Grounds Department - What do you do in the Winter

4/27/2019

In the golf course industry, it is very common to be asked “so what do you do in the winter?”, especially in the grounds department. The winter is an opportunity for us to improve our operation. We complete preventative maintenance on our equipment, attend conferences and seminars, complete tree maintenance and snow removal, as well as plan and hire for the upcoming season. This winter was a little different for me. I was given the opportunity to volunteer with the agronomy staff at TPC Sawgrass for the 2019 Players Championship.

The Players volunteer initiative is a large sponsored program that brings in turf professionals from around the world to join the agronomy team at TPC Sawgrass. I applied for the program and was selected to join 91 other turf professionals from 19 different countries. The staff for the week not only included the volunteers, but also the other regular 60 TPC Sawgrass agromony staff. This experience allowed me to gain professional level tournament preparation and a chance to network with industry professionals from around the world. Everything was included from food to accommodation to your uniform.  

During the week we worked split shifts, with morning and evening maintenance taking place. A typical day would start at 4:10 am with a departure from the hotel, followed by a morning meeting at 4:45 am. The morning assignments would then typically last until 8:30 – 9:00 am. Afterwards, we had personal time to return to the hotel or take in everything at the tournament. Our afternoon shift would start with an early dinner before heading out onto the golf course between 4:30 and 5:00 pm. On Thursday and Friday, the afternoon maintenance had to start later because of the larger field and split tee starts. These shifts would end at dark anywhere between 8:00 and 9:30 pm. At that point, we would return to the hotel and rest for upcoming day. For the majority of the week my responsibilities included mowing tees on the back 9 and helping with some watering in the evening.

My key take-aways from the week included improvements for our maintenance operation and networking with professionals from around the world. It was an absolute pleasure to be offered an opportunity like this. I would like to thank the Mad River management team for the continued support, especially Chad Vibert, without him an opportunity like this would not be possible. It was an incredible experience to contribute to a team of 150 agronomy staff and deliver an outstanding golf course for the PGA tour.

Sean May,
Assistant Superintendent