What is it like joining the John Deere TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme?
The John Deere TPC Sawgrass volunteers 2017 (clockwise from back left): Sam Evans, Johnny Ryan, Harry Jones, Chris Hale, Paul Walton, Richard Johnstone
This week six BIGGA members are in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, taking part in course preparations for THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass, thanks to BIGGA Partner John Deere.
We took a look back at last year’s delegation with Paul Walton, who worked at Sharpley Springs while he was on the delegation but has since moved on to Hexham Golf Club.
I was pretty nervous the first day I pulled up to the greenkeeping sheds, seeing so many new faces and being in surroundings that I was not used to. But everyone probably had the same look on their faces as I did, that of amazement and excitement.
The organisation of the whole place was impeccable. For example, we all had a booklet with relevant information such as health and safety, shift patterns, contact information and what is expected from all the staff.
Lucas Andrews is the course superintendent at TPC Sawgrass. He came across as a professional, but also a very laid-back, individual. He made the whole process relaxed and didn’t want anyone to feel pressured by their tasks.
We were all given a rucksack, kitted out with eight t-shirts – a different colour for each day – and a waterproof top and trousers.
TPC Sawgrass maintenance facility
After the meeting, everyone was allowed to roam around the huge greenkeeping sheds. There are three large buildings, for the mechanics, chemicals and a large building for machinery, equipment and the staff mess room. Each building was immaculate, with not one thing looking out of place.
Lined up neatly were row after row of John Deere grass cutting machinery, Gator and Pro Gator utility vehicles. There were so many you could only imagine the quantity of machines that were there, and every machine was spotless.
Simple things, such as fitting different machines with brushes that sit in front of the cylinders on the fairway units and walk-behind greens mowers make such a difference. Even though we brushed prior to cutting at Sharpley, it is always using two different machines, so this new method will save man hours and fuel for us. Also, when cutting the greens, there were ‘turning boards’ at either end of the strip. These were plastic boards that were laid out to help stop wear created by the mowers when turning, and this was a system I would like to adopt back home.
I just want to add a big thank you to BIGGA and John Deere for giving me the opportunity to go out to America and experience such a high-profile tournament.
For any greenkeeper out there, that may be put off by the video application part of the process, I would say to you: just give it a go. Get yourself out of your comfort zone and I promise it will be worth it, whether you get a place on the programme or not.