Suffolk Golf Union
Twenty-nine year old Aaron Bowen, the two-handicap greenkeeper at Ipswich Golf Club, was one of 180 greenkeepers from all over the world to join the agronomy team at Sawgrass for the Players Championship on the PGA Tour won by Rory McIlroy.
He was allocated the task of hand-mowing the approaches to the greens on the first nine holes on the Stadium course. He kept this role throughout his stay. He recalls: “They had to be perfect and sometimes we were working after dark with lamps. It was generally a very long day with as little as three hours sleep. “We woke at 3 am to be at the course for morning assignments an hour later. Preparations would take four to five hours. We had five hours to watch the golf. This included spectators wanting to know how we all got the course to look so good and wanting their pictures taken with us.
“We were back for lunch at 3pm returning to carry out our evening assignments from 5pm. We worked until 10.30pm most nights before minimal sleep in the hotel for 10 days straight. That's the level of dedication needed to host one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, but it's also the part that the TV doesn't show you!”
Bowen made a such a good impression that he was one of 17 visiting greenkeepers to be given one of the flags used during the event. He brought home the flag from hole 15 which he plans to have framed. He has been invited back to the United States next year with a choice of another visit to Sawgrass or working at The Waste Management Phoenix Open at Scottsdale in January. He has yet to decide which of these course he will help keep in pristine condition.
He enjoyed an extensive chat with Fanny Sunesson, the former caddy to Nick Faldo between 1990 and 1999. She is now a coach and television commentator although she returned to caddy for Adam Scott in the Open at Carnoustie last year. “She was deeply interested in the agronomy and greenkeeping aspect of how the course was going to be set up,” he said.
He also discussed course conditions with Henrik Stenson’s caddy.
On the Monday he walked a few holes down the fairway with Jason Day and had a brief hello with Tiger Woods. This was a dream come true as a life-long Tiger fan.
Bowen arrived in the United States on the Saturday with Ipswich Golf Club paying for his flight from Gatwick to Jacksonville to give him the opportunity to widen his experience and put both Ipswich Golf Club and Suffolk on the world stage. He has been invited to help Lytham St Annes prepare for the Staysure PGA Senior Open, run by the Royal and Ancient, between July 25 and 28.
Ipswich course manager Graham Brumpton said: “Aaron has a passion for progress and is very ambitious.” In September he will enrol on a FdSc Sports Turf Management course with the intention of continuing his studies to degree level. He will be giving an address to the Ipswich Golf Club directors and staff in the next few weeks. He is encouraged by his club who host the England Women’s Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship between August 20 and 22.
Bowen started his golf at Fynn Valley and was involved in Suffolk junior coaching up to the age of 18. He played in the Hambro Cup and Stenson Shield. He explained: “Due to work and further education commitments I decided to take a back seat from competitive golf. Helping maintain a course for such a large membership gives me more pleasure. I guess it's a pride thing!”
At Sawgrass the 180 visiting greenkeepers were invited to hit a tee shot to the iconic 137-yard island green on the 17th hole. Aaron put his nine-iron to within six feet and was one of only 20 to avoid the water.