While attending The Amateur Championship at Portmarnock Golf Club back in June, Jon Kiger of TurfNet informed me that he would be returning to Ireland in a few weeks for The Open at Portrush. It was a sweet surprise when he said he had an extra ticket for the Tuesday practice round and offered it to me. Offer accepted!
The boss (Gary Johnstone, Links Manager at Portmarnock Golf Club) gave me the day off of work to ride up to Northern Ireland to fulfill an item on my bucket list. (Yes, I have a bucket list at 20 years old). This tournament completes the Parker Grand Slam! I have finally spectated at all 4 major golf tournaments, including the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah, 2014 US Open at Pinehurst, a couple times at The Masters, and finally the 2019 Open Championship here at Royal Portrush.
Thanks to Mr. Kiger, I was able to make a new friend, Mike O’Keeffe. Many of you may have heard of Mr. O’Keeffe, because he’s built quite the name for himself by directing the Ohio State programs. He travels to Ireland, Scotland, and other places to recruit new talent in the greenkeeping industry. First off, we played a quick round of golf at The Island Golf Club, 30 minutes up the road from me, the day before leaving. I guess my golf game was good enough approval, because I hitched a ride to Portrush with him and his brother John.
I had the pleasure of meeting Trent Virden, technical specialist of Bluewater, a company that is trying to curb pollution by providing easily accessible sources of purified water to reduce the need for single-use water bottles. Their portable water purification system hooks up to municipal water lines and filters the water with Bluewater SuperiorOsmosis, which is more effective than traditional water purification processes. Bluewater was contracted to set up water bottle filling machines throughout the grounds used for the Open Championship.
While wandering around, I ran across James Sugrue, winner of this year’s Amateur Championship at Portmarnock Golf Club where I'm interning this summer! It was exciting to see Sugrue competing with the professionals for a major title, after winning The Amateur.
Despite Sugrue missing the cut by a single stroke, I was still happy to see Shane Lowry, an Irishman, take home the win with the support of the Irish locals.
I had a short tour of the new maintenance facility at Portrush. Stephen Walker, Royal Portrush mechanic, was at the shop checking equipment while most everyone else was taking their mid-day naps. Mechanics are worked extremely hard during big tournaments, and they are often the first in and last ones out the door. Walker informed me that despite having a massive fleet of Toro mowers, 10 extra triplexes and 12 extra walk mowers were brought in for the tournament. That’s a bunch of mowers!
The day off of work was great, because I got to see a major and meet new people from the greenkeeping industry, including Graeme Beatt, course manager at Royal Portrush.
Mike O'Keeffe and I stopped by the BIGGA tent, where I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Croxton, CEO of BIGGA, below.
I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to see The Open in person for the first time, and hopefully it isn’t the last!