John Deere TPC Sawgrass: Where do I begin?
Jon pictured on TPC Sawgrass' 17th hole
Jon Gamble is the course manager at Welshpool Golf Club. In this feature he recalls his experiences as part of the team helping to prepare the course for The Players Championship.
If you're interested in joining the John Deere TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme, you can register your interest here.
What a trip! The first thing I must say is thank you to BIGGA and John Deere, but most of all to Nick Ashman. From day one when we met in the airport, he took great care of us with organising and taxiing us around – a thankless job in this country, let along across the pond.
TPC Sawgrass is an amazing venue and is out of this world (with up to $20m in the budget each year, it should be!)
From the first team meeting to the last Sunday of work, Jeff, Lucas and their team made us at home and one of them. They couldn’t do enough for you, whether it was stronger coffee or cans of coke. The endless offers of help kept coming.
On to the work and put it this way, I’ve never hand mowed rough until I got to Sawgrass! It’s an amazing sight to watch, but being a part of it is different altogether. Picture this, 16 greenkeepers all in a row with Honda push mowers going around the rough. The presentation looks ace afterwards, but it is hard work. On the Monday we started at 12.30pm and finished at 9pm in 28 degree heat!
My main job, morning and night, was hand rolling greens – that’s a picture of me on the front cover of the latest edition of Your Course! This was intense and half the time you could not see where you were going because the greens were so tightly cut. I think by the Sunday, they were at 13.1 on the stimp.
The machines that Sawgrass have are amazing and to see it all under one roof is even more impressive. Their facility in general is state-of-the-art, from wash down to bathroom. I’d even go so far as to say you could eat your dinner off the bathroom floor, it’s that well maintained!
A place on the volunteer programme allows you to get up close to the biggest names in the game
The presentation of the whole site is fabulous, from the condition of the course to the flowers and grandstands that sit very high on 17. They really do gear the tournament up so that everyone who goes has an awesome time, from a spectator point of view.
You really do get to appreciate the job we do when you go to a tournament like this. You meet other professional turf nuts from all over the world, including Austria, Germany and even New Zealand. We are all doing the job we love to the best of our ability, which nine times out of 10 was good enough.
Going to Sawgrass has made me want to go back every year now, just to get the buzz from what you experience. I would encourage and push anybody that wants to go there to do so, it’s an amazing place.
One last thing, we were getting up at 3.30am every day to catch a bus at 4am. We would usually stay to watch golf in our downtime, then it was back to work at 4pm until 9ish. So the days really were long, but wow, what days they were!
If you're interested in joining the John Deere TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme, you can register your interest here