The Open 2019: Supporting a special Championship

For the first time in 68 years, The Open Championship was held outside mainland Britain in Northern Ireland. The minute the R&A announced Royal Portrush Golf Club as the host venue, I knew I wanted to be involved in some capacity.

A mix of 52 BIGGA (British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association) volunteers including superintendents/deputies/assistant greenkeepers headed for the small town of Portrush to assist with bunker raking during the tournament.

We all arrived on the Wednesday afternoon of championship week where dinner was served followed by a demonstration of what was required for the week by Royal Portrush Course Manager, Graeme Beatt.

As much as I have been part of major championship set up, this for me, was the first time in assisting the BIGGA bunker support team.

Me pictured on Championship Sunday. Tee time: 12:37 pm, Dylan Frittelli (RSA) & Andrew Putnam (USA)

Each grouping had fully qualified greenkeepers to maintain any bunkers when required. Each volunteer is equipped by the R&A with full Hugo Boss waterproofs, t-shirts and caps. They also took care of accommodation and food for the week so we were well looked after!

From a profession point of view, in my mind, it’s very important to think about who you are representing when away on these voluntary programmes. Yes, you are volunteering and using annual leave, but you are representing the R&A, BIGGA, and in my case, St Andrews Links when involved.

The course itself is a traditional links on undulating terrain with some spectacular views. It certainly lived up to all the expectation and is a course, I think, has to be a regular feature on The Open rota.

The support team was everything I expected to be and more. From the well organised and straight talking BIGGA staff, to the like-minded voluntary greenkeepers that were all involved. I like to chat about the job and bounce ideas off other members in the industry, which I did all week.

I wanted see how the support team handled the tournament first hand to see what may be useful during future Open Championships held at the Old Course.

Greenkeeping can be a tough gig at times working unsociable, long hours in some harsh conditions. Programmes like these though, from a greenkeeping perspective, are a great confidence builder for the members of our industry.

It’s important that we share our ideas and responsibilities to fellow industry representatives because whilst we all work under different circumstances, we all do and have a passion for the same job.

Words by Craig Berry, Old Course Supervisor

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