Casper Erikson of Denmark shares his month long experience during the FEGGA Greenkeeper Experience programme in partnership with Textron Golf at Le Golf National
This is my story about the Ryder Cup journey I´ve been on from early June when I first heard from Dean Cleaver from FEGGA and until the end of the Ryder Cup in late September. Enjoy!
It´s Saturday June 2nd 2018, and while I´m playing a match play event at my local golf club, my phone starts to beep (as a phone does when an email is incoming) and quickly I apologise several times to my opponent. I get hold of my phone in the pocket to switch off the sound, and I see that the email I just received was from Dean Cleaver, and the subject was “FEGGA Greenkeeper Experience Programme, in partnership with Jacobsen”. I quickly read the email, which said that I was shortlisted and he had some questions for me. From that moment, the rest of my match, my golf was pure S…! (In case you guys wonder how my match ended.. I LOST BIG TIME!!)
The next couple of days I was over the roof from excitement, it was the freaking Ryder Cup on the line here! All kinds of questions came to my mind, like, how can a guy from a very small town (600 residents) in little Denmark be shortlisted to help the greenkeeper team at the Ryder Cup Venue! In other words I couldn´t quite understand that I was one of 5 left.
I answered the questions that Dean asked, and we scheduled a Skype call to have a chat. I waited 4 days from when I answered his questions and until we had arranged the chat on Skype. During these days I was afraid my head was going to explode, I can´t describe how excited I was for that Skype call! The day of the chat arrived and until he called me I was really really nervous. Once the chat was over, I was surprisingly calm, now there was nothing more I could do, other than wait for Dean and the guys to decide which of the 5 they choose.
I was told by Dean that I would get their decision on the next coming Monday. It was some very very long days of waiting for that message to come. But earlier this year in January 2018 I was selected by the Danish greenkeeper association to attend the Danish edition of FTMI. During that stay I accidentally (we had to guess a guy’s birthday in a specific month, and the guy who hit the right date or came closest would win) won a 2 day trip with the mentors to Le Golf National to play the course and to speak with Alejandro Reyes about how he manages that course. It just so happened that the trip I was going on to Le Golf National was during the day we would get the answer on which of us 5 guys they chose for the FEGGA Experience programme.
The day arrived, and we started to play. The first 3 holes were played in such hard rain it was like a shower. Normally I HATE playing golf in the rain, but that day all I cared about was the email I waited on!! The guys I played with knew that I was waiting for the answer, and during 14 holes they all mocked me about it, mostly because my golf was s… again (Let’s just say it was because I was waiting for the answer and not because that golf course was by far the most difficult course I have ever played!) On the 15th hole, a short par 3 over water, my ball just got over the water and onto the green and a 50 feet putt was waiting for me on the green. While we where walking towards the green, I saw Alejandro coming towards the green from the back side. I honestly didn´t think twice about it, during the entire match there had been greenkeepers all around the course working, so of course he would be there. He approached me when I was on my way to my ball, and he asked what I thought of the course, and if I liked how the greens reacted and played, and then suddenly he said, “Casper I also have a message for you from Dean Cleaver. You are the one we have selected to attend the FEGGA experience programme, if you would like to”. If I would like to?!! In my head I thought, of course I would like that, but what I actually did say to him, I really can´t remember! I was lost of words and my hands were shaking and I couldn´t believe it was me they had selected. That moment I´m sure I will never forget. (If anyone wonder: I hit my putt 15 feet short, with Alejandro and the guys I was playing with laughing!! Drained the par putt and made par on 16, 17 and 18. Obviously it was a message like that I needed to be able to play acceptable golf again.) After the round, Alejandro was waiting for us to come in, and we had a short talk about what I could expect on my stay there. I really looked forward to be going to Le Golf National, that guy is really something. If any of you guys ever get a chance to work for him, never hesitate, just go and do it, I promise you, it will be worth it!
The day of my trip to Le Golf National arrived, I was super excited, finally the day had come that I had been waiting for for 2 and a half months. Ready as ever I boarded the plane ready to go.
I arrived at the airport in Paris, and when I walked to the arrival hall, there was a guy there waiting for me with a sign with my name on it. Just for a couple of seconds I felt kind of important, but quickly the taxidriver said to come with him. We needed to go pick some other guys up, and they were already waiting for us. Damn! I guess I’m not so important after all! But what a welcome to receive, from day one and throughout the entire month the guys at Le Golf National was nothing but good to me and all of them made me feel very welcome. We picked up the other two guys, an Englishman from Manchester, and a guy from South Africa. Two very nice guys I got to spend the month with.
The drive from Charles de Gaulle to Le Golf National was a little more than an hour, and depending on traffic it could be a lot more, but before I new it, all I saw was signs showing the Ryder Cup, and it hit me: I was really here now. The first thing I saw on my way to the course, was a really big hospitality tent. I had never seen such a big tent before, and as we drove by we could see the grandstand, and I started to realize how big it was. We turned to the right in the following roundabout and before we could get inside the fences, armed guards had to clear us first. Armed guards around a golf course a month before a big tournament, I really started to realize how big this thing was. I wasn´t even inside and on the course yet, and already I had just lost my jaw and seen the wow factor from the outside. Now I just wanted to get in and get started. A guy came out to the gate, we waited one second after he talked to the guard, and then the taxi drove us inside and dropped us off in the middle of the yard just outside the greenkeeper shed. Finally I was here, and what a place! The size of everything, the excitement, the buzz, and all the machines that were lined up. Wow, just wow!
The fairway mowers ready to go to work!
The guy who got us inside the gate came along and welcomed us to Le Golf National. He was important, it was the guy who had spent the last two years helping organize all the workers that was going to be there for the tournament. And for approx. 180 guys where 150 of them where coming in from all over the world, there was a lot of planning for him to do. He showed us around the place, found some clothes for us, and showed us our accommodation, which were some small houses, like a little vacation home. The accommodation was just outside of the greenkeeper shed, and it was all we needed. A room with a bed, a small kitchen, a small living room, and a toilet. As a bonus we lived alongside with a lot of the full-timers there, so very quickly we got to know them, which I am sure was very important to make the month there a great experience.
I lived in the house right behind the white car. At first with a young guy from Morocco, and the last two weeks with a Spanish guy. We had about an hour to check out the place and the course before we had to check in to the afternoon shift. The time arrived, and we were introduced to the team and the team got to know who we were, and where we were from. Finally it started.
From day one I got to learn a lot. These guys have an insane eye for details, and within two hours I was already learning a lot, and I loved it. Every morning we were told, that we should always remember to take our time to do our job perfect, no matter how much time that might be. At my home club on a normal day we are 5 people including the Course Manager to take care of the 18 holes golf course, and the practice facility. When we arrived at Le Golf National, there were approx. 30 people to take care of the course, and the practice facility. And to observe how the Course Manager and First Assistant handled all these people was magnificent to see. These two and the team leaders really showed how important the right kind of communication is. A small thing such as which language to speak was a big thing to deal with every day. We are in France, but there are people from France, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Denmark and lots of other countries. Even though I think I speak quite good English, it was hard to do all the communication in English, and you do use a lot of energy on the language part. Thankfully I also learned a great deal with it, it´s hard to describe, but you learn a lot when you are forced to speak another language other than your birth language every day. No matter how much the Managers had to attend to, the communication stayed the same, and it really inspired the entire team to come together and work as one unit. No matter when and how many times us new guys asked the same stupid questions they just answered them over and over again like every time was the first one. A lot of the evenings when we were done with work, because we lived alongside a lot of the staff, we hung out with these guys, and I think that meant a lot as to how they reacted on us during our stay.
During the first two weeks we were a part of the normal greenkeeper team. We helped them with whatever they had to do. A normal day at Le Golf National the time I was there contained a morning shift and an afternoon shift. The first two weeks was a lot of final preparations on the course. All the bunker edges were hand seeded, like you take the tip of a knife with a couple of seeds and put it inside the ground where it is needed. Some of the bunker edges were returfed, we changed small pieces of grass around the greens where the grass was bad. Everything was with an insane eye of details because, as they said, the television shows everything! The passion the greenkeepers showed in fixing every little piece of bad grass was impressive, no areas were left out. We also used an entire day with 30 guys handpicking weed from the rough, all the rough, no areas were left out. At first I thought why? But when we were done and saw the areas from a larger distance, I could see why. Again, it was the details. That was exactly that they were looking for in all aspects all over the course: Perfection.
For a guy who normally comes from a total of 5 guys managing an entire course to be a part of such a large team, was a really great experience. Every day the course had to be moved a little bit closer to the perfect condition. That means that every day one guy measured everything on the greens; moisture, firmness and greenspeed both in the morning and in the afternoon. They didn´t take any chances, they preferred to know by the numbers where they were.
One of the first days I was told that we need to cut the greens surrounds, and we were 8 guys appointed. I remember thinking, why 8 guys? But I found out why. All areas on the greens surrounds were to be mowed with a normal Honda lawnmower, like the one everyone has to mow their grass in their own garden. The areas are large, really large, especially when you need to mow it with a lawnmower. So I actually went from “this is a nice little job where I really get a chance to talk to the guys”, to “ohh boy I´m tired and going directly to bed, see you tomorrow guys!” Tired? Yes. Hard? Yes. Learnfull? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely! I’m not used to do a lot of the cutting part with lawnmowers and single cutters. It’s just a different experience, like you are closer to the grass, and see a lot more details on how the grass behave. It’s kind of hard to explain if you haven´t tried it, somehow I got to learn something about how the grass is cut, and what difference it makes when you cut it with a lawnmower vs. a larger machine.
When the first two weeks were over, we were finished with repairing all the areas and we started to train for the larger tasks. For 2 weeks I was a part of the fairway team, again I thought it was going to be simple. But when there are 12 fairway mowers and they must mow in a specific way on a specific route and finish within a specific time on a specific hole, it wasn´t so simple. Actually it wasn’t simple at all! One could think that when there are so many guys doing the cut, you could just relax, but not at all! Everything, every little detail had to be perfect. Small things as the overlap from the one in front of you, the distance to the one in front, the awareness on your own and the other machines and to top it all, it was 12 guys who had just met each other. Luckily the most important language we spoke with each other was common; greenkeeping! And I was actually surprised by how similar greenkeeping is all over the world. Yes people do of course have their different opinions and ways they get the job done, but everyone gets how it is to feel their machine and when everyone is eager to get the most perfect job done, it always works out, no matter how many different ways people would have done the job. I can´t say this enough, the communication was by far what I learned most about.
When we got to the Ryder Cup week, we were split into teams, and every team was responsible for a specific area on the course. The team I was on during that week was responsible for the holes from 8-12, this included everything except the fairways and the approaches. This included cutting the tees, cutting the green, the 2nd cut and raking the bunkers. All bunkers were raked by hand and then paintrollers, yes paintrollers! First all the edges were watered and then hardened with a large roll, then the entire sides were “painted” with a 6 inch wide paintroller, and finally the bottom was raked from the pin position to the center of the bunker.
The final guys who left the hole before it was ready, was the two guys who walked around with backpack blowers and blowed all the areas around the greens and bunkers, so the grass all the people had been walking around in, was standing up in the right direction. If the greens surround, tees surround and rough were about to be mowed, it was done during the afternoon/evening when the players were finished for the day. The course was setup like this every day of the week, and everyone did an amazing job taking part in delivering an outstanding golf course. One of the highlights of my journey, was being able to actually work at The Ryder Cup. This is so unique and has its history and legacy to it. When you are there, you can feel and sense its very special and warm atmosphere.
To be part of such a team was a great experience. All the guys from all over the world, and everyday talking greenkeeping and sharing experiences was to me a privilege, and I sucked in all the information possible from everyone. And just being at the centre of such a big event for that time period, living side by side with such highly skilled people and to talk to them and having them sharing their knowledge and see and feel their passion has been an extreme joy and motivation for me. Hopefully I get to see some of the people again someday!
Finally, I just want to say a big thank you to FEGGA for giving me this valuable opportunity. I also want to say a big thank you to Jacobsen for supporting this educational experience, which for me personally has been a career changing opportunity.
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Bulgarian Golf Greenkeepers Association hold its Annual Conference at the Club House of Pravets Golf Club
On 16th of November 2018 the Bulgarian Golf Greenkeepers Association held its Annual Conference at the Club House of Pravets Golf Club. There were 40 people participating from 8 different countries which is a great success for our Association. The program was very diverse. There were many new members from golf courses and football pitches. Outfield demonstrations were taking place on the back of the biggest double green on the Balkans – 3200m2.
The conference started with the speech of the chairman of BGGA – introducing his own vision and ideas about the organisation and how it became a leading educational touchstone in the industry. Then the microphone was given to Dean Cleaver (Executive Officer FEGGA). It was very inspirational to listen for the future opportunities and for the willingness to develop the strong relationship among FEGGA and BGGA.
The next lecturer was Simeon Liljenberg (ESL Group, Sweden). It was a great honour to have him on our conference and share with our members and guest how one football pitch facility can be run on a highly professional level and make a profit. It was very interesting to know how so many events can be combined in literally no time between them – from football to race track to horse riding to concerts.
The word was given to James Whittick (Velvit Ltd., UK) after that. He introduced the fertiliser manufacture company to the Bulgarian market. The technology and the professional approach of its products were more than impressive.
The 19th hole was a real storm during the first coffee break. The guys were very excited and inspired from the seen so far. It was great pleasure to sit back and watch what was happening and BGGA team felt very satisfied and pleased of the organisation.
Straight after our members had the opportunity to see outside demonstration there was a presentation of Sjoerd Broos (Slectline, Holland). He introduced the high quality marking paint and gave us a great comparison why they are one of the best on the market.
Just before lunch we had the privilege to listen to Teodor Dentchev (Toro Company). Our main sponsor has always been part of the events and the support through the years has been huge. The know-how and the innovations in the machinery were more than welcomed from the guest and members. The future is always brighter with the sponsors as Toro and co-thinking people as Teodor.
Later in the afternoon we were honoured to listen the experienced Russian superintendent of Skolkovo Golf Club, Russia – Denis Koltykhov. He shared his knowledge and challenges that he has in his work place. Our members became very exited from what was presented and found a friend and good colleague in Denis`s face.
As a last speaker the Annual Conference presented Guy Stewart (Dennis and Sisis, UK). An outfield demonstration was made of a Dennis mower and a Sisis scarifier. The members and guests did not mind the cold weather and showed a great interest. Inside the presentation continued with some background and type of the products on the market. The best of it was the understanding of everyone that the variety of attachment units and tractor mounted units would be of high interest and well accepted in the turf industry in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Golf Greenkeepers Association set very high standards with the passing event. It was very well accepted and highly attended. The feedback was very positive and definitely encourages the board members to keep up the good work.
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When I first applied to be part of the volunteer team at the 2018 Ryder Cup my only objective was to get an answer from Le Golf National. I knew that there would be hundreds, if not thousands of applications being sent to be part of the volunteer team and the only thing that I was certain of was that if I didn´t apply nobody would be coming to Estonia to offer me a position. So in the spring of 2017 I made my initial contact with Le Golf National about volunteering at the 2017 French Open with the long term goal of helping out at the Ryder Cup. Unfortunately for me, I was told no. But again, „no“ was an answer and at least I applied.
As luck would have it, in February of 2018 I saw that FEGGA, along with Capillary Concrete, had posted an opportunity to be part of ten greenkeepers that they would be sending to the Ryder Cup. Eventhough I had been turned down applying myself, there was no reason I couldn´t apply through FEGGA. I knew that they wanted to have as many countries represented as possible, so the only reason I had to be optimistic about my application was because I was the only person applying from Estonia. The greenkeepers from England and Germany, for example, had much stiffer competition.
The good news arrived on March 28, 2018…….“ After careful consideration of all the applicants, we are very pleased to offer you place with the FEGGA team of ten.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I must have read that email at least twenty times, because I was sure I had missed something, or somebody was playing a practical joke. But I had actually been accepted to be part of the volunteer team at the 2018 Ryder Cup! Prior to the Ryder Cup I had no experience volunteering at any European Tour or PGA Tour events so I had no idea what to expect. I spoke with several friends who had volunteered at various tour events who shared insights with me and what I might be able to expect, but they all said that the Ryder Cup experience will be at a whole different level.
Entering the Le Golf National grounds for the first time, seeing that massive grandstand behind the first tee, and walking towards the maintenance house I knew that I was in for something special. Then getting acquainted with the maintenance facility was unbelievable, because there was equipment everywhere! I knew there were going to be upwards of 180 greenkeepers working this event, which means you need equipment for everybody, but I couldn´t imagine what so much equipment actually looked like in real life.
The first two days of Ryder Cup week were really special for one reason: no spectators on the course. During those days we were able to get familiar with the golf course, take A LOT of pictures in areas that we probably wouldn´t be able to access once spectators were out there, and get a bunch of finishing touches done on the golf course.
Once practice rounds and Celebrity Ryder Cup matches began we started to have a lot more down time during the day. Many of the team who had been there for the weeks, and months leading up to the Ryder Cup were taking well deserved naps in the staff area, but seeing as I was there for only a week I wanted to make the most of every opportunity. A friend of mine even joked that when a staff member from Le Golf National asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to help do something during the day, I had my hand up before I even knew what I was volunteering for! On Thursday and Friday I was able to match rake for both European and Team USA practice rounds. Being so close to the best players in the world and seeing how they practiced and executed their shots was something really special to see up close.
I was also fortunate enough to have my name pulled out of a hat to match rake on Saturday morning. Walking the golf course for over four hours with Ian Poulter, John Rahm, Jordan Speith and Justin Thomas was something I will never forget. Watching these four athletes go shot for shot was just incredible to watch from so close. The passion and emotions that these men showed was just amazing. It must be said though, my one disappointment from the week happened during this match- it ended on the 17th green. I was really hoping to be able to walk down the 18th fairway towards that giant grandstand and see and feel what it would be like to have thousands of people cheer the players on. A view like that would be something very few people get to experience. But if not being able to walk down the 18th is my only disappointment of the week, I would have to say it was a great week!
Sunday was an interesting day for me. The entire team had gelled into on cohesive unit, executed our plan to the best of our abilities, and we were the rock stars of the event. I had only been there for a week, and I would be lying if I said it wasn´t an emotional day for me- I couldn´t imagine what it was like for Alejandro Reyes and his staff who had been working for years towards this event. I hate to use a cliché to describe how I felt that day, but the best way to describe my feelings would be: I wasn´t sad that it was over, I was glad that it happened.
When hosting any kind of big tournament, whether it is a club championship, national championship or an international event, for me the most stressful time is the months and weeks leading up to the opening tee shot. There is so much work that needs to be and it always feels like you don´t have the time, equipment or man-power to get everything done. Once the tournament is under way, that is the fun part of the tournament. You are pretty much stuck with what you have done, and you are just cutting, and maintaining during the tournament. So going to the Ryder Cup, I got to take part of the most fun part of a tournament without having to do all the work in the lead-up.
During the morning course set-up I was moving bunker boards. By no means a very labour intensive job, but it was a job that I had not done previously. The evening set-ups we much more interesting. That is where I got to see just how much attention to detail you can put into a golf course when you have 180 greenkeepers, not 180 people, but 180 trained and qualified greenkeepers, working on a golf course. It was apparent that everyone had checked their egos at the door when one evening I was divoting fairways and the following evening picking up rubbish around the golf course with two head greenkeepers from two prestigious golf clubs in the UK.
Many of my club members back in Estonia have asked me what exactly did we do with 180 greenkeepers? Cut the grass with scissors? Yes, actually! Sprinkler heads and catch basins were all trimmed up by hand, as well as some bunker edges. On top of that, green surrounds and approaches were all cut using pedestrian mowers. During the entire week I did not see a single ride-on mower get closer to a greens complex then thirty meters.
At my club we do our bunkers a few times a week using a mechanical bunker rake and rarely do we worry about the shape of the bunker, and never once have we been concerned about the moisture levels. But at the Ryder Cup we were doing bunkers every day by hand, checking depths, firmness, moisture levels, and making sure not a single grain of sand was out of place. During my entire week at the Ryder Cup, the only “are you kidding me?” moment actually came while working in the bunkers. I knew that moisture levels in the bunkers were important but I had never seen, let alone heard, of wetting agents being used in bunkers to maintain proper moisture levels. That was something that I was not expecting.
What most volunteers seemed to enjoy during the week was not having to make any important decisions. When working at our home courses we are the ones who have all the pressure to make the right decisions, and are always questioning ourselves whether we made the right choice. During the week at Le Golf National that burden was taken off of us and all we had to do was follow instructions. Sure, most people got a couple phone calls during the week asking to help solve some crisis at home, but for the most part we got to enjoy the being a young greenkeeper again doing the jobs we rarely get to do. It was really nice change of pace to be able to rake bunkers, divot fairways and edge cartpaths.
The week I was able to spend at the 2018 Ryder Cup has been the highlight of my career so far. Being able to spend a week networking, and working alongside some of the best greenkeepers on the planet will be invaluable to my career. I still like to consider myself a young man, and I still have many more things that I would like to accomplish during the my greenkeeping career, but if the week I spent at the 2018 Ryder Cup stays in the top three highlights of my career I would think I´ve had a pretty good career.
There are a couple of people I would like to thank for making this opportunity possible. First and foremost, Dean Cleaver from FEGGA and Martin Sternberg from Capillary Concrete for selecting me to be part of their delegation. It was truly an honour and priviledge to represent our industry at the biggest show on turf. Also, I have to thank Alejandro Reyes and the entire staff from Le Golf National. From the very first day you were able to create a team atmosphere. There was no “Le Golf National Team” and “Volunteer Team.” We were all part of one big team working towards the same objective. What you guys were able to accomplish that week was something really special. Organizing 180 greenkeepers from all over the world to work as one team was something amazing to be a part of.
For anyone considering volunteering at any event: send in your application!! There will be plenty of other people applying for the same opportunities as you, but the only thing you can be sure of is if you don´t apply you will not be going.
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20th DAYS OF EDUCATION – 13th and 14th of November 2018 in AUSTRIA TREND HOTEL, Ljubljana
Introducing them from left to right:
Paul Marley, Assistant Head Greenkeeper – Estonian Golf and Country Club and representing the Estonian Greenkeepers Association “it’s just an honour to have been selected. But I hope to learn a great deal over the week about how to manage such a large group, what kinds of details can be looked after with such a large crew, and just how polished a golf course can really be. I also hope to make some good contacts within the industry”
Bernardo Almeida, Head Greenkeeper – West Cliffs / Praia D´el Rey Golf Club and representing the Portuguesse Greenkeepers Association “I’m Very proud to go to help, learn and exchange ideas in an Event so demanding and always Magnificent”
Ciarán Byrne, Assistant Head Greenkeeper – Old Conna Golf Club Bray and representing the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland “For me, this is a once in a lifetime experience to contribute too, and learn from the best in the industry. To see how a golf course is managed and set up for the biggest golfing event in the world will be something that will stay with me forever and will help me going forward with my career”
Hector Forcen, Golf Course Superintendent – Golf Club Payerne and representing the Swiss Greenkeepers Association “Unbeatable scenery to meet with old friends and participate in the preparation of one of the best sport events in the planet with a crew of passionate turf professionals from around the world”
Jiří Lahodný, Head Greenkeeper – Prosper Golf Resort Čeladná and representing the Czech Greenkeepers Association “The Ryder Cup experience will have, with no doubt, a huge impact on my professional life, because I will be part of the greenkeeping team made up from some of the best people in our industry, preparing a golf course on the highest possible level for the best players in the world”
Matija Pipan, Golf Course Superintendent – Golf & Country Club Castello di Spessa and representing the Slovenian and Italian Greenkeepers Association “I have great expectations from this magnificent experience. I am very curious about how the whole team will succeed in preparing the course for such an important event. It is incredible the energy that every single person will invest in this tournament in order to make it perfect. I am really looking forward to be part of this fantastic team that will contribute to make this event unforgettable”
Chloe Gallagher, Assistant Greenkeeper – Gulf Harbour Country Club and representing the British & International Greenkeepers Association “I am so excited to be apart of this incredible tournament! This tournament is massive to any greenkeeper and to be apart of it is simply a dream come true. Sunday can not come quick enough and I can’t wait to be there, inside the ropes at Le Golf National”
Frank Czarnietzki, Head Greenkeeper – Golf Club Maria Bildhausen and representing the German Greenkeepers Association “It’s a great honour for me to be part of this.
I’m looking forward to share my passion with more then 160 colleagues”
Mads Andersen, Course Manager – Søllerød Golf Club and representing the Danish Greenkeepers Association “I’m honoured to be selected as a Greenkeeper to the 2018 Ryder Cup. Thank you Martin Stenberg and FEGGA for giving me an unforgettable experience and the opportunity to meet some of the best in our business from around the world”
Abel Marius Pascariu, Assistant Greenkeeper – Golf Club Wien and member of the Austrian Greenkeepers Association “This is my first practical training in a foreign country. Before I have never been involved in the Ryder Cup. I am delighted to be a member of the volunteer group and happy to take place in such a great event”
Along with the World Cup, Super Bowl and Olympics, golf’s Ryder Cup is one of the greatest team events in all of sport.
It has seen many epic battles, such as 1991’s War on the Shore and the 2012 Miracle of Medinah, that are etched in our memories. Whether you are rooting for the US or Europe, or simply want to admire the world’s best golfers competing in a rare team format, the 2018 event at Le Golf National in Paris, France, will be one of the most eagerly-anticipated sports events of the year.
But in addition to the competition itself, the Ryder Cup also provides a wonderful opportunity for those of us in the golf industry to transfer skills and knowledge with counterparts from around the world.
Representatives from all aspects of the golf industry, from golf design to maintenance and operations, and from all over the globe, will be converging in one place, where one of the world’s great golf courses will be showcased at its very best.
In my travels to golf courses around the world for bunker renovations projects, I feel fortunate to have met so many different people, each of whom has fascinating experience and a huge passion for the sport.
Take Andy Johnston for example, the general manager and director of agronomy of Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore, the host course for the SMBC Singapore Open, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour and won in January this year by Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia.
Andy joined Sentosa having originally worked for the club while with Gene Bates Golf Design. With a multi-disciplinary background covering agronomy, architecture and management, he has a wealth of expertise. For me, as a native of Northern Europe, learning from Andy’s experiences of the Asian market has been invaluable.
I am always grateful for the opportunity to learn from experts at the golf clubs we visit. I started my working life as a greenkeeper, and at that time would have given anything to find a way to tap into the knowledge of people like Andy, all over the world.
Reflecting on my career journey and experiences like these led me to want to find a way to enable more people to benefit from the expertise of others throughout the golf industry. And that has now culminated in the development of the 2018 Ryder Cup Greenkeeper Experience Program.
Working with FEGGA, the umbrella body for greenkeeping associations in Europe, and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the initiative will see 20 selected greenkeepers spending the Ryder Cup week experiencing how a world-class golf course is set up for one of the sport’s biggest events.
We had over 750 applicants and the 20 greenkeepers selected are representing the USA, Canada and ten European countries including the Czech Republic and Estonia.
They will join Alejandro Reyes, the golf course manager at Le Golf National, and his team in the run-up to the tournament.
It’s a unique opportunity to work alongside peers from different regions, then take what they have learnt back to their home clubs.
Already the impact has been very positive. I recently received a letter from the superintendent at a club where one of the assistants had been selected. He told me how delighted he was for his team member, and what an impact it will have on the whole club.
I look forward to reporting back on the initiative and planning more in future.
Martin Sternberg, CGCS, is the founder and inventor of Capillary Concrete, a Class A PGA professional and was Europe’s first GCSAA Certified Golf Course Superintendent.
Jacobsen® turf equipment is an Official Supplier of Tthe 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National and is providing tournament support to the greenkeeping team during the competition. Technical staff from the Ransomes Jacobsen facility in Ipswich, U.K. will assist staff based at Ransomes Jacobsen France (RJF) in Toulouse throughout the competition.
Jacobsen turf equipment is designed and manufactured by Textron Specialized Vehicles Inc., a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company.
In 2016, Le Golf National signed a five-year preferred supplier agreement with Ransomes Jacobsen. The prestigious golf course, which belongs to the French Federation of Golf, has demonstrated its confidence in Ransomes Jacobsen France, which has supplied equipment to the facility since 2010.
In addition to the course’s regular fleet of Jacobsen equipment, an additional 31 pieces of equipment have been delivered to support Tthe Ryder Cup. The additional machinery consists of 12 Eclipse 2 greens mowers, three SLF-1880 fairway mowers, three AR-3 rotary mowers, two Jacobsen Trucksters, four Smithco Lite rollers and 11 mower caddies.
Alejandro Reyes, Golf and Courses and Estate Manager at Le Golf National, said of theof the support provided by Jacobsen and RJF:
“Le Golf National has been in partnership with Jacobsen since 2011. The quality of machinery, the back-up support, and the product innovation are just some of the reasons we choose Jacobsen. Together, we have created a world-class golf course that will host The 2018 Ryder Cup, and the Olympics in 2024.
“We are excited to use Jacobsen equipment during The Ryder Cup. I am confident that it will assist us in making the Albatros course absolutely spectacular for such a huge event. The HNA Open de France went very well, and we are making sure that we maintain high standards all the way through until the Ryder Cup in September.”
Since opening in 1990, Le Golf National has hosted the Open de France 25 times. It consists of three courses: the Albatros, an18-hole championship course, on which The Ryder Cup will be played; the Eagle, a second 18-hole course; and the Oiselet, a 9-hole course.
Alejandro Reyes’ 5 top tips for preparing to host a major tournament
Alejandro is the golf courses and estate manager at Le Golf National in Paris, host of the 2018 Ryder Cup.
1. Predict the unpredictable
Spend time thinking about what could go wrong, and try to come up with ways to prevent those things from occurring. You must always plan for every eventuality!
2. Volunteer programme
Make sure that you have a good volunteer programme. Ensure that you are going to provide a unique experience for the volunteers and make sure they are well fed and happy throughout the tournament!
3. Orientation Day
Make sure your volunteers check out the holes they will be assigned and get a good feel for the course. It is also important to run through the machinery, if they are unfamiliar with it, and ask them if they are happy with the job they have been assigned- if not, be flexible enough to change things up.
It is crucial to have good communication with the tournament director, the agronomy side of the organisation, and any other associations or official bodies involved in the event. Be open and honest to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Bring in some industry experts to deliver some seminars which will provide confidence and education to the volunteers during the tournament.