These BIGGA members will be heading to the Open at Royal Birkdale

These BIGGA members will be heading to the Open at Royal Birkdale

The British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association has unveiled the line-up for the support team that will be heading to Royal Birkdale this July to help maintain the famous links during the Open Championship.

BIGGA members who gain a place on the team are given unprecedented access to the world’s greatest golf event, with a greenkeeper on hand to assist every single match that will take place throughout the championship.

Each year the R&A requests BIGGA’s assistance with hosting the championship, meaning BIGGA members have witnessed some of the greatest duels in golf first hand, including when Henrik Stenson overcoming Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon in 2016.

Greenkeeper Rob Patrick of Stoneham was assigned the final battle of the 2016 Open, and with neither player going in a single bunker during the round, it meant he got a money-can't-buy view of the 'Duel of the Sons'. Rob said: “After Henrik won, he came over and shook my hand and gave me a signed ball.

“Being on the support team gave me a front row seat and going down the 18th gave me goosebumps. Surrounded by the grandstands, it was like an arena and I am never going to feel that excitement again.”

The 146th Open Championship will be held at Royal Birkdale, marking the 10th time the Claret Jug will have been contested at the course. Since first hosting The Open in 1954, the course has been ??“ alongside Royal Lytham ??“ the most regular venue for the Championship other than St Andrews.

The Support Team will be hoping for a British winner this time around, with seven of the eight previous winners hailing from either the Australia or the United States. Australian Peter Thomson won at Royal Birkdale in 1954 and then again in 1965.

BIGGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Croxton said: “Each year we are able to reward some of our most hard-working members with the opportunity to get a front row seat at the Open Championship. It is a long week, and our team work extremely hard, but the rewards are incredible, and many of them go on to describe their time on the Support Team as one of the highlights of their careers. Thanks must go to the R&A for once again putting their faith in our talented members, who I am sure will give their all to make sure the 146th Open is once again a huge success.”

The BIGGA Support Team will be provided with accommodation, food, refreshments and uniform for the event.

Arriving at what is renowned as one of the sport’s most renowned and challenging venues, the team will be required to rake for the players during the tournament itself, and may also be needed to help with early morning preparation work and evening divot duties until the Claret Jug is lifted on Sunday 23 July.

Thank you to everyone who applied to be part of this year's team.

Here are the BIGGA members who will be joining the home greenkeeping team for the event:

Anthony McGeough, Richmond

Billy Merritt, Beacon Park

Jamie Martin, Gifford

Steve Hemsley, Bolton Old Links

Richard Holmes, Crosland Heath

Richard Saunders, Mowsbury

Kevan Glass, Brokenhurst Manor

Ben Scrivener, Abridge

Jon McMullen, Lee Park

Tom Smith, Wickham Park

Chloe Gallagher, Ramside Hall

Matthew Gallagher, Royal Mid Surrey

Bill Whybrow, Garon Park Golf Complex

Oliver Kirk, Newmarket Links

Ben Williams, Maesdu (Llandudno)

Joe Frampton, Sunningdale

Seamus Gaughan, Megros, Switzerland

Tim Leat, Rich River, Australia

Sean Sullivan, The Briarwood, USA

Sean Brocklehurst, Harpenden Common

Michael Burgin, Normanby Hall

Matt James, Cumberwell Park

Andy Unwin, Birley Wood

Asa English, Rothley Park

Graham Ives, Louth

David Taylor, Mendip Spring

Adrian Kitchinson, Lincoln

Simon Rothwell, Whitwood

Andy Naismith, Worthing

Wes Lenihan, Ealing

Russell Carr, Golf at Goodwood

Stuart Tait, Renaissance

David Springham, The Burstead

Mitchell Jordan, Lingdale

Tom Freeman, Kingsdown

Paul Gater, Caldy

Steven Carmichael, Dumfries & Galloway

Stephen Dale, Withernsea

Daniel Evans, Maesdu (Llandudno)

Tom Pattison, Blyth

Richard Ponsford, The Bristol

Dale Housden, Hollywood

Marcus Tolmie, Longridge

Shaun Cunningham, Mortonhall

Ken Ward, Harrogate

Tom Wright, Long Ashton