Some of you will know that Rob Patrick (one of our greenkeepers) spent last week out in Turkey working as a greenkeeper on the European Tour at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal for the Turkish Airlines Open.
(Victor Dubuisson birdied three of his final four holes to shoot 22 under and go onto win. His prize was a picture with Rob)
Having done many tournaments myself I am a great believer in gaining experience working on both the European or US tours. The chance to set a course up for some of the best golfers and TV plus getting a chance to see how the top courses in the world set up for competitions is something every young (or old) greenkeeper should strive to do.
Now I must say that some of you will know that Rob is a seriously good golfer playing off a plus two handicap. Some say he may have even made the European tour as a player!
When the opportunity came up for the club to send staff over to Turkey to work at the Open, Rob took this opportunity with both hands. I must add that Rob even funded this himself such was his desire to experience life on the tour! Something that really impressed me.
Below is a quick interview I carried out with Rob on his return to share his experiences with you.
Tell us about the purpose of your trip?
The purpose of my trip was to gain tournament experience at top level, network with other greenkeepers and see if anything is done differently overseas to the uk.
Tell us about your daily routine whilst over there?
My daily routine changed from the build up to tournament days, during the build up, so from Sunday to Tuesday we were doing 12 hour days which mainly consisted of repairing the bunkers that had collapsed due to the torrential storms the had a few days prior.
I would start at 6am go out with my Turkish partner Ali and double handcut 6 greens, two other pairs were out doing the same too, then we would go onto bunker repairing, edging out all the collapses, reshaping the banks and turfing them. We'd finish around 6pm and get the bus back to the staff lodge, shower change and head to the hotel for dinner then bed as I am terrible at trying to stay up late!
Tournament days and the pro am day however were a lot easier, I came in to work at 6am and double hand cut 5 greens (we borrowed 2 mowers from a neighbouring course so had 8 mowers for the tournament) again with Ali, our greens were the putting green, 11, 14, 16, and the final championship hole 18 which I was happy about :) then we would have the day to ourselves to enjoy the weather and had to be back at 4 for a single cut of the greens and divotting then off home to enjoy the evening.
How was the weather?
The weather was beautiful! We were in jumpers arriving to work but were soon taking them off when it got to about 7.30am when the sun was coming out, it was very nice to get some heat as I hear you had rain while I was away whilst I was enjoying temps pushing 30 degrees!
How many greenkeepers were working?
There were a total of 40 greenkeepers made up with 27 Turkish and 13 from the uk.
We also had about 15 ladies who would rake and weed the bunkers and pick up litter in the mornings and divot in the evenings.
Where were the uk greenkeepers from?
We had 3 from Devon, 2 from Scotland from the Ryder Cup course at Gleneagles, Roehampton, St George's Hill, Worpleston, Wentworth, Ferndown and one close by from Hockley. So a wide variety of courses and we all gelled very well!
(UK greenkeepers plus their partners)
Tell us about the course and its conditions?
The course was in very good condition although not as good as the previous year and this was down to just timing!
The course had been overseeded wall to wall with rye grass and because of the heat it just didn't take so the Bermuda was the dominant grass which then as the temperatures were cooling leading up to the tournament starting dying off. So they were caught between the transition of the Bermuda dying off and the rye starting to shoot through which left the course looking very patchy, hence why we had preferred lies on the fairways, also the tournament had been brought forward 2 weeks which is a shame because the difference 2 more weeks of the rye grass coming through would of made a world of difference! You'd be looking at a green plush course.
Anything of interest and not normal for the uk?
The main difference out there from the uk was the health and safety!
I think at one point I saw 15 people on a buggy, I wish I took a photo, that along with the fact most machines were started with knives, spoons or anything with a flat edge!
Other than that most things are done very similar to over here, they work very hard and do a great job seeing as most are unqualified and only basically educated in horticulture so hats off to them!
Tell us about the hotel complex and how you were taken care of?
The hotel complex...wow where do I start, I have never been in such an amazing place! Although we were staying in a staff lodgement which is no better than a bed in a room, we got full use of the maxx royal hotel which, had EVERYTHING and I mean everything!
It had a cinema, arcade, 3 restaurants, shops, a beach club, entertainment. It had everything you could want and more! A very nice place to spend our time off to try and relax, so we were very, very well looked after.
What did you learn from the trip that you can bring back to Stoneham?
I learnt a good trick out the there while hole changing, they had a piece of pipe that was rolled over the old hole cup which knitted the grass into the edges of the hole cup very nicely with no ugly foot marks or turned in edges to try and knit it in, I think everyone there was saying they were going to use that one back home.
Also the hole changer they used which was the hio (hole in one) changer was very different to what we use and was very, very good, a single round blade rather than two blades that go into the green and it left a very clean sharp cut.
Did you meet any of the golfing elite/ Heroes?
Yes, finally after 12 years of playing the game and growing up loving Darren Clarke I finally met him on the Pro Am day and got a photo with him, he was a very nice guy so this did make me very happy.
We were also eating dinner in the same company as pretty much all the pros as they were staying in the hotel we were allowed to use which was also great!
Did you meet up with Mr Stoneham (our European Tour version) Richard Bland?
I did meet up with Richard Bland, I saw him at dinner and had a chat with him about the course which he said is good but not as pure as last year (as I said due to the grass changes, amazing what 2 weeks can do) he compared the Bermuda fairways to playing in Asia.
I followed him round on the last day too, was very good to watch especially playing with Lee Westwood too.
I heard you even got a round of golf with a difference?
Yes after the tournament we got to play a floodlit course with brand new taylormades as hire clubs, all complimentary at Carya GC where the next Turkish Open is. I thought nightgolf was amazing!
What are your feelings about this trip?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time out there, made some new greenkeeping friends from other courses which we all exchanged numbers to keep in touch. I would definitely recommend doing tournament work to other greenkeepers it's a fantastic experience, this is going to be my first of many that's for sure :)
Thanks Rob. I am glad you enjoyed it. I am hoping that as a club we can keep this sort of thing up. A team inspired and learning new things from tour courses can only be a good thing for Stoneham!
Rob and Matt