Tour Championship volunteers (from left) Raul Iurk from Brazil and Albin Persson and Gustav Larsson from Sweden. Photo by Scott Hollister
Golf course management may be a relatively small industry, but it sure doesn’t have a problem expanding to a worldwide scale on a regular basis.
Nowhere is that more evident than at a major golf championship, where the volunteer pool is routinely dotted with participants from all corners of the world. Last week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta was no exception, with eight volunteers from outside the United States joining the crew of 80-plus.
Among that international contingent were two volunteers from Sweden, Gustav Larsson and Albin Persson, and a pair from South America, Raul Iurk from Brazil and Roger Tenorio from Peru.
For Persson, 2018 marked a return to East Lake for the Tour Championship. He had volunteered last year, and that experience left enough of an impression that he convinced Larsson, a colleague in the business from the same area in southern Sweden, to join him in Atlanta.
“Just the experience of being here at the Tour Championship, seeing how maintenance is done at this level, learning new things, is a very special opportunity for me,” says Persson, who oversees maintenance at Woodlands Country Club in Orkelljunga, Skane County, Sweden.
Larsson, who is in charge of maintenance at St. Arild Golf Club, says, “It’s good for us to experience something different. Very often, you stop developing because you get wrapped up in what you do every day. This is something completely different, but in a way that we can get a lot of good out of it. I think it’s fantastic.”
Iurk was a first-time volunteer at the Tour Championship, but he’s certainly no stranger to golf course management in the U.S. A student in the turfgrass program at Penn State and a previous winner of a GCSAA scholarship, Iurk came to Atlanta directly from an internship at Carmel Country Club in Charlotte, N.C., and also volunteered at the Quail Hollow Championships this year.
In his time in the States, Iurk says he has been struck by the sharp contrasts between golf here and at home in Brazil. “Back in my country, it’s all about private and country clubs, so it’s kind of expensive for most people. Here, the public side of things is so interesting. It just opens it up to so many more people than back in Brazil. Second, here there are so many opportunities to volunteer at tournaments and learn more about the profession. That has helped me learn so much and meet so many new people.”
Like Persson, Tenorio completed his second consecutive stint as a volunteer at East Lake last week. In those experiences, he says he has been impressed most by the technology that turfgrass managers in the U.S. have at hand.
“The technology available here is so different, so impressive,” says Tenorio, who manages Country Club de Villa in Peru. “We just don’t have access to the machines in Peru that you can get very easily here. Also, in my country, golf is not popular. We play soccer. We only have, like, 10 golf courses, where here you have many, many courses. An experience like this one is something I could not get in Peru.”
Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.