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John Reitman

By John Reitman

$1 million pledge helps USGA fund Pinehurst apprenticeship program

The village of Pinehurst has been synonymous with the USGA for decades. 

Since Payne Stewart thrust a fist skyward in victory on the 18th green on Pinehurst Resort's No. 2 course in winning the 1999 U.S. Open, nine USGA championships, including the Open in 2004 and 2014, have been held on the 1907 Donald Ross design. This year's U.S. Open is set to be held at Pinehurst next month.

The USGA Experience, which includes a variety of exhibits and the relocated World Golf Hall of Fame, opens May 10 in the recently constructed USGA Golf House Pinehurst that also includes a research and test center.

Further cementing the relationship between the USGA and the community is a collaboration to help train aspiring golf course maintenance professionals. 

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The apprenticeship program pairs students with mentors. USGA photo

A $1 million pledge from the USGA and other donors will fund the Greenkeeper Apprenticeship Program for the next five years, with dedicated instructors and in-class/on-course education at Sandhills Community College in the Pinehurst area. In addition, a new program at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in the Myrtle Beach area, and a hybrid-learning opportunity will be established and funded. The extensive commitment will provide tuition-free learning for all students – no matter where they learn – for one year and paid on-the-job training positions at partner golf courses for up to 200 apprentices.

The expansion of the USGA initiative is made possible by long-term financial commitments from Ewing Outdoor Supply, the Dedman Foundation and Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, the Carolinas Golf Association and several private donors dedicated to golf and workforce development in the Carolinas.

In its second year at Sandhills Community College, the career-development program offers flexible class times around on-course working hours, and pairs students with mentors. Apprentices learn the technical skills needed to make agronomic decisions that affect turf maintenance. After completing the course, students receive college credentials, a progressive wage scale increase and a journeyworker card through the U.S. Department of Labor.

Of the 19 members in the inaugural GAP graduating class, 70 percent earned job promotions, and 18 graduates were assigned increased leadership responsibilities based on successful completion of their classwork. Members from the current class and last year's apprentices will assist Pinehurst's staff during the preparation for this year's U.S. Open, scheduled for June 13-16.

The career-development program offers flexible class times around on-course working hours, and pairs students with mentors.

To reinforce its commitment to inclusion, the USGA will provide 24 college undergraduate and graduate students from communities underrepresented in golf exposure to all facets of the USGA and the U.S. Open through its 10-day Pathways Internship Program that includes professional development, hands-on learning experiences and networking throughout the week.

The USGA will also continue its Reduce, Renew and Reinvest program throughout the U.S. Open.

Concession areas at Pinehurst will feature recyclable aluminum cups and beverage products, and food containers made from recyclable or recycled materials. Fans can also bring in their own personal reusable water bottles and refill them at any of eight water stations throughout championship week. The USGA and Pinehurst have teamed to install permanent power throughout the site to reduce use of diesel-powered generators this year and during future championships.

The USGA's commitment to help golf courses reduce water use during the next 15 years also will be on display at Golf House Pinehurst. That exhibit will include The Glade, an outdoor landscape focused on sustainable practices, and a display on subsurface drip irrigation.

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