Wednesday was the Irish Open Pro-Am, a two-tee start with the first group out at 7:30 AM. Everyone on the greenkeeping staff received their assignments the night before and after a short continental breakfast we headed out on the course with the goal to be out ahead of the first groups.
No flat-screen job board here!
There was an amazing fog and mist over the course, which provided both navigational hazards and incredible photo opportunities. The back nine of the course winds down by the River Bann (also the location of the club's River Course.) There was virtually no wind so we were advised to apply insect repellant as the midges would be out enforce. Those who didn't heed the warning were quickly uncomfortable.
Kevin Cavanan, volunteer from The Island Golf Club (where Marty Richardson is interning) mowing a green early Wednesday.
Mowing greens in anticipation of the Pro-Am.
The crew was intent on providing outstanding conditions for this first day of full play on the course. There was also a full complement of marshals and other volunteers onsite. After three days of having the course to ourselves these participants were a were a welcome sight. The crew successfully stayed ahead of play and we were back for "second breakfast" -- the hot one around 8:30. That allowed for our usual break in the middle of the day.
Wednesday saw the arrival of our first and only female volunteer - Melissa Minnaard from The International Golf Club in Amsterdam.
We returned on schedule at 4 PM (evening meal) expecting to be back out on the course at 5 PM. As is often the case with large groups of golfers at an outing, the competition ran long and we had to wait to start the evening shift. The good news was that this far into the week we know our duties and the best routes around the course.
I was assigned to help clear the practice tee of divots with Stephen and Ingmar (both on the staff at Portstewart). Unfortunately for us the range was open until 8 PM and several pros decided to practice after the conclusion of the Pro-Am.
2016 Masters Champion and Olympic golfer Danny Willett posed for a photo with me and Ingmar.
The work itself consisted of raking the used divots, gathering them up in piles with a backpack blower and shoveling them into the back of a utility vehicle. While we might consider using a large turf vacuum in the States, owning such a machine makes little sense for a course with literally no trees.
Clearing the driving range of divots at the end of Pro-Am day.
Despite the delay in getting started our whole group made a quick turnaround and caught up with the rest of the staff and volunteers at the Anchor Bar in city centre. It wasn't a late night as we were mindful of the first day of play on Thursday.
There's an informal contest to see if anyone can spot David Escobedo when he's NOT smiling!
He seems to have forsaken Guinness for the more familiar Corona.
-- Jon Kiger