Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, Pebble Beach Golf Links hugs the rugged Californian coastline and has wide open views of Carmel Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
The PGA Tour and Champions Tour play annual events at Pebble Beach and it has hosted six major championships - five US Opens and a PGA Championship.
So, how come Jamie Wright, a boy from just outside London, would get to hone his skills on such a stunning course?
When I was ten years old, if you'd told me I'd finish up training at the famed Pebble Beach I would have said you were dreaming, but that dream became a reality for me, and I want to tell you why, in this article.
Breaking into the industry, maybe at an older than average age of 23, back in 2012, I first learnt the trade at Lambourne Golf Club in Burnham, Buckinghamshire. Whilst spending just shy of a year under the management team of Jim Howard, Matt Weatherstone and Dave Marshall, I also completed my NVQ level 2 at Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA).
It was then that I decided I wanted to search for a new challenge and it was Dave Marshall, a former student of the Ohio State University (OSU) Internship Program himself, who recommended that I should apply.
Dave and I spent many mornings at Lambourne talking about the programme and, one day, finally I made the move to get in touch with Mike O'Keeffe, the OSU Program Manager. After an exchange of a few emails, Mike sold me the idea by relating the opportunity which may come from this experience and what past students had gone on to achieve. He stressed that the whole experience would be challenging but, with the right attitude, the results could be significant.
One night back at home my phone rang and the voice of Mike O'Keeffe began to speak. We had a general conversation before we spoke about what may be in store for my future. I will never forget what he said next "Jamie, have you heard of a golf course in California named Pebble Beach?" I laughed and said "well, yes, of course", just expecting Mike to say "well, you will be placed at a golf course not too far away from there" but, in fact, he replied, "I am looking to send you to Pebble Beach dependant on a background check." I was honestly shocked, immediately excited and overwhelmed, all at the same moment.
After counting down the days until mid-March, the day finally arrived and I flew over to America and spent a couple of days in Ohio to complete orientation and to meet Mike. After orientation, we were shown around the campus; it is an incredible facility.
A few days later, I made the next journey from Ohio to Monterey, California. Monterey is such a beautiful part of the world and home to many spectacular golf courses including Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill and, of course, Pebble Beach. I remember driving down 17 Mile Drive for the first time and seeing some of the best views I had ever seen. I was in total awe of the place.
On my first day, I met the new crew I would be teamed up with before we were all sent out on morning duty. That morning, superintendent Chris Dalhamer made time for me and we had a long chat about what I wanted to achieve from this opportunity and also what was expected of me.
Not having a great deal of experience, I just wanted to learn as much as possible from start to end under possibly one of the best management teams out there in Chris, his assistant superintendent, Pete Bachman, and second assistant, Jack Holt.
Sometimes, I would be afraid to ask questions as I felt they might be stupid, but was put at ease as Chris, Pete and Jack were always happy to make time and provide the answers - and, with their combined knowledge, there wasn't a lot they couldn't tell me. The only thing that they couldn't answer is why they call football 'soccer' and American football 'football'.
My first few weeks consisted of various projects, checking bunkers for sand depth, sod jobs, installing an alternate new 10th tee. The idea of this new alternate tee came from photos from Pebble Beach many, many years ago when there used to be a tee positioned in the area we built it. This, to me, shows the dedication and commitment Chris has to his position at Pebble Beach. The alternate tee was used for specific tournaments through the year and was loved by the owners of the company.
At Pebble Beach they use section workers and, after a few months, I was on section. This consisted of taking care of five holes; I would maintain holes 1, 5, 9, 13 and 17. I thoroughly enjoyed section work as I feel it says a lot about the way you conduct yourself in the workplace.
The main responsibilities would include mowing greens - allowing me the opportunity to use the world-class Jacobsen Eclipse battery operated greens mower - a piece of equipment that competes against any other - raking bunkers, fixing ball marks and watering surrounds. I felt a huge sense of pride in my section and always did my upmost to make it look great. The attention to detail required whilst on section is something that stands out the most for me and I will bear that in mind wherever and whatever I go on to do in the future.
There are certain aspects of greenkeeping which I had minimal or even no experience in whatsoever, but Pete recognised this and allowed me to take part in virtually every aspect, giving me the required training to achieve the experience I desired. Spraying greens and tees, topdressing, aerifying and fertilising were all practices I hadn't much experience in, but now would be confident in carrying out, if required to do so. Just by working at Pebble Beach my confidence has improved significantly. Pete made time to teach me about herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers and the use of machinery I wasn't comfortable in using. I can't thank him enough when it comes to supporting me and teaching me new techniques.
I experienced two big tournaments in 2013, the Nature Valley First Tee Open where my job responsibility was mowing TCAs (tees, collars and approaches) and also the Callaway tournament where I was working section. The First Tee competition was televised and I remember watching on TV at home, looking out for the lines I had mown that morning. These two tournaments were just a warm up for the main annual event of the year, hosted in February, the AT&T National Pro-Am.
Christmas and New Year passed and, in January, the AT&T tournament preparations began. For weeks the crew were concentrating on detail work. I was again assigned to mow TCAs for this tournament and I remember I made sure I told as many people as I knew from back in the UK to watch the tournament on Sky Sports. Mainly because I just wanted to make them jealous of the place I had called 'my office' for the past twelve months, but also to see the hard work and dedication that goes into maintaining a golf course of such a high calibre.
One of the toughest opponents in our industry is Mother Nature. For ten months we had virtually no rain and, on day one of the AT&T, we had a huge downpour combined with winds gusting up to 36mph that caused play to be suspended. All the staff had the squeegees at the ready should we be called upon to go and clear the greens, but the rain stopped and stayed away for the remainder of the day. Difficult conditions for everyone involved, but we overcame them and hosted a great tournament.
Just witnessing the effort and determination from the managers and the crew stood out considerably, as it would reflect on us as a team and we wanted to show everyone what we were able to achieve at Pebble Beach.
I have made some fantastic friends who I have shared a great social life with outside of work. I believe having such good camaraderie leads to team bonding and makes us a stronger team. Not only has this been a superb career move for me, it has also been an amazing life experience. Who would have thought the lad from just outside London would be learning to surf in the Pacific Ocean on the coast of California, or snowboarding in the mountains of the Gold country on the California/Nevada border? Truly amazing!
There is so much experience on the crew at Pebble Beach; many guys with over twenty years experience but none more so than Jack Holt, who has worked three US Opens at Pebble Beach. His knowledge of the course, combined with that of Chris and Pete, is second to none.
Almost 70,000 rounds per year and growing grass at 3mm, Chris is nothing short of a genius to keep the greens playing at the standard they play all year round. I would be surprised if there was a more intelligent superintendent than Chris and that isn't meaning to be disrespectful to any other superintendent, but just to enhance what a great job he does.
Through the OSU program I have made some amazing connections but, more importantly, some amazing friends and gained an incredible life experience which can only boost my career. A year ago I may have been a little undecided - was greenkeeping really what I wanted to do? Maybe it was the nerves, the uncertainty of what to expect, fear of the unknown, but I look back at that now and think what was I even contemplating?
With the right attitude this programme is a must for any young greenkeeper aspiring to take the next step in their careers. You must be eager to learn and want to put the time and effort in to succeed, but I can assure you the results will be so rewarding. This past year has exceeded my expectations and I have memories I will never forget.
I would just like to thank Chris, Pete and Jack for giving up their time to help me progress and giving me the opportunity to spend the year at Pebble Beach. Every one of the lads on the crew made me feel welcome and part of the team. Also to Mike O'Keeffe for accepting me on this exceptional programme and making it such a wonderful experience.
Dave Marshall, now the assistant at Mayfair Lakes in Vancouver, for making me aware of the programme. A big thank you goes to Syngenta for the sponsorship they provided to help extend my education and furthering my knowledge.
And, finally, a huge thank you to Jacobsen who have helped me immensely in making this all possible through various sponsorships.
Without their support, my experience may never have been possible. This includes a special thanks to Tony Whelan, Managing Director of local distributor Jacobsen West, who I met briefly at Pebble Beach and who made it possible for me to visit the Jacobsen HQ in Charlotte, North Carolina later in the year. Here, I was met by the Jacobsen CEO, David Withers, who made time to introduce himself during my visit.
If you want to know more about this internship, feel free to email Mike O'Keeffe at email@example.com or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to make dreams come true, you have to get on The OSU Program.
Postscript: Jamie Wright has just accepted a position at Queenwood Golf Club near London, one of the top clubs in the United Kingdom, working under Cameron McMillan. A clear indication that adding value to your CV pays off. Jamie would testify that he would struggle to get this position had he not done the TOP program.