As my 2016 Ryder Cup duty comes to a close, it's nice to reflect back on my experiences. There are a few strong takeaways from the event for me. None of them have to do with any sort of agronomic stuff.
First, the welcome that superintendent Chris Tritabaugh gave to everyone at Monday's orientation was special. He introduced and acknowledged each member of his staff, every volunteer, and all of the industry affiliates (me). As a TurfNet correspondent, this was the category I fit into for the first time in my career. Not a volunteer, but still acknowledged. Thanks Chris! It made me feel good, instead of just "some guy" carrying camera equipment around all week.. It made everyone feel good. No question, this set a great tone for the week.
Another takeaway is how strangers can bond together so quickly for a common goal. After orientation on Monday, it took a mere day or two to create a very well-oiled machine. Many times I was out filming and thought it was like poetry-in-motion. Maybe it was because I was looking through a lens taking it all in, and not worrying about keeping my mow lines straight.
With my new friends from the Swedish Golf Federation...
In my case, I tried mostly not to get in the way. I tried to observe from a distance and not stick the camera in people's faces. It is hard to observe from a distance, when this industry is so welcoming and friendly. Granted, I probably knew half the volunteers in advance, but that still leaves the other half. I was floored by the number of the "other half" that introduced themselves and just started conversations about my ON COURSE videos, agronomics, Colorado... you name it. It all set in when it was time to leave and say our goodbyes. I remember shaking hands with so many people I didn't know before the start of the week. Special.
As I got to the airport on Monday morning, things quickly came full circle for me. I bumped into David Duval from the Golf Channel, and one of the heroes from the 1999 Ryder Cup. When our conversation started, I mentioned the '99 Cup. His tired facial expression instantly changed to a smile, grinning from ear to ear. I told him I was there in-person, inside the ropes when he made that arm-pumping walk around 14 green as the USA made that improbable comeback. I actually think we both relived that moment for a few seconds, as our conversation became quiet.
Although I had a fabulous time at Hazeltine -- thank you Chris Tritabaugh -- I realized something I hadn't thought of in years. Personally, the 1999 Ryder Cup will always be branded within me as my greatest moment in golf!
Until next time...
While On Location at the Ryder Cup I was very fortunate to have two executives of The Toro Company -- Mike Hoffman, chairman of the board and outgoing CEO, and Rick Olson, president and incoming CEO -- join me for a few minutes on camera to chat about the Ryder Cup and much more. Take a listen...
In any major golf event the volunteers certainly play a big role in the success of the tournament. It's amazing to me how far away these international volunteers traveled to work the Ryder Cup. I was able to corner a few and find out where they hail from. Take a listen.
On my first trip around the fairways at Hazeltine National, I was amazed at how pure and uniform the fairways were. The main reason why, I realized, was there were no divots! Anywhere. The consistency and uniformity almost made it look like it was a brand new golf course getting ready to open.
Most of the no-divot look can be attributed to a hitting mat used by the members over the last weeks the course was open. Let's take a look
When it comes to a cool, calm, collected individual... that is how I would describe Hazeltine National Golf Club superintendent, Chris Tritabaugh. I have watched Chris operate for nearly a week now and even though the biggest stage in golf is being played on the golf course he manages, he appears unfazed by the pressure. Maybe there is no pressure on him? Maybe his complete confidence in his staff is the reason? Whatever it is, it's refreshing.
Chris was so kind to give me a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat about the last four years getting Hazeltine ready for the world's stage. Take a listen and I think you'll understand my assessment of Chris in the above writings...
On Thursday I had the opportunity to check out Red. There was a lot of talk about Red for a few days and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Now many of you may be thinking that I'm referring to "red iron" or Toro equipment, no this is a different kind of red. This Red happens to be Mike Graves, 2nd assistant at Hazeltine. Red did something special this Ryder Cup week and I was fortunate to have a front row seat to watch it transpire and to chat with Red, one on one...
I tracked down my old buddy Dr. Frank Rossi to get his thoughts on Hazeltine National and this massive event called the Ryder Cup.
Frank and I go back some 25 years in this industry. We have battled many times over all kind of turfgrass management subjects and have always had fun doing it. Take a look as Frank and I have some fun on camera.
I had an opportunity today to visit with Noah Wahl of the Toro Company. While now a greensmower product manager, Noah previously worked on the Workman line of vehicles and is the force behind the coolest graphics for a utility vehicle on the property. FYI, that's a custom heat-treated hood wrap on a Workman GTX vehicle
Take a look and listen as I put him on camera to give us some insight on How Its Made.
The last couple days at Hazeltine have been moisture free, other than a few rain drops during evening duty on Tuesday night.
Speaking of night, a large part of golf course conditioning for morning set-up here relies on portable lights. These are on display every morning at Hazeltine National. The quality of small portable LED lighting is fantastic; tripods, headlamps, mower lights, you name it, the lights are here. At times, many green and tee areas look like mini stadiums spread across the golf course landscape.
On Location isn't as easy as it sounds! The wind was blowing so bad at times on Monday that my tripod could barely stay upright, and even my best microphone equipped with a windscreen sounded like a jet engine. I'm not even going to mention the internet in the hotel... But we must carry on, so enjoy my first day walk-around with a music background instead.
A whole bunch of TurfNetters are here. Frank Rossi, Paul MacCormack and Mark Perry from Prince Edward Island, Pat O'Brien from Hyde Park in Cincinnati, and even Jon Kiger is in the house!
The course was opened to patrons today so there's no way to get video like I shot on Monday. What a pristine golf course! Chris T. has it all under control, the staff and volunteers are psyched, the energy in the maintenance facility is off the charts. Now, for the weather to cooperate!
The Ryder Cup is a special event for me. You might say it's kind of a family thing.
In 1967, my Dad, Wendell Ross, was a rules official at the Ryder Cup when it was held at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. That was back when it wasn't even the Europeans... it was the British.
Growing up, my Dad had some of the memorabilia from that event hanging in the den at our home. As a little guy, he told me stories of how great it was to attend and officiate the tournament. I thought, someday I'm going to play in the Ryder Cup. Although I became an accomplished junior player, the PGA Tour and the Ryder Cup weren't going to happen. So instead, turfgrass management became my career.
As my golf course superintendent career developed, I hoped to someday attend this event as sort of a family tradition. Then came my chance in 1999. The Ryder Cup was scheduled for The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, just outside Boston. I had moved out of New England to Colorado in 1995, but my good friend, Bill Spence, Director of Grounds at Brookline, gave me a call and asked me to come and help out. Enough said, and the bags were packed!
I consider that week, known as the Battle of Brookline, the highlight of my nearly 50 years in golf. One of my many memories is that final Sunday, when Bill addressed his staff and volunteers before we headed onto the course. Bill spoke of hope for a USA comeback, even though at that point the Euros had taken USA out to the woodshed for a good old fashion beating. I can remember walking down the stairs that morning feeling bad for my good, old friend Bill. There wasn't a chance on earth there could be a comeback. Well, we all know the end of that story.
So off I go again, this time to Hazeltine National Golf Club, in Chaska, Minnesota, for the 41st playing of this competition. I'm calling it the 50th anniversary of my Dad's Ryder Cup at Champions - 49 to be exact, but close enough for me. I'll be there with video gear in tow, trying to give everyone an inside look at Hazeltine's golf course superintendent, Chris Tritabaugh, his staff and the many volunteers preparing for this exciting competition. Follow along on my journey.
Oh, and by the way, I plan on bringing a few good luck charms from Brookline. Stay tuned.