Students share stories from AT&T Byron Nelson

By |  May 17, 2019 0 Comments

Despite tough weather conditions at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, the course at Trinity Forest Golf Club looked great. Thanks to John Deere, three students from the winning Penn State Turf Bowl team were able to take part in keeping the course tournament ready, in spite of the rain. Read what they had to say — in their own words — about their experiences as tournament volunteers.

Photo courtesy of Imre

Three students from Penn State’s winning Turf Bowl team had the opportunity to volunteer as part of the maintenance crew at the AT&T Byron Nelson. (Photo courtesy of Imre)

Tuesday May 7, 2019 (Alex Hendler)

Tuesday morning, we were each assigned to mow greens. I was assigned to mow the practice green, No. 12 and No. 17. The greens at Trinity Forest are large and have unique slopes that create a challenge when mowing. Others were busy mowing tees and fairways. It was interesting to see the amount of equipment needed to prepare the course for the day of practice. One of the best parts of the day was seeing the course as it became lighter outside. Trinity Forest’s unique design stood out as soon as there was daylight. Once we double cut the greens, we had some free time, so we were able to go out and watch some of the players practice.

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to perform data collection on the back nine. I learned that the PGA Tour requires that the firmness, speed and moisture of the greens be recorded. I took the moisture readings, while others tested the firmness and speed. The green speed was around eleven, which was right where they were expected to be. This data collection assignment allowed me to see more of Trinity Forest. As the day wound down and the data collection was finished, I was able to drive around the course some more to see the unique design that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw created, including the double green of 3 and 11.

Photo courtesy of Imre

Though rain made maintenance difficult at times, the crew was still got out on the course and got it done. (Photo courtesy of Imre)

Wednesday May 8, 2019: (Ian Patterson)

The morning shift started out a little rough. We were about to head out when a thunderstorm popped up and delayed our maintenance for about two hours. When we were finally able to go out and work, I was paired up with one of Trinity Forest’s employees to mow greens. We mowed the greens in the 3 to 9 direction. I was assigned to 18, 9 and 6 originally, but that did not go to plan because of the rain the night before and the morning of. There was a puddle in the middle of No. 18 green and we were sent to start on No. 6. Once we finished mowing six, we were bounced over to No. 12 instead. Finally, our last green of the day was the large No. 17. Seventeen is a long par 3 that has a large ridge that splits the green down the middle. One thing we did do was use turning boards. It did surprise me however that the turning boards were only used around the bunkers and not the whole way around the green. After driving back to the shop and cleaning our Gator and mowers, it was time to eat and head back to the hotel to prepare for the afternoon shift.

In the afternoon shift, it rained right before we went out and that did a number on some of the bunkers. We were tasked to join the bunker crew and help repair the wash-outs. We took shovels, leaf rakes and bunker rakes with us to repair the damage. We started on the 17th hole and worked our way around the course from there. It was incredible to see that with the amount of rain that fell as well as the how fast it came down, how few of the bunkers actually had washouts; and the ones that did, did not wash out severely.

Thursday May 9, 2019: (Seth Re)

Thursday morning began as normal. All of the staff and volunteers met in the tent and the morning assignments were given. I was assigned to mow greens as I had done the previous two days. I felt comfortable, but since it was the first day of tournament play I was slightly anxious and a little nervous at first. I wanted to make sure that I did a good job. After mowing a few passes, I settled in and the morning went smoothly.

For the afternoon shift, I was assigned to fill divots in the fairways. I found this job to be very fun because it was relaxing compared to the morning shifts, which were high paced. We got to walk the fairways and really get to enjoy the beauty of Trinity Forest while interacting with other volunteers from all over the country. My favorite part of this shift was laughing and telling stories while we worked, and getting to watch the sunset was awesome.

Friday May 10, 2019: (Ian Patterson)

Friday was a normal day with morning maintenance beginning at 4:15 a.m. Again, I was tasked with mowing greens. I was put back on my original loop of 18, 9 and 6. Everything went well with no hiccups and made for a very smooth morning.

In the afternoon, we were tasked with filling divots. We started on the back nine and worked our way through the course with a group of about 10 volunteers walking through the fairways. We were using a sand/soil mixture to give the players a flat playing surface that if they landed in a divot, it would not be a disadvantage for them hitting the fairway.

Photo courtesy of Imre

Much of the maintenance at the AT&T Byron Nelson was performed under gray skies. Play was delayed several hours on Saturday, May 11. (Photo courtesy of Imre)

Saturday May 11, 2019: (Seth Re)

Although Saturday started very slow, it was by far my favorite day of the tournament. It rained two inches from Friday night to Saturday until about lunch time. The management staff changed our normal start time from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. in anticipation of a delay. The rain continued and the delay kept extending. We all waited in the tent until about one in the afternoon. The PGA tour announced that tee times would begin at 3, and the management team had to get us out on the course as fast as possible. It was the smoothest chaos that I had ever been apart of. The workers all jumped in carts and we all took off for the course. It was an adrenaline rush because I knew that I would be mowing the practice putting green, No. 18 and No. 9. My mowing partner and I approached the putting green and there were already spectators in the grandstands and around the greens. We began to mow and the Tour players began coming on to the green. We finished the practice green and headed straight to No. 18 without skipping a beat. We mowed No. 18 and No. 9 in front of the curious spectators in the gallery. Some watched and some took pictures and recorded us on their phones. It was cool knowing that we contributed to the spectators’ experience. Later, as all of the members sat in the tent and watched the tournament, the Golf Channel showed a segment of us workers preparing the course and I was shown mowing 18. We were all excited and began to cheer and clap. This was one of the most fun moments that I have been a part of.

Sunday May 12, 2019 (Alex Hendler)

Sunday morning, we were once again assigned to mow greens. I mowed Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 13. On Saturday, the 3rd round was not finished due to a rain delay. As a result, we had to be careful when mowing the greens to make sure that we were not moving where the players had marked their balls overnight. Other tasks performed this morning were bunker raking and painting the holes. Due to the suspended play, the holes for the final round could not be cut until after the completion of the 3rd round. We did not have to work an afternoon shift as this was the final day. Volunteering at the Byron Nelson was a great learning experience to see how the agronomy team adapted to whatever arose during the week.

Summary:

As a team, we were very pleased with our experience. The management team was spectacular and did a fantastic job organizing all of the volunteers and making everything a team effort. We also enjoyed interacting with the other volunteers and learning about their stories and backgrounds. The course was beautiful and it was great to experience and learn what led up to producing tournament-play conditions and how to maintain those conditions. This experience was one of the most fun things that we’ve been a part of as a team and we are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity. We would like to thank John Deere for sponsoring our trip to the AT&T Byron Nelson and also Kasey Kauff, James Morgan and the rest of the Trinity Forest staff for their hospitality during the week and for allowing us to be a part of their team.

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