Being called the 5th major tournament is one thing, but to play and look like one is much harder. TPC Sawgrass Stadium course was very well conditioned making for a fantastic finish. from eventual winner Ricky Fowler. The volunteer program at TPC Sawgrass is only 5 years old, but is so well run that Superintendents come from all over the world to be part of the amazing agronomy team for the tournament.
For the tournament over 70 volunteers came to help from places as close as Georgia and South Carolina to places further away such as the UK and Ireland, Argentina, Canada, and even South Africa. That is a testament to the quality of the program put on by TPC Sawgrass Agronomy. Everything was very well organized. The volunteers stayed at a nearby college and had shuttles running back and forth.
The days started and finished in darkness, but no one seemed to care. Everyone arrived to the volunteer tent by 4:30AM to have a team meeting at 4:45AM. By 5:00AM everyone was out the door and one their way to making the course look its best. The crew was split into four groups: Front 9, Back 9, Practice Facility, and Landscape. I was on the Back 9 team raking bunkers in the morning and rotary mowing green surrounds at night. PM jobs were started based upon play so any where from 5PM to 6PM.
Being a PGA tournament and one of the best agronomically on tour everything is done with attention to detail. Being on bunkers I did not know how much went in to raking a perfect bunker. Using a double leaf rake the bunker has to have no blemishes, so no clumps, ripples, or curved lines. To walk a straight line is much harder than you would think but we all picked it up pretty fast. If the angle of the rake is off or the line curves then the bunker needs to be done over so we watched for any problems and fixed them before the bunker was finished.
A quick overview of what went on each day for maintenance. Greens were double cut in the morning and back track mowed at night. Two pairs of mowers went out on each 9 so the greens could be cut in time. Greens were then rolled, sometimes double rolled or just a single roll. A few afternoons two rollers went out before greens mowers as well as after. Fairways were cut morning and night by four guys on each 9. Approaches were single mowed in both the morning and night by two guys on each 9. Tees were cut once in the morning by two guys on each 9. Everything but greens were burnt in. So 18 people were used to cut and roll the course in each day. The practice facility did the same but with less people. On bunkers and rotary mow usually there were 8-10 guys working. Various other jobs were done like watering, cup cutting, moisture meter, and stimp meter.
From Monday to Sunday the middle of the day was free to do whatever you wanted. Some guys went back to sleep, while others stayed and watched golf. Just before dinner there were some talks from leaders in the industry. One talk was on calibration, one on turf apps, and another on chemicals/diseases. While there was some pressure to get everything perfect we did have time for fun. This made the event much more enjoyable. Check out this dance video put together by Turf Republic and fellow crew member Cole.
Turf Republic was brought in to capture the work that goes into the tournament on film. Bill Brown and Sam Bauer did a fantastic job. The videos in this blog were created by them. I thank them for doing such a wonderful job to capture the best Players Championship ever. Check out Turf Republic website for more videos or their youtube page. Coverage of the tournament and for a great turf blog (one of my favorites) go to TPC Sawgrass Agronomy's blog.
Ian Poulter (yellow) Thanks the Agronomy Team
2 Guys from South Africa
The volunteer program at TPC Sawgrass is world renown. By working my third tournament of the year I had a little clue of what to expect but the agronomy team surpassed my expectations. I really enjoyed meeting new friend from all over the world, talking turf with everyone, and just having fun. Even though I was a volunteer I did work so some may say it was not really a holiday, but for turf people this is the pinnacle of maintenance. For a comparison I think for volunteering at TPC Sawgrass like the week at a county fair for farm people. Hours are long if not longer than normal, but it is so fun to do that people keep coming back. I was really surprised to see Sean Charles, one of my classmates from SUNY Cobleskill, volunteering. That was a nice surprise.
Another really fun part to volunteering is playing the famous 17th hole on Monday morning. I put two balls in the water, but was glad to see some guys actually hit the green and get very close to the Sunday pin.
I want to thank all of the TPC Sawgrass agronomy team for putting on a great performance to bring the best conditioned golf course to the best players in the world. Without course Superintendent Clay Breazeale or Agronomy Director Tom Vlach having a vision for the best volunteer program five years ago this could not be possible. All the staff at TPC was kind and welcoming. I had only the best interactions and everyone was professional. This was a great finish to a year long global journey in turf. I could not have asked for a better finish. From the volunteer program to the playoff on Sunday I was in turf heaven.
This will conclude my blog for TurfNet. Later this week I head to Chaska, Minnesota to work at Hazeltine National Golf Club. I appreciate everything that TurfNet and Jon Kiger did for me to help get me to where I am today as well as Mike O'Keeffe and The Ohio Program. I encourage everyone to come back and follow two new student bloggers this summer on TurfNet.