The volunteers are chosen from each of BIGGA’s five regions, in addition to an international member, and one ATRI member from Ireland. They will join the TPC Sawgrass maintenance and agronomy team in the build-up to The Players Championship from 9-19 March 2024.
With all travel, accommodation and uniform costs covered by John Deere as part of its BIGGA Premium Partner relationship, volunteers will be fully integrated into the TPC Sawgrass pre-tournament team – an opportunity that may see them mowing the first tee before play starts, preparing the iconic 17th hole, or raking the bunkers as play gets underway.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any greenkeeper,” says Chris Meacock, John Deere’s Division Sales Manager for Golf and Turf. “Going to volunteer at TPC Sawgrass presents a fantastic opportunity for you to expand your knowledge and experience, and you’ll meet many like-minded professional greenkeepers from across the globe.”
The 2023 cohort of greenkeeper volunteers included Assistant Course Manager Alex Brougham from Trentham Park Golf Club, Senior Greenkeeper Peter Lewis from Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Deputy Head Greenkeeper Eddie Irvine from Trump International Aberdeen, and Course Manager Mark Tucker from Temple Golf Club.
Each greenkeeper became an integral part of the team, preparing the course well ahead of the practice rounds and working until the tournament concluded, using the huge fleet of John Deere machinery from the Sawgrass maintenance compound.
Eddie Irvine said: “The experience has helped me improve as a person and in my profession, by enabling me to move forwards with my career.
Alex Brougham added: “I learnt a lot from the Sawgrass greenkeeping team, and by networking with the other volunteers. I left with a better understanding of how the team operates at one of the best championship golf courses in the world. I’m now aiming to utilise as much of that knowledge as possible back at Trentham Golf Club.”
Karl Hansell, BIGGA’s Head of Communications and Marketing, accompanied the group to Sawgrass in March 2023. Karl said: “Having worked at BIGGA promoting this wonderful initiative for seven years, I thought I had some understanding of TPC Sawgrass and what the trip entailed. But nothing could prepare me for the actual experience of being there. The TPC Sawgrass agronomy team was so welcoming that the greenkeepers accompanied were made to feel right at home, and several previous John Deere volunteers now return every year at their own expense, such was their enjoyment of the trip. I can’t recommend this experience enough.”
The 2023 Championship at TPC Sawgrass saw American Scottie Scheffler win the tournament five shots clear of Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, shooting 17 under par for the tournament.