An ‘Aussome’ assignment at Shinnecock Hills

Hayden Westwood came a long way to experience golf course maintenance in the U.S., and he’s in just the right place for it this week.


Hayden Westwood
Australian Hayden Westwood is relishing his first visit to the States. The highlight? Working on the volunteer crew for the U.S. Open this week at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Photo by Howard Richman

It took a while for him to get here, but Hayden Westwood is digging his first trip to America.

An assistant at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia, Westwood flew more than 20 hours to reach Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., for this week’s U.S. Open. He has already experienced New York-style pizza and Times Square, and he arrived at Shinnecock Hills several days before the other volunteers, which gave him a chance to earn the trust of superintendent Jon Jennings, CGCS.

“I have a two-way radio. It kind of makes you feel important,” says Westwood, 23. “It kind of helps my confidence that Jon has confidence in me (Westwood is a team leader for approach mowers this week). I’m trying to move up in the industry, and it’s good for me to see how another country does things.”

Westwood (no relation to professional golfer Lee Westwood) was made for this business. “I’ve been an outside boy my whole life,” he says. His mother is Australian and his father is English, and Westwood found his niche as an 18-year-old at The Royal Melbourne Club, where he landed a job on the crew. The only issue was how he would get to work. “I didn’t have my driver’s license yet, so my father drove me,” Westwood says. “He was more than happy to do it. He could see the smile on my face.”

The Royal Melbourne Club will be a happening place in 2019 as host to the Presidents Cup, which begins Dec. 9, 2019. In the meantime, Westwood is paying close attention to Jennings and his staff, hoping to absorb all that he can to improve himself. “I am building relationships, making connections, which can be as important as growing grass. That’s what it’s all about,” Westwood says.

Jennings is pleased with how Westwood has contributed. “He is an excellent communicator and pays attention to detail. You know what he does will be done well,” Jennings says.

When his stint at Shinnecock Hills comes to an end, Westwood will find it somewhat sad to depart. “I regard the people here as friends. They have been accommodating, and they spur me on,” Westwood says. “They accepted me. I don’t feel like a foreigner. I feel like I’m part of the team.”

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.