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An international affair: Ryder Cup volunteer spots up for grabs

Program offers GCSAA members the opportunity to volunteer at Le Golf National in Paris for the 2018 Ryder Cup this September.


Ryder Cup Le Golf National
Le Golf National in Paris is playing host to this year’s Ryder Cup competition, and GCSAA members have the opportunity to earn a volunteer spot on the greenkeeping team there, courtesy of Capillary Concrete, GCSAA and the Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Associations. Photo courtesy of Martin Sternberg

Martin Sternberg, CGCS, has long referred to golf course management and greenkeeping as “the international language.” And if anyone would know about that, it’s the 27-year GCSAA member.

A native of Sweden who helped his father build a modest nine-hole golf course on a piece of flat farmland near their home in Gothenburg, Sternberg came to the United States in the late 1980s to learn about every aspect of the golf industry at the San Diego Golf Academy (now known as the Golf Academy of America). His fascination with golf course maintenance and design ultimately led him to becoming the first European to earn Certified Golf Course Superintendent status through GCSAA.

Throughout his education in the U.S., he returned often to Sweden to help his father with the family golf course. Later, he put all he had learned in the U.S. into practice as he oversaw the construction of an 18-hole, Arthur Hills-designed golf course in his home country — an arduous process that took eight years to complete — and ultimately invented the bunker liner product now sold around the world as Capillary Concrete.

So, yes, Sternberg is uniquely positioned to speak about the benefits of golf course management as a professional pursuit without boundaries. That’s the primary reason he has been the driving force behind an effort that will give 10 U.S. superintendents and 10 European greenkeepers the opportunity to travel to France this fall to volunteer on the maintenance team at the Ryder Cup, a program co-sponsored by Capillary Concrete, GCSAA and the Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Associations (FEGGA).

“I’m living proof of how many doors you can open, both personally and professionally, by traveling internationally and experiencing our industry in different parts of the world,” Sternberg says. “I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me throughout my life and career to have friends and contacts in this business in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. To have the opportunity to offer that to others for the Ryder Cup is something that we’re honored to be able to do.”

Complete details on this opportunity can be found at this website, but to summarize, a total of 20 superintendents — 10 GCSAA members from the U.S. and 10 FEGGA members from continental Europe — will have the opportunity to serve on the support team at Le Golf National in Paris for the 2018 Ryder Cup, Sept. 23-30. The experience will include numerous networking and educational experiences in addition to preparing the course for the competition, and U.S. superintendents selected will have travel (flights from New York to Paris), accommodations and uniforms provided. Applications are due March 9.

Alejandro Reyes, a three-year GCSAA member who serves as the golf courses and estates manager at Le Golf National, says, “We have around 30 full-time staff on our greenkeeping team, and although the daily feedback we get is generally excellent, we know that to achieve the high level of quality and consistency that we want for the Ryder Cup, we’ll need at least four times that many staff members.

“As the host course, we want to provide a unique experience for every single volunteer who joins us — educational seminars, networking, and career-development clinics. Those are all going to be part of this program, and we believe it will be a memorable experience for all involved.”

Sternberg says the program is emphasizing association membership and professional experience in the application process. To be considered, applicants must be members of their respective professional association for at least two years, and must have at least three years of experience working on a golf course.

“There are very few professions that you can go almost anywhere in the world and jump right in and start working. Golf course management is one of them,” he says. “There are obviously local tweaks and adjustments you have to make, and you might need to learn 20 to 30 phrases in another language, but the language of greenkeeping is pretty much the same all over the world.

“We hope this program will help strengthen the bond that we all share. And I believe when you have friends and contacts from all over and you have the opportunity to experience things outside your normal surroundings, you understand more about the world and more about yourself, both personally and professionally.”

Apply for the 2018 Ryder Cup Greenkeeping Experience program.

Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.