Turf Bowl champs relished Tour toil

The trio from Penn State proved their mowing mettle when they joined the volunteer corps for the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest.


Seth Re
A brand-new graduate of Penn State’s turfgrass management program, Seth Re helps prep Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas ahead of last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson. Re was part of the winning team in the 2019 GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition, for which part of the prize was the opportunity to go inside the ropes at a PGA Tour stop. Photo courtesy of Seth Re

It didn’t take long for the triumphant Turf Bowl trio of Seth Re, Alex Hendler and Ian Patterson to prove their worth on the volunteer workforce at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.

The three Penn Staters — along with Nicholas Chamberlin, who graduated at semester and is working at an internship in Tampa Bay, Fla. — won the 2019 GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition, presented in partnership with John Deere Golf, back in February at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego. One of the perks that came with the crown was an invitation to work the AT&T Byron Nelson, which ran May 9-12 at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.

Re, Hendler and Patterson wrapped up finals the week before the event, and Re and Hendler graduated that prior Sunday, May 5. (Patterson still has a semester to go.) They hopped on a plane last Monday and arrived in the Big D that evening. By Tuesday morning, they were out on the grounds.

“We were all kind of nervous to start,” Re said. “They just threw us into the fire and had us mowing greens. They didn’t know we’d do such a good job. We’re the only three volunteers they’re letting mow greens.”

Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that the three knew their way around turfgrass. Team No. 61, advised by Ben McGraw, Ph.D., beat 62 other teams from 30 schools to give Penn State its fourth Turf Bowl victory in five seasons. The title was worth a trophy, $4,000 and a trip to Trinity Forest, where Kasey Kauff, GCSAA Class A superintendent and a 16-year association member, is director of grounds.

The Penn State crew reported last Thursday that the work had been manageable thus far.

“We’re actually having a lot of fun,” Re said. “This is my first (PGA) Tour experience, and I couldn’t ask for anything better. They’re really organized, and they encourage us to take our time, see the course, take pictures. ... They want us to really enjoy the experience. I was expecting us to be working like dogs all the time.”

“Actually, it’s a lot less work than I was expecting,” added Patterson, the only one of the three with previous PGA Tour volunteer experience. “I thought we’d be hauling tail everywhere, but it’s a nice, calm atmosphere. It looks like they’ve done it before, which they obviously have.”

Alex Hendler
A whirlwind week: Alex Hendler graduated from Penn State on Sunday, May 5, arrived in Texas on May 6, and was on-site at Trinity Forest May 7 to pitch in on preparations for the AT&T Byron Nelson, which began Thursday, May 9. Photo courtesy of Alex Hendler

In the lead-up to the tournament’s first round last Thursday, the Penn State trio reported for duty early. Their morning shifts started at 4:30 a.m. After a few hours of mostly mowing, they’d take a break until afternoon, when they’d return to the course for data collection.

“Tuesday afternoon, we saw how they do all the testing to check firmness and the moisture of the greens,” Hendler said. “It was nice to get to go around to all the different holes on the course and see how the PGA Tour acquires all that information.”

One drawback was the weather. Workers dodged significant rainfall Wednesday, and Thursday dawned with spitting rain and fog before the sun began to break through. The crew had to scramble around the storms, but the Nittany Lions said they were impressed with how it all was handled.

“We had a couple-hour window (Wednesday) between storms, and we had a get the greens mowed,” Hendler said. “They just asked us to commit to push through it, and we did. The course was prepared great for it, and it was something we could deal with.”

Trinity Forest’s bermudagrass greens were a bit of a novelty for the Penn Staters, who were impressed by the course’s aesthetic.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Patterson said. “It’s definitely a true links-style course, and you can tell it’s a Coore and Crenshaw design.”

“I expected it to be beautiful, but I’d never seen anything like it before,” said Re. “To see how they stick to the natural style of the land, how they capped off the old landfill ... it was really interesting to talk with some of the guys about how the course was constructed.”

The Turf Bowl champs were on-site through the tournament’s final round Sunday.

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.