Volunteer Greenskeeper For The AT&T

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am February 2005 - by Rob Crompton

   Can’t believe that the day has finally arrived February 6/05 and I will be flying down to Pebble Beach to be a volunteer for the week of the AT&T. It took 3 flights to reach Monterey airport from Victoria. When I arrived in Monterey and collected my bags I was met by the assistant superintendent of Pebble Beach, Jeff Steen, who is a fellow Canadian from Duncan, on Vancouver Island. With a hand shake he welcomed me to Monterey, and onto the crew. It was early in the evening so we went off to dinner and talked about golf courses back home, and then took a tour of the maintenance shop. What an incredible building, (18,000 sq.ft) which holds all the equipment, tools, mechanic’s shop, worker’s areas and office space. One of my first impressions was how clean the building was, especially the big bay area that housed all the riding equipment, I mean the floor was so clean you could eat off it . Jeff was kind enough to share his space with me at his home which was great. After I was unpacked we had a few more hours of talking turf, then off to bed, for we had an early start in the morning.

Asst. Superintendent
Jeff Steen

Some of the fairway and rough units

Part of PB Shop

   Super Bowl Sunday, alarm goes off at 4:25 a.m. outside is cool with slow moving fog. Jeff and I grab a coffee and head off to Pebble to join the crew and start the day’s chores. Jeff introduced me to the superintendent Tom Huesgen, with a handshake he made me feel welcome and thanked me for making the trip down. I was then introduced to the crew of 25 and then paired up with Geoff Plovanich, one of 6 section guys. A section person is responsible for cutting 3 greens plus raking all green side bunkers. At 5:30 a.m. we were out the door and on our way to Geoff’s route. We arrived at # 1 green and he showed me how to accurake a bunker. You keep the bunker rake head horizontal to the pin placement and push forwards towards the pin, on the back stroke you put the rake head on a 45 degree angle and drag over your first pass. By doing this you leave a consistent surface on the sand, then you metal leaf rake the edge. We were back at the shop by 10:30 a.m. with everything cleaned up and put away. Later that afternoon Jeff and I went to pick up another Canadian volunteer from the airport, Jarrod Oliver, a turf manager from Bear Mountain golf club in Victoria. Again Jeff opened his home to Jarrod to hang his hat for the week, now there were 3 Canadians living in the same space, look out! Same routine the next morning with alarm clocks ringing and coffee drinking, I did find it interesting trying to rake a bunker in the darkness holding a small flash light, but I got it done. Around 8:00 a.m. the heavens opened up and down came the rain… in sheets. I had a few choice words for Mother Nature, but she wasn’t listening because it went on all day, off & on.
   The starting time for the week was 5:30 a.m. and before everyone left the shop, the whole crew had to spread out in the parking lot and stretch. One guy would stand at the front and lead the stretch, this was done every morning. Well guess who lead the stretch this morning… if you guessed me your psychic, I was heckled by Hector all the way through in good fun, but I had them bending their arms and legs. In the afternoon Jarrod and I were told that we will be cutting TCA (tees, collars, approaches) instantly in my head I had this vision of a paramedic with those shock paddles yelling “Clear” then blasting my chest to revive me, did I hear right? My eyes must have been as big as saucers because Jeff said it again and my answer was sure… no problem. The next morning we got golf carts & trailers ready, loaded up our mowers and headed out to cut TCA at Pebble Beach for the AT&T tournament. There were 4 guys doing TCA and we would bunny hop around the course, I finished on # 18 tee. It was truly amazing standing on that piece of real estate, thinking of all the history that has happened on this famous golf hole. In the afternoon I went to the back of #18 green to watch Mike Weir finish his practice round. I waited till he was walking off and asked him for a picture, he said yes and Jarrod snapped a frame off of Mike and I, pretty cool. The next morning same routine with TCA, but we were feeling more comfortable and organized which helped to shaved an hour off our time, and our lines were straight. Both Tom Huesgen and Jeff Steen were complementary about our lines, which felt good to hear.

Sun rising on 18 green.

Rob & Mike.

Rob cutting the 11th teebox

   It is now Wednesday and Jeff has informed Jarrod and myself that we will be doing all TCA on the back 9, because it gets the most T.V. coverage, heart rate picks up. Hey Crompton - Jeff yells, people will be watching, so don’t screw it up! Hands start to get sweaty, and then he winks and starts laughing, ya… that’s funny Jeff. I do understand what crooked lines mean, doing fairway divots all day. Had a few minutes of sleep that night and was ready to go the next morning.
   TCA on the back 9 holes went fine, Jarrod and myself bunny hop, made good time. It’s now Thursday and the B-B-Q starts today, Clayton and Rick will be the chef’s for the next 4 days. In the morning is breakfast burrito with bacon, sausages, fresh O.J. In the afternoon was steak, hot dogs, hamburgers, chili, salmon, halibut, prawns, ribs, ect. There were all kinds of hot & cold drinks and ice cream, they really took care of everyone on the crew.

Clayton setting up the BBQ.

Mike Weir and
Bill Murray

   In the afternoon I would go and watch golf, Phil Mickelson, Mike Weir, Bill Murray and a few others. Then in the afternoon 2:30 p.m. I would be on the divot gang doing the back nine. On this day, after morning chores, four of us went over to Spyglass Hills GC to walk around and watch some golf. What a beautiful track, starts in the forest, then comes out onto the beach (what a sight) then back into the forest again. This was the day Phil Mickelson shot a 62 and broke the club record. We were sitting behind # 17 green when he made an incredible shot and ended up making a birdie. In the afternoon went out bombing divots with the gang on the back 9. We would finish up on # 18 fairway as the sun was going down. I would be standing on the fairway looking at the ocean hearing the waves crashing into the shore, then look down the fairway at this emerald green turf all double diamond cut, and then my eyes would reach the green, just so beautiful.
   Same start to the next morning, the afternoon was the same too for chores. At 2:30 divot gang got organized and headed out to bomb fairways. I was on # 16 fairway and it was around 4:00 p.m. the sun was out and it was warm, 19c, the amateurs were still playing. This golf ball lands a few meters away from me so I move to a new area. A few moments later this gentleman walks up to me and says, “Is that an Olympic View shirt” and I said “yes”, # 1 golf course on the Island!!! “Who are you?” He said “I’m Caleb Chan”. That’s the owner of GolfBC which owns Olympic View and 9 other courses, talk about being caught off guard and needing a clean pair of shorts. We both shook hands and were some what in shock. Shock for me because I was meeting him for the first time on one of the most famous golf courses in the world. Shock for him because this was probably the last place on earth he would have thought of seeing O.V. shirts and one of his employees in it, on #16 fairway as he was playing as an amateur at Pebble Beach competing at the AT&T. His caddy took a picture of us and Caleb said he hoped to make the cut for Sunday. He was about 10 meters away when he turned around and smiled, the expression on his face was, did I really see that?

Fairway unit on 16 fairway

8 Green
   Saturday was crazy, 40,000 people walking around watching golf. Sometimes during the day I would stop and look at all the infrastructure that was needed to have a successful tournament. There was the green staff, plus hundreds of volunteer Marshals that line the fairway edges, concession stands, shuttle trucks, T.V. coverage and enough cable it seem to go around the world a few times, first aid attendants, PGA officials, I’m leaving somebody out, but you get the picture. It looked like controlled chaos, but everything gets done.

   On Sunday morning the fog moved in for the final round and didn’t want to go, infact he invited his buddy “Mr. Wind” and by the afternoon “Side –Ways – Rain” showed up (always someone crashing the party!) Mike Weir started to make a move on #10 green, but Mickelson’s lead was too much on this day, Mike did shoot the best score of the day, 67.

   My week had come to an end, in the morning Jarrod and myself would be flying back home. It was much more then I could have dreamed of, being asked to cut TCA, never in my wildest dreams did I see that coming, meeting Mike Weir & Caleb Chan, and just to be able to walk inside the ropes at Pebble Beach was incredibly awesome. Meeting the superintendent Tom Huesgen with his calm, positive attitude when so much activity is swirling around him all day long, I tip my hat at his success. To the assistant superintendent Jeff Steen, your hard work is paying off, good on you mate.

Myself, some of the crew along with Jeff Steen (Asst) Tom Huesgen (Super) - far right

   I would like to thank Randy Page for his encouragement and support of my passion in turf. I’m living proof that it’s possible to achieve your dreams, a positive attitude and a belief in yourself is a good starting point, who knows where that will take you.

Gallery from Pebble