More than turf: Making connections at Bellerive

By |  August 15, 2018 0 Comments
PGA Championship maintenance crew + volunteers | Photo: Golfdom staff

All the volunteers smile for a group photo during the PGA Championship. (Photo: Golfdom staff)

Talk to some of the volunteers from Bellerive last week and it’ll be no surprise that one of the main reasons they ventured to Missouri was for the networking. Sure, pitching in for a world-renowned sporting event is a serious perk in and of itself, but after a long week of working together to get the course picture perfect, it’d be a bigger challenge not to bond and connect with peers.

It has been said before, but let’s say it again: It’s a small turf world after all. But it’s events like these that really bring together turfgrass professionals from across the globe.

Australian Wesley Cochran is no stranger to Bellerive and his strong ties to the course and the maintenance crew prompted his 9,000-plus mile journey to St. Louis.

Back in 2002, he interned at Bellerive as part of Ohio State University’s Ohio International Program, an international exchange program for students wishing to study horticulture, agriculture and turfgrass.

In Cochran’s case, he wanted to spend some time in the U.S. learning about the way courses manage things stateside.

Thinking on it now, he said one of the main things that stood out to him was the two management styles. From his perspective, the U.S. management system is “top heavy” in comparison to Australia. Having two assistants in Australia is rare.

Cochran wasn’t the only one drawn back to the historic course for the 100th PGA Championship.

Cochran, Prange, Prange standing in the hospitality tent

L to R: Wesley Cochran, Mike Prange and Jon Prange. (Photo: Golfdom staff)

Jon Prange, a Missouri State Technical College graduate, was senior assistant golf course superintendent at Bellerive for 10 years before he took on the role of superintendent at Holiday Island Country Club in Holiday Island, Ark., a few years back.

“It is really nice to be back and see my staff and see Carlos take it to the next level,” he says.

While reminiscing is part of the fun, Prange was also at the tournament to guide industry newcomers.

“One of my favorite parts of this experience is mentoring the next generation,” says Prange. “That’s what has made me successful — mentors.”

Remember how it’s a small turf world? Well, Prange and Cochran crossed paths before the week of the PGA Championship, while at Bellerive. Then add in the fact that Prange’s father, Mike Prange, currently works at Bellerive part-time as a rough mower during the summer.

Laura Campbell, senior greenkeeper, and Chris Richmond, greenkeeper traveled from their home course of Gleneagles to St. Louis for a chance to take part in the last major of the 2018 season.

One thing she can definitely take away from the experience is the energy.

“The team meetings in Scotland are a lot more quiet,” Campbell said with a chuckle, thinking about the motivational and hyped-up approach to meetings, even the ones at 4 in the morning.

The pair echoed Carlos Arraya’s sentiment from earlier in the week that the turf is important, but the real important part is the people you’ll meet and the connections you’ll make.

“We’re never going to be working a tournament with these same guys, probably never going to be in the same room as these guys again,” said Richmond. “That’s a big thing in the industry nowadays — to try to keep an open book.”

“Even if it’s just to friend them or follow them on social media, then you can keep up with what they’re doing and see what approaches they’re taking to their own courses,” Campbell added.

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About the Author: Kelly Limpert

Kelly Limpert is the former digital media content producer for North Coast Media.

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