St Andrews greenkeeper

Home of Golf employee helps keep Augusta National pristine

Bob Warters's picture
Bob Warters
Tue, 16 Apr 2013
St Andrews greenkeeper

St Andrews Links Trust greenkeeper Gavin Neill swapped the fresh spring winds of April at the Home of Golf to join the greenkeeping operation at the 2013 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Deputy course manager on the New and Jubilee Courses at St Andrews Links, Gavin fulfilled a lifelong ambition to visit the famous grounds of Augusta National for the week of the tournament. joining a mammoth greenkeeping operation to ensure ensure the first major of the golf season was presented in the pristine, immaculate condition for which it is famed.

“Ever since I was a young junior golfer watching on TV, I always dreamt of one day visiting Augusta National,” said the 31-year-old. “But then when I started my career in greenkeeping I made it one of my main objectives, not just to visit but to work at the Masters. So when I was selected last year to work at this year’s tournament I didn't even have to think twice about accepting.”

Gavin, who lives in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, said his arrival at Augusta lived up to all his expectations.

“My first impressions of the course were that it was just picture perfect, a place of perfection. It has been an overwhelming experience to work around Amen Corner surrounded by its deep history and the azaleas in full bloom.    

“You can’t really appreciate the landscape of the course [from TV] the severity of the greens and surrounds and the undulating fairways that viewers simply can’t see.”

There was little time for Gavin, who started his greenkeeping career at hometown Tain Golf Club, to get caught up in the magnificence of his surroundings faced with his daily workload, which included caring for fairways, swishing grass clippings and repairing divots.

“In the afternoons I was responsible for the par-3 fourth green, which involved swishing sand splashes and blowing leaves off the green.”

Having been part of the Links team at the 2005 and 2010 Open Championship at the Old Course, he says said both The Open and The Masters share similar commitments to high standards of presentation.

“The overall tournament set up is very similar to that of the Open Championship when it's at St Andrews. But the attention to detail at The Masters makes it unbelievably special. Augusta National is renowned for being one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world and it has been fascinating to see how policies such as the  performance of the greens, including their speed and other indicators are kept top secret at all times.

“There is a huge emphasis on the overall experience the patrons (spectators) receive from the moment they walk through the gates ensuring that they leave with an unforgettable experience with staff and volunteers going that extra mile to deliver a first class customer service.”

Gavin returns this week to the Links and his daily duties of ensuring the New and Jubilee Courses are in great condition throughout the 2013 season.

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