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The Unsung Heroes of Tournament Support

Posted on October 20, 2016 at 11:30 AM

When Ryan Moore’s decisive putt secured the Ryder Cup for the US team on the 18th green of Hazeltine National Golf Club, the crowds roared their approval. A magnificent end to a magnificent tournament. The greens looked amazing and played even better. In the background a team of unsung heroes lead by Chris Tritabaugh, Hazeltine Course Superintendent, worked tirelessly round the clock to deliver the championship conditions that made the Tournament so special.

When tournament time comes round the greens and fairways need extra focus, not just during play, but in the days leading up to the event too. Doug Veine, Bernhard US Territory Manager and Ralph Arnt, Hazeltine Equipment Manager, started the process of mower conditioning on Wednesday September 21st.

“Teamwork is everything,” states Doug. “In addition to the Course staff there were around 125 volunteers, working two shifts, morning and evening. Chris Tritabaugh did an amazing job of organizing his own team, the volunteers and all the sponsors that help provide meals, uniforms and extra equipment. The pressure falls on Chris and we are there to relieve it by getting all the jobs done in an efficient and safe manner.

“I worked closely with Ralph to sharpen and set up all of the cutting units. We used the Express Dual 4000 spin grinder for sharpening reels, and the Anglemaster 4000 for sharpening the bedknives. Ralph selected Bernhard grinders due to the ease of set up and speed of grind, enabling us to get the mowers turned around and back onto the golf course in record time.

“We were handling roughly 90 cutting units per day, we sharpened during the prep week and focused on height of cut and set up during the event.

“Being a part of something like the Ryder Cup is an honor. Hearing the roars of the crowd as the teams scored on the course sends a chilling feeling of excitement through you. I believe this is the largest golf event ever to date. Well over 250,000 people attended over the three days and we should be so proud that Bernhard played a part in it.”

The on-site experience and support provided by the equipment manufacturers is invaluable to the course team. Course conditions are the biggest variable when it comes to mower set up and blade sharpening, and they were a particular challenge for Michael He, Bernhard Asia Customer Support Manager, at the Rio Olympics this July.

With the men’s and women’s tournaments played back to back it was important that the turf health was maintained throughout by mowing with sharp blades, and adjusting the cutting schedule in accordance with conditions.

“Our first obstacle of the tournament came in the first few days, because the greens had been heavily sanded, meaning the blades needed grinding after every cut,” Michael explained.

“Having Mike and Klasie from Jacobsen on the team made the process so much quicker, they are the experts on these mowers, they helped prepare the blades for sharpening and assisted with set-up to ensure that all the machines were in the best possible condition.

“Their support was critical. We had two tournaments back to back. The fairways and tees are Zoysia, sharp blades are essential for the appearance, playability and health of the turf.”

Bernhard provides tournament support for the PGA Tour and other major competitions including the US Open, Ryder Cup and Olympics. “It’s a perfect combination,” believes Doug. “The Leadership of the course Superintendent, the camaraderie of the volunteers, the technical expertise of the club team and the hands on support and know-how of the equipment providers, all coming together to provide some of the greatest spectacles in golf.”