‘Fifth major’ beckons for BIGGA volunteers

Karl Hansellin Golf

A team of BIGGA greenkeepers will be heading to The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in May to join the course preparation team for one of golf’s most iconic events.

Each year, the John Deere TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme invites a full member from each of BIGGA’s five regions to join the team for golf’s ‘fifth major’.

The successful BIGGA members who have been selected to join the programme are:

Scottish Region – Richard Johnstone, Course Manager at Nairn Dunbar Golf Links

Northern Region – Paul Walton, Greenkeeper, Sharpley Springs Golf Course in County Durham

Midland Region – Harry Jones, Head Greenkeeper, Wrekin Golf Club in Shropshire

South West and South Wales Region – Christopher Hale, Deputy Head Greenkeeper, Woodbury Park Golf and Country Club in Devon

South East Region – Sam Evans, Head Greenkeeper at Fulwell Golf Club in Middlesex

The championship takes place at the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida course from 9-14 May 2017, and the five BIGGA members will receive travel, accommodation, food and uniform as they join the team at the legendary venue for the entire duration of the competition, courtesy of BIGGA Partner John Deere.

In addition, John Deere also invites one member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland to join the experience.

The Players Championship is made possible thanks to the hard work and dedication of a volunteer force of over 2,200 people. These volunteers are assigned to one of four divisions – player services, spectator services, volunteer services and facilities.

Ever since it was first held in 1974, The Players Championship has been considered one of the PGA Tour’s most coveted titles. With its iconic 17th hole, TPC Sawgrass provides one of the most recognizable settings in golf and will make for an unforgettable experience for the BIGGA members selected to join the programme.

If they’re lucky, the greenkeepers will even get the opportunity to attempt to hit the 17th hole’s famous island green.

Each of the members underwent a rigorous application process, consisting of an online application, submission of a short video and an interview with BIGGA and John Deere representatives.

John Deere Limited Turf Division Manager Chris Meacock said: “The volunteer programme is now in its third year, and is attracting more interest than ever,”

“Greenkeepers across the UK and Ireland recognise the invaluable opportunity it presents for their career development.

“Overall the programme builds on the great relationship John Deere has with BIGGA, the GCSAI and TPC Sawgrass. The venue also appreciates the combination of knowledge, experience and ability shown by our successful team members, and this in turn reflects very well on the whole of the UK and Irish golf greenkeeping industry. We are looking forward to another highly successful event in 2017.”

BIGGA Regional Administrator Tracey Walker was on the judging panel for the South West and South Wales Region and said: “We interviewed some excellent candidates for the opportunity to head to TPC Sawgrass next year, and as always it was a really tough decision to pick our preferred choice.

“Thank you to everyone who applied, and thank you to John Deere for continuing to provide this incredible opportunity for BIGGA’s members.”

In 2016, Australian Jason Day, the world’s top ranked player, won the event by four strokes.

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