the behind-the-scenes and between-the-lines stories of golf in Rio2016.   We have done some of our legwork ahead of time in video and audiocasts, to be launched soon. We will have boots-on-the-ground in Rio; agents in place on the maintenance crew. Don't expect more mundane early morning maintenance facility shots and pics of fairway mower formations.   Our relationship with Golfweek (sister Turnstile Media Group property) will yield fruit in interviews with Architecture Editor Brad Klein and Publisher Alex Miceli.   Our peripatetic man-on-the-go, Jon Kiger, will be returning to Brazil (he was there for the 2014 FIFA World Cup). His son, David, a rising senior in the Hospitality Administration/Management program at Cornell, also attended FIFA WC 2014 and will be interning with a major media company in Rio, so we may hear from him as well. The Kigers have family in Brazil, hence their eagerness to return. There will likely be some human-interest stories emerge from their experiences as well.     Jon and David combined to shoot the TOCA Gardner "Best of Show" Award winning series on pitch preparations for the World Cup while they were last in Brazil (one of which is below).       Backatcha soon.        

Peter McCormick

Peter McCormick

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