For most, this year’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris will be remembered for the comprehensive victory by the European team, and subsequent fallout among their USA counterparts. For a select few, it will be remembered as a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be part of the grounds crew that presented an immaculate Albatros course.
In the July 2018 issue of GCA, Martin Sternberg of Capillary Concrete provided a background to a new initiative that would give selected greenkeepers from around the world the opportunity to become part of the grounds crew at Le Golf National for the 2018 Ryder Cup week.
In the run-up to the event, Sternberg’s liner technology had been used in the rebuilding of the bunkers. “Installing Capillary Concrete was one of our best decisions,” said Le Golf National course manager Alejandro Reyes to his own crew as well as the 180-strong team of volunteer greenkeepers that were responsible for maintaining the Albatros course.
The working relationship between Sternberg and Reyes had been an inspiration for the greenkeeper initiative.
Twenty greenkeepers were selected, ten Golf Course Superintendents Association of America members and ten from Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Association-affiliated countries across Europe.
“Alejandro and his team were the most gracious of hosts!” said Ryan Walsh, superintendent at Woods Hole Golf Club in Falmouth, Massachusetts. “I really enjoyed the downtime to interact amongst his staff and have an understanding of the preparation that it took that led up to that week. During the week of the Ryder Cup, I was placed on the practice team. I very much valued every second of making an impact on such a high-trafficked area. It requires trust on all of the teams to have that mentality on each team section to provide the conditioning that we saw over the weekend. Kudos to all!”
Bernardo Sá Almeida, head greenkeeper at West Cliffs and Praia D´el Rey in Portugal, said: “My expectations were high, but the experience exceeded them for three reasons: to have contributed to the success of the 2018 Ryder Cup with such a great group of golf course maintenance professionals; the great organisation of the event by FEGGA, Capillary Concrete and Le Golf National, including the education sessions with excellent speakers; and the opportunity to meet and exchange experiences with other head greenkeepers. It’s through this sharing that we evolve.”
Steven Murphy, superintendent at The Ole Miss golf course in Oxford, Mississippi, said: “It was an unbelievable learning experience. It’s hard to pinpoint just one specific take away from the week but for me it has to be the culture of the crew and management of Golf National. I’ve never seen people so inspired to do anything and everything needed to get the job done at the highest level possible. Alejandro is a tremendous leader and his high level of energy and enthusiasm towards our profession is inspirational.”
Paul Marley, assistant head greenkeeper at Estonian Golf & Country Club near Tallinn, Estonia, said: “I think what I will take away most from my week at the Ryder Cup is realising just what is possible on a golf course when you have 180 greenkeepers working towards a common goal. The attention to detail was just incredible. Seeing guys and girls trimming sprinkler heads and bunker edges with scissors, to head greenkeepers divoting fairways and picking up garbage. Everyone checked their egos at the door and did what needed to be done to ensure a successful event.”
Kyle Anderson, superintendent at Edgerton Towne Country Club in Wisconsin, said: “This was hands down the greatest experience of my life. Meeting new people, learning different ways to prep a course, working under conditions with language barriers, and being part of a team with 160 people involved. I will never forget this experience and have so many new friends and great contacts.”