Working at the Open Championship

John Scurfield’s story on his week working at the Carnoustie Links for the Open Championship.

I set off on my journey to Carnoustie Links on the Wednesday morning with Hexham greenkeeper Paul Walton, we arrived at our digs at around 14:00 at SRUC Elmwood campus in Cupar. On arrival we were met by the BIGGA team consisting of Racheal Duffy, Sandra Raper, Tracey Maddison and Kerry Phillips. We were issued our uniforms, shown to our rooms and met many greenskeepers from all across the country.

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At around 15:30 we set off in our team buses on our daily 45 min comute to Carnoustie Links. On arrival we were shown to our BIGGA HQ for the week and shown the location of the starters hut where we had to attend prior to our tee times.

The support team then headed up to the 10th green where we were fortunate to meet Sandy Reid Carnoustie Links Superintendent and Craig Boath Carnoustie Links Head Greenkeeper, who were the guys in charge of setting up the course for the Open Championship 2018 with help from the STRI. Sandy and Craig gave us an hour of so out of their busy schedule which was very interesting, they talked us through preparation on and off the course and touched on exactly how much effort has gone in to being hosts of the biggest golf competition in the world. The tour we all got of the Carnoustie Links facilities was brilliant, they really are in a different world compared to the everyday green keeping sheds as you would expect.

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Sandy gave us all demonstration of what was expected from the team during their matches on the competition days, it was a rare sight to see so many greenskeepers eager and excited to grab a rake.

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During each competition day each support team member was given a match number, this allowed everyone to know what time they were out on the course and which players they were out on the course with. Everyone was eager to see if they were with Tiger Woods. I was fortunate to walk the course with a few top class golfers, among the best were, Francesco Molinari, Justin Thomas, Brandon Grace, Chris Woods, Ben An and a few more I was unfamiliar with.

The one moment I took away from the Open Championship experience which I will never forget was on day 2 on the 15th hole, Molinari hit a fat pull off the tee with an iron and the ball flew into some deep gorse bushes where there were no spectators. I saw where it went in and couldn’t understand why he hadn’t hit a provisional, after a few minutes of looking the referee addressed his radio for a buggy to take Molinari back to the tee as they thought it was a lost ball. I said to the referee I know where the ball is roughly and went over to look, after looking around with my rake I finally saw if nestled in the top of the thick gorse bush, Molinari thanked me, took penalty, hit the green and made 5, he thanked at the end of the hole and me and gave me the ball.

This is the ball below Molinari gave me as a thank you at the end of the 15th hole.

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I know I will never win an Open Championship but at least I’ve helped someone achieve this.

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In between games we had spare time where we had an opportunity to get a photo with the famous Claret Jug, this was pretty special to a life long golf fan.

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During the week I met guys from all over the UK, all very enthusiastic career driven greenskeepers. Some of the guys were great fun and had a good laugh, I’m sure everyone took a story or two away from the week along with a few more friends for life.

It was great to hear of other experiences and career paths the other guys had taken, also interesting to hear how fortunate some guys are working with large numbers of staff with almost unlimited budgets. We will get there with Morpeth one day, got to be ambitious eh.

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I purchased an 18th hole flag at the Open gift shop, I got it signed by loads of top players like Mcilroy, Stenson, Molinari, Fleetwood, Thomas and many more.

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This is a gift to the greens team at Morpeth, I’m going to get it framed and hang it on the wall for the team, hopefully in years to come some of the other members of the team may want to gain some competition experience.

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The photo below is of myself with Paul Walton of Hexham golf club, I spent most of my week with Paul. Paul is a top guy and I enjoyed spending time with him, it was a laugh from start to finish.

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The team photo was taken on the 18th green after the presentation of the Claret Jug to Francesco Molinari, good to meet all these guys who I’m sure will all discuss green keeping at some point in the years ahead with each other.

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Thanks to BIGGA for selecting me to be part of the support team, it was a great experience for myself as a greenkeeper and a golfer. To stand on the 18th hole in the middle of the fairway 130 yards short of the green and to hear the crowd cheer the golfers home was very special, a moment I will never forget.

Thanks to Rachael, Sandra, Tracey, Kerry, Jim, James, John and Chris for all their hard work over the week, especially the ladies who worked tirelessly, well done.

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