This is Open Championship Week — or as us Yanks call it, the British Open — and among golf's major championships, this is the one GCM has never had the privilege of witnessing firsthand. We've done our behind-the-scenes blogging at U.S. Opens, PGA Championships and Ryder Cups. We've spent time at Augusta National for the Masters. But for a variety of reasons, we've never offered an inside look at an Open Championship.
Until this week. Thanks to the magic of social media, we've been able to plug ourselves into maintenance operations at Royal Lytham through a connection with Warren Bevan, the superintendent at Lancaster GC in the city of Lancaster, which is located on the west-central coast of England. He's pictured on the far left of this photo, along with two other Lancaster GC staffers who are working at Royal Lytham this week, Mark Ogden (center) and Scott Noon.
A five-year international member of GCSAA, Warren is assisting head greenkeeper Paul Smith (a 15-year member of GCSAA) this week, and has been actively posting photos, videos and other observations from the course to his Twitter account (@greenkeeping @lancastergc). After a few direct messages between Warren and I over the weekend, he's agreed to provide some of this same information for the GCM blog this week.
His first report is below, and all pictures included with this post (and future ones, for that matter), will come directly from Warren's Twitter page. We can't thank Warren enough for helping us out this week, and hope you enjoy his insights from inside the ropes at this week's Open Championship:
My name is Warren Bevan. I’m 37, married to Nicola for 11 years, and I’m a keen golfer and love outdoor pursuits. I have been a member of BIGGA since 1993, and also a GCSAA member since 2004. I was fortunate to attend the Golf Industry Show in San Diego and Atlanta and absorb lots of knowledge about course management and presentation from superintendents during my visits.
I am a graduate of Myerscough College with a HND (Higher National Diploma) in turf science and golf course management. I graduated in 1996 and followed a career through the golf management industry, gaining experience in constructing and growing in a new Marriott golf course near Manchester prior to becoming golf course manager at Lancaster Golf Club, Lancashire, UK. I have now been a course manager for nearly twelve years.
One aspect of greenkeeping I particularly enjoy is preparing a golf course for a tournament, from a club championship to a professional event. Once it was announced that The Open would return to Royal Lytham in 2012, I registered my interest with Paul Smith, the head greenkeeper, to support the greens staff during the week of the tournament. I have known Paul for a few years now and all the local clubs were quick to offer him as much help as he needed. It’s great to see such camaraderie between greenkeepers.
I am keen for my staff to experience an event like this as I was always encouraged when I joined the world of greenkeeping. Two other members of my greens staff from Lancaster, Scott Noon and Mark Ogden, were more than pleased to experience an event like this from inside the ropes.
The first time all the greens staff and volunteers — including greenkeepers from all the other Open venues — met was at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 14. We all had breakfast together and were all introduced to the staff we would be working with and the jobs we would be doing, followed by a brief from Paul. We had our passes handed out and all the week’s dos and don’ts laid out to make the event run as smoothly and safely as possible. I was allocated a John Deere hybrid triplex to cut approaches. Scott joined the team to cut tees, and Mark was to assist on bunkers.
Once we were shown the routes around the course, we went for a trial run. As a keen golfer too, it was great to watch defending champion Darren Clarke practice on the course, and watch Adam Scott and past Masters champ Vijay Singh perfect their putting on the amazing surfaces produced by Paul and his team.
I have a busy week, as we have a pro am and our club championship at Lancaster at the end of this week, so we are spending the morning and evenings at Lytham and the day at my own club preparing our course. I have a great team here and everyone will do their bit to make it happen.
You can follow me on twitter (@greenkeeping @lancastergc) to get updates on our own course and, this week, inside-the-ropes shots of The Open.
I’m off back now to Royal, so I will put together more of an insight into the preparation by the full-time team running up to this week.