John Deere TPC Sawgrass: 'The whole experience was overwhelming'

4 June 2019 Feature Article

Course preparation at TPC Sawgras. Picture by Darren Skinner

Darren Skinner of Castle Stuart Golf Links recalls his experience joining the John Deere TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme in 2019.

If you're interested in applying to join the programme for 2020, you can register your interest now. 

For me the whole experience was overwhelming. From the second we arrived at the entrance road to TPC Sawgrass, it sunk in that we were there. 


I never expected to be one of those lucky enough to be selected, but I’m so glad I applied and went through the different stages. It was more than worth it. I can see why these stages are introduced as when I met the other guys on the volunteer programme, we all clicked straight away, which is very important when you’re going to spend so much time together.


Arriving at Sawgrass was just crazy. The size and scale of the operation is just out of this world, but you’re instantly made to feel a part of the team, which is over 150 people. Bringing that amount of people together and co-ordinating something on this scale is a talent. IT shows the importance of teamwork and keeping morale high.


I’ve already applied for other tournaments since, but like I said to my general manager: “How can I even come close to topping Sawgrass?”


It takes long hours to get the Stadium Course in championship condition. Picture by Darren Skinner


My tasks for the week were rolling greens in the mornings and blowing greens, the final touch before play, which was a very important role with so many people watching all over the world. In the evenings I was part of the bunker team, which I enjoyed. This gave me time to socialise with other greenkeepers and I’ve come away with some really good friends and contacts for the future. There’s already talk of the BIGGA selected team having a reunion in October so we can play golf and have a catch up.


The most difficult part of the experience was hand mowing the roughs, but it was at the same time the most rewarding. With just under 50 people hand mowing roughs, the whole operation was a success. An extra team followed us around, supplying us with lighting, while yet another helped with grass collection. To have 150 guys involved in that operation and no setbacks, with everyone working well together, it just shows what can be done when you’re all going for the same result.


I can’t recommend the John Deere Volunteer Programme highly enough. Apply for this scheme, it would be silly not to. It’s just an indescribable experience – you have to go there and see for yourself. It was just amazing!


If you're interested in applying to join the John Deere TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme in 2020, you can register your interest now.




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