110th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach from the Inside.
Rob Crompton has worked in turf maintenance, construction, and as a turf manager for 17 years. This is his story of the week he volunteered for the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
It has been a long time of waiting with anticipation, but now the time has finally arrived to make the trip down to Pebble Beach for the 110th U.S. Open.
Left Victoria on Saturday June 12 at 6:30 a.m. with sun and blue skies, a few hours later arrived in Monterey under the same conditions. I was met by fellow Canadian Jeff Steen, superintendent of The Links at Spanish Bay. With a hand shake and a smile he welcomed me down for the week. He drove me to where I was going to be staying, a local private high school that had several dorm buildings for all the volunteers. It was a 20 min walk to the front gate of Pebble Beach or a 10 min shuttle ride to the maintenance building.
Sunday at 3:00 p.m. there was a meeting for all greens staff and volunteers at the Pebble Beach maintenance building, that number was 120 strong.
The meeting started by welcoming all the volunteers who made the trip down, some from Australia, Tokyo, and Canada. From there they moved onto the chore list.
Every category had names printed beside it, on two huge white banners that hung from the wall. You looked for your name and you new exactly what you were doing in the morning and in the afternoon. There was also a cart banner that hung off to the side. Again you looked for your name and cart number, mine was 59. I remember thinking how well thought out and organized it was. Start time was 4:15 a.m. and for the afternoon it bounced from 4:15p.m. – 5:15p.m. After the meeting we all lined up outside Superintendent Chris Dalhamer's office to receive a U.S. Open sports bag that had 4 golf shirts, 3 hats, and 2 jackets to be worn for the week. After hanging around and talking turf with the other guys, I decided to walk back to the dorm. When I reached # 14 tee I looked over and there was Tiger Woods driving his tee shot down the fairway. There were only a handful of people around, because it was only his first practice round, still pretty cool. I remember thinking to myself that I was going to be a part of this huge effort to prep this course for the best golfers in the world, it was an incredible feeling.
Monday morning alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m., catch the shuttle bus at 3:20 a.m. and head off to the maintenance yard. They had a huge white tent set up for the whole crew. All the meetings and meals will be held there, they also had 3 plasma screen TV's set up for watching golf. When you arrived you grabbed a coffee & donut and mingle until the meeting started.
I was working with Juvencio Lopez and we were mowing collars & approaches on the front nine. My afternoon job was cutting the “ring cut”. That was the turf that ran on the outside of the collar, it was at 1.5”. The morning cut for approaches was 8 -2 and the afternoon was 10 – 4.
Juvencio and I were out the door by 4:30 a.m. on our way to cut the front 9 approaches. We used a hybrid Jacobsen mower. It uses an electric & gas motor, it was quiet that used very little fuel, but a bit bulky. We were back at the shop by 8:30 a.m. all washed & fueled up. Then off to breakfast, where it's really easy to over eat buffet style. After breakfast I went out watching some practice rounds. Followed Tiger, Phil Mickelson, and Mike Weir for a few holes then back to the shop for a quick nap. They had one area set up with 7 cots and another area that had 3 couches; it was first come, first served. In the afternoon was a B-B-Q lunch and watching golf. Afternoon meeting at 4:15p.m., this would be the time they would talk about any changes to the routine, there were a few tweaks here & there, but for the most part routine stayed the same. By 8:00 p.m. I was back at the shop from cutting the “ring cut” washed & fueled, and put the mower away, Caught the shuttle back to the dorm for some dinner then off to bed.
For the next few days the morning & afternoons chores went like this, towards Thursday any kinks I had were worked out and I was very comfortable with the routine. On June 15 the USGA brought down the U.S. Open Championship trophy for everyone to see and get a picture or two taken with it. I asked Chris Dalhamer (superintendent Pebble Beach) if he and I & the trophy could be in the same frame, with a pat on the back he said “why not”.
June 16th morning meeting, USGA is happy with our time as a crew getting all the chores done in the morning & afternoon. The course is starting to get hard and fast, it will be a tough challenge for all players. Mike Weir at the end of the day was -1 and sitting on top, but that will be the last time you will see his name on top of the leader board.
June 19, made good time in the morning so I hopped over to the bunker crew to help them finish up, for the rest of the week I followed this routine. In the afternoon there's lots of people everywhere on the course walking around enjoying golf. The estimations I heard was 25,000 a day, maybe a bit more on Saturday & Sunday and that I would believe, just from seeing the sheer volume. Going out in the afternoon you had to have patience, there was this large line of mowers, carts with trailers pulling every piece of equipment you could imagine, trying to navigate the sea of people.
What took 10 mins during the practice rounds, now took 20 – 30 mins and everyone is looking for a ride. The course is starting to show signs of wear & stress, the U.S. Open is supposed to be hard, and this includes on the grassplant. By weeks end, the course condition was proving to be a great challenge for all the golfers.
June 20, the big day has finally arrived, Championship Sunday, on Fathers Day. It's interesting, every once in a while the turf gods smile and line up events that seem to fall into place, like it was meant to be. Morning chores went well and the USGA was buying lunch for the crew, baby back ribs with all the fixings, put another hole in the belt.
Superintendent Chris Dalhamer had arranged for all of the green staff to follow the last group up # 18 fairway (hanging back 100 yds) and to be part of U.S. Open trophy ceremony on #18 green, what a class act. We even received a bonus, Graeme McDowell came over with the trophy and did a group shot with us, it was an amazing moment. Just as fast as those moments came, they were gone. We turned and started walking back to our carts at # 17 tee box. The conversation on the way back walking down #18 fairway was about the week everyone had put in and how it made them feel. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about volunteering at any tournament to step off the curb and try it.
Rob Crompton - June 2010