The travels of an international superintendent

By |  August 29, 2019 0 Comments
Photo: Golfdom Staff

Photo: Golfdom Staff

My first Golfdom trip to East Lake Golf Club was an eye-opening experience — witnessing how dedicated the grounds crew and volunteers were to keeping the course pristine each day.

While capturing their hard work through the lens of a camera, one volunteer stood out to me. That volunteer is Eamonn McCarthy, golf course superintendent at Country Club de Bogota in Bogotá, Colombia.

With questions running through my head, I began talking with McCarthy.

Q: How did you hear about the opportunity to volunteer at East Lake? How far in advance did you know that you would be attending, and what was it like preparing to travel?

A: I heard through mutual friends about the volunteering program, applied in April and was accepted soon after. I asked my bosses in Bogota if I could attend the Tour Championship to gain high-end PGA tournament experience, and they agreed. I also sent my two assistants to the Dominican Republic earlier this year to work the PGA event there. They learned many new ideas and were able to bring them back to our course in Colombia. I agreed to split the flight costs 50/50 for my trip to Atlanta.

Photo: Eamonn McCarthy

(L to R) Damien McConway, assistant superintendent at Castlerock Golf Club, 2019 FedEx Cup Champion Rory McIlroy and Eamonn McCarthy, superintendent at Country Club de Bogota. (Photo: Eamonn McCarthy)

Q: What other activities did you partake in during your time here?  You mentioned that you were going to stay around for a bit and do a few other things.

A: The Thursday before the tournament, my fellow Irish buddy flew in from Ireland, and we visited Hilton Head Island, S.C., to play golf at Harbour Town and look around Long Cove Club. Both courses were designed by Pete Dye, and I used to work at both, so it was nice to get back and see them. On Saturday, we drove to Sawgrass to look at the course and its new maintenance facility. Sunday, we just relaxed in Atlanta and got ready for the busy week ahead.

On the Monday following the conclusion of the Tour Championship, we drove to Augusta to visit the Jacobson machine factory. They took us to the exclusive Sage Valley Golf Club nearby for a private tour. It was very educational seeing all the machines being built from scratch.

Q: Have you volunteered at any other courses? What was similar, or different, about the preparation and amount of work done at East Lake, as compared to some other courses you help prepare and maintain?

A: I have worked many tournaments all over the world over the years — one Senior PGA event, one LPGA event and four PGA events all here alone in the USA. I worked two Wimbledon Tennis Championships at Wimbledon in the U.K. while I was a groundsman there, three HSBC Ladies Champions events in Singapore, two European Tour PGA Event in Australia and Ireland, one Korn Ferry tour (previously the Web.com tour) in Colombia, two Men’s HSBC events in Shanghai, China, and the 2016 Men’s and Ladies Rio Olympics Golf Games.

 

I have a strong passion for golf course tournament preparation. East Lake had the top 30 players from the FedEX Cup series, but it meant no tee-offs until 11:50 a.m. each day, so this gave the maintenance team plenty of extra time to prepare the course for the players. When working on a regular PGA/LPGA tour event, normally you’re in a rush as you have an earlier tee start, so it involves a different process and normally most of the cutting of tees, fairways approaches, etc. … is completed the night before. It was different, but I learned many new tips from observing how jobs were completed daily in an efficient and professional manner. Seeing different brands of equipment also helps me understand what works better and what doesn’t.

Photo: Golfdom Staff

Photo: Golfdom Staff

Next year, I plan to visit my superintendent friend in Tampa, Fla., and volunteer to prepare his course for an LPGA event. I am also on the standby list for the Ryder Cup. It would be pretty cool to get those done. The Rio Olympic games were an incredible experience for me personally. I was in Rio for over five weeks and loved the whole Olympics. Being that golf was back at the Olympics meant it was going to be a great experience, and I was lucky to be accepted as part of the 50 international volunteers to help set up for both the Men’s and Ladies games. When you are expecting the best players in the world, it’s a great feeling knowing that your work is being part of it all.

You will always learn something new from working events like these, and I would always recommend people in the industry to gain as much experience as possible in these events. The people you meet and the chance to network is huge — especially for me. It opens up so many doors traveling as I am traveling a lot around the globe.

Q: What are your plans once you return to your home course? Any big projects or renovations coming up or just going back to living the sweet life?

A: We work closely with the TPC group. We have the club championships in ten days on both our courses, so a 36-hole setup for four days is going to be busy for us. After the club championships, we have some more pro tees construction and some minor changes to finish in time for the Korn Ferry event in February, so we have a lot to do for that over the next few months.

(Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Digital Editor Tyler Gunter (left) took a timeout from snapping pics to get to know Eamonn McCarthy, golf course superintendent at Country Club de Bogota in Bogotá, Colombia. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

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