Bowled over: Turf Bowl champs shine in volunteer opportunity

Penn State’s Turf Bowl winners ‘had a blast’ pitching in at the AT&T Byron Nelson.


Penn State Turf Bowl team
Members of Penn State’s victorious 2019 Turf Bowl team — from left, Ian Patterson, Alex Hendler and Seth Re — say they were thrilled to spend a week working on the crew for the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Ian Patterson

Just one-third of the winning Turf Bowl trio who reaped the final rewards of that victory — a spot on the volunteer crew at last month’s AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas — plans to make a career in golf course maintenance.

But that’s not a reflection on their experience at the PGA Tour stop.

“It was probably one of the funnest things I’ve done in my short career,” says recent Penn State graduate Seth Re, who had not only planned to work in the golf course management field, but began doing so the day after his return from Dallas, starting as assistant superintendent at Hanover Country Club in Abbottstown, Pa. “It was just ... fun,” Re says of the group’s time at Trinity Forest. “All three of us had a blast, which is kind of funny, because we were all nervous going in. We didn’t know what to expect. But management was so good, and everybody was so professional. We just fit right in.”

Re had teamed with Alex Hendler, Ian Patterson and Nicholas Chamberlin to win the 2019 GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition, presented in partnership with John Deere Golf, in February at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego. Chamberlin, who had graduated from Penn State in December 2018, is currently working at an internship in Tampa Bay, Fla., so that left Re, Hendler and Patterson to collect the final Turf Bowl prize: a weeklong trip to Dallas and Trinity Forest Golf Club to work on the volunteer crew tending the course for the Byron Nelson, which ran May 9-12.

“It was all-around a great experience,” says Hendler, who, like Re, graduated in May. “It was just great to see how they handled it and to meet so many different people from all over the country, and in one case outside of the country. It was great to see how a tournament like that is run and to work with others in the industry.”

“It was awesome,” adds Patterson, who still has a semester to go at Penn State. “The course was great. We saw a couple of good people play, and we got to walk-mow greens. It was just a great experience.”

The event capped a whirlwind couple of weeks for the Nittany Lions. After completing finals week on Friday, May 3, Re and Hendler went through graduation — and the resultant celebration — that Sunday. Monday, they traveled to Dallas, hit the course first thing Tuesday morning, and worked through Sunday. They then parted ways.

Re headed to Hanover, where he was reunited with superintendent Bill Brooks, a 32-year GCSAA member who was Re’s boss when Re worked on the crew at Hanover before college.

Trinity Forest green
Seth Re took a quick break from an early morning shift at the AT&T Byron Nelson to catch this sunrise over Trinity Forest’s No. 18 green. Photo by Seth Re

Hendler will spend his summer in Happy Valley, Pa., working on the crew for Beaver Stadium, home of Penn State football. His primary interest is in sports turf in general and baseball in particular. Given the timing of hiring for baseball jobs, Hendler plans to stay at Beaver Stadium until fall and try to land a baseball job then.

“Even though I don’t want to work in golf, this (the AT&T Byron Nelson) was a great experience, and I think it will definitely benefit me in the long run,” Hendler says.

Post-tournament, Patterson reported to the University of Maryland, where he’ll work through the summer on the Terrapins’ athletic facilities, particularly baseball, football, soccer and softball. Upon graduation, Patterson plans to pursue a career in university sports turf.

Patterson was the only one of the three Penn Staters who had previous PGA Tour experience. In 2017, he interned at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., and was there when the PGA Tour made its stop for the Greenbrier Classic at The Old White TPC Course. He was keen to compare the experiences.

“This one was a lot more laid-back,” Patterson says. “They really just went with the punches, but they were still able to get everything done. That (the Greenbrier Classic) was very fast-paced. They tried to make sure everybody was doing everything perfect.”

About the only damper on the trio’s trip to Trinity Forest was the damp. About 4 inches of rain fell during their stay, which created logistical logjams and lengthy layovers.

“We had some issues with the rain, obviously,” Hendler says, “but it was interesting to see how they handled it.”

In Re’s case, a rain delay resulted in his favorite moment from the experience. Saturday afternoon, after having reported for duty well before dawn, the crew finally received word that they were to get to work. “The PGA Tour people decided we needed to get out there,” Re recalls. “I got to mow the putting green, No. 18 and No. 9. It was run-and-gun. The adrenaline was pumping. And I’ll never forget this: I was mowing the putting green — we got five passes in — and some of the pros started coming out to the putting green. The galleries were out. They started taking videos of us. I even made it on Golf Channel — a little clip.”

And did the gallery roar?

“Actually, I was mowing on No. 9, and a guy was coming up to do the Stimpmeter. I gave him a fist bump. Some people saw it and started clapping,” Re says with a laugh.

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.