Recently I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity of volunteering as part of the maintenance team for the last major of the year which was staged at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky on the 7 -10th of August. Let me start by saying WOW, this was a very special place and the best golf course I’ve ever seen bar none. For those who know me I’ve played a few! I was offered the opportunity by Superintendent, Roger Meier, whom I’d met at the GCSAA conference in San Diego in early 2013.
There were 100 staff on hand throughout the tournament, made up of 30 full time Valhalla crew as well as 70 volunteers from across the USA as well as international visitors from Mexico, England, Ireland, Scotland and Australia. There was a mix of Superintendents, Assistants and Interns (apprentices) and expected to be ready to do any job thrown our way, of which I was fortunate enough to be given the job of mowing fairways with 11 others.
The surfaces at Valhalla were predominantly creeping bentgrass which was used on greens, tees and fairways. It was certainly an eye opener for me to see that much bentgrass in the one place with no visible flaws, which was simply stunning and a credit to the hard work of the Valhalla team and I’m sure a healthy fungicide budget!
Some interesting facts about the PGA; 10 million dollar prize purse, 1.8 to the winner; 99 of the top 100 players teed it up and US Ryder Cup selections were finalised at the conclusion of the event. All of these things contributed to making it a huge week of which saw 250,000 spectators pour through the gates and tickets were the hottest in town, in fact it was officially sold out.
The event was plagued by wet weather for the final 3 days of play which meant I had my turn on the squeegee like everyone else and was on hand on the final day to assist on the 2nd green for Shane Lowry, Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell to name a few. Round 4 saw a huge downpour delaying play by 1hr 50mins, with the crew doing an amazing job to get them back out there so quickly, ultimately allowing the officials to get it finished – even though it was dark!
For anyone out there interested in volunteering to work a tournament I strongly encourage you to do so, especially a major, and no doubt open your eyes to just how big the PGA tour actually is. If I can help you in anyway please feel free to contact me and I’ll certainly try my best. Check out more PGA highlights on Youtube by searching ‘Valhalla maintenance’ or through www.pga.com
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