The Open 2019 is heading to Sandwich in Kent this July and the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association has revealed which members have been selected to join the volunteer support team that will help maintain playing standards throughout the event.
Support team member Richard Ponsford at The Open in 2019
Each year The R&A requests BIGGA's assistance with the championship and this will be the fourth time a volunteer team of BIGGA members has attended an Open at Royal St George's, having also helped out in 1993, 2003 and 2011.
BIGGA members who join the support team are given unprecedented access to golf's greatest championship, supporting every match with bunker-raking duties.
The bunkers at Royal St George's are among the most famous in golf, with the giant 'Himalaya' on the 4th hole proving an intimidating test, not just for the golfers who land in the hazard, but also the members of the support team who will tidy up the sand afterwards.
Every full BIGGA greenkeeper member is eligible to apply for a place on the team and over the years there have been incredible memories made by support team members.
Phillip Snellin of Donaghadee Golf Club was a team member at Royal Portrush in 2019. He drew the final match of the championship and had a money-can't-buy view as Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood battled it out for the Claret Jug.
"The last two holes were among the best things that have ever happened to me," said Phillip. "It was awesome. Walking down the 18th, I've never experienced anything like that. The songs, the atmosphere, the hair stood up on my arms big time and there's no words that can describe it."
BIGGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Croxton said: "The Open is, in my view, the finest tournament in the sport with the beautiful links courses that host the event being critical to that. Royal St George's is a special venue and I'm thrilled that once again members of BIGGA have the chance to play a small part in presenting it for the world's best players.
"Following two very difficult years in terms of weather, I know that Course Manager Paul Larsen and his team have put in an extraordinary amount of work to ensure the links will be in prime condition."
Members of The Open Support Team in 2019
"I'm extremely proud that once again The R&A has called upon BIGGA's professional members to assist with the maintenance of the course throughout the championship. The Open is a long week but everyone at BIGGA is looking forward to giving our all and ensuring the 149th Open is Royal St George's best one yet."
The BIGGA Volunteer Open Support Team will be provided with accommodation, food, refreshments and uniform for the event. Members of the support team may also be called upon at short notice to assist Course Manager Paul Larsen and his team with early morning preparation work and divoting duties. With early tee times and golf played until nightfall, the week is intense and physically-demanding.
The 149th Open takes place from 16 to 19 July 2020. Thank you to everyone who applied to be part of this year's team.
Here are the BIGGA members who will be assisting the home greenkeepers for the duration of the event:
Robert Acheson, Thornock Park GC; David Ball, Thetford GC; James Bonfield, The Hertfordshire G&CC; Tom Bromfield, Trentham GC; Andrew Brown, Boundary Lakes; Mark Cleverley, Hollywood GC; Jason Connoughton, Yeovil GC; Daryn Curtis, Royal Mid-Surrey GC; James Dawson, Oulton Hall GC; Julian Drake, Neath GC; Nicholas Edwards, The Wisley; Michael Elderfield, Sandy Lodge GC; Edoardo Fauro, Walton Heath; Ryan Fiander, Lees Hall GC; Stuart Fry, Old Thorns GC; Craig Gibson, Essendon CC; Jorge Grandio, Royal Wimbledon GC; James Hampson, Llanymynech GC; Craig Hempseed, Mortonhall GC; Kevin Hensman, Rowlands Castle GC; Alastair Hollingsbee, Etchinghill GC; James Hook, Woodspring G&CC; Dale Housden, Drayton Park GC; Adam King, Radley GC; Antony Kirwan, Romford GC; Matthew Kitson, Royal Mid-Surrey GC; John Le Cappelain, Royal Jersey GC; Chris Low, Olton GC; Matthew Mackenzie, Ellesborough GC; Steven Mapes, Coventry GC; Michael Mead, Littlehampton GC; Peter Meek, The Wisley; William Merritt, Beacon Park GC; Ashley Millar, Churston GC; Harry Misselbrook, Harewood Downs GC; Ryan Neale, Blackwell GC; Joshua Raper, Golf Club Hosel E.V.; Laura Sayer-Hall, Ardfin GC; Tom Silcock, Macclesfield GC; Will Simmonds, The Richmond GC; Niels Sorensen, Randers Golf Klub; David Stewart, Walmley GC; Nick Street, Crews Hill GC; Ollie Tanton, Royal North Devon GC; Amy Thomas, Barton-on-Sea GC; Scott Thomson, Wetherby GC; Gary Tonge, Tain GC; Jeremy Ward, Rotherham GC.
Greg Norman celebrates his Open victory at Royal St George's in 1993 with the BIGGA support team