St Andrews Links Trust greenkeeper Gavin Neill has swapped the fresh spring winds of April at the world’s most famous Links to join the greenkeeping operation at the 2013 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, USA.
Gavin, who is the deputy course manager on the New and Jubilee Courses at St Andrews Links, is fulfilling a lifelong ambition to visit the famous grounds of Augusta National for the entire week of the tournament. However, Gavin’s visit is no holiday as he has joined the mammoth greenkeeping operation ensuring the first Major is presented in the pristine, immaculate condition it is famed for.
“Ever since I was a young junior golfer watching on TV I always dreamt of one day visiting Augusta National,” he explained.
“But then when I started my career in green keeping I made it one of my main objectives, not just to visit but to work at the Masters. So when I was selected last year to work at this year’s tournament I didn't even have to think twice.”
Gavin (31), who lives in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, said his arrival at Augusta earlier this week lived up to all his expectations.
“My first impressions of the course were that it was just picture perfect, a place of perfection,” he added.
“It has been a very overwhelming experience when I have been working in and around Amen Corner surrounded by its deep history and the azaleas in full bloom.
“You can’t really appreciate the landscape of the course either, with the severity of the greens and surrounds and the undulating fairways that viewers simply can’t see on TV.”
However, there has been little time for Gavin, who started his greenkeeping career at hometown Tain Golf Club, to get caught up in the magnificence of his surroundings as he has a daily workload to contend with as part of the greenkeeping team throughout the championship week.
“In the morning my task is care of fairways, which includes switching grass clippings and repairing divots,” he said.
“My afternoon task is being responsible for the 4th green, which involves hand blowing, switching the sand splash and leaves off the greens surface when needed.”
This is not the first Major championship Gavin has been fortunate enough to work at, having been part of the Links team at the 2005 and 2010 Open Championship at the Old Course. He said both shared similar commitments to high standards and presentation.
“The overall tournament set up is very similar to that of the Open Championship when it is at St Andrews, where course presentation and standards are at its highest,” he explained.
“But the attention to detail is raised to the highest level here at the Masters which makes it unbelievably special. The attention to detail is incredible, Augusta National is renowned for being one of, if not the, most exclusive golf clubs in the world and it has been fascinating to see policies such as the performance of the greens, including their speed and other indicators are kept top secret at all times.
“There is a huge emphasis placed on the overall experience the patron (spectator) receives from the moment they walk through the gates ensuring that they leave with an unforgettable experience with staff and volunteers going that extra mile to deliver a 1st class customer service.”
Fresh from his Masters experience Gavin will return to the Links and his daily duties of ensuring the New and Jubilee Courses are maintained to their usual high standards.