“So, what happens if they hit it outside of the rope?”
One of the many questions I asked my co-workers when we visited Firestone Country Club for the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship.
Having never been to a golf tournament, I didn’t know what to expect. In fact, I had absolutely zero expectations. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the stunning, aesthetic stripes on the South Course fairways, the large trees lining corridors and dozens of thoughtfully placed bunkers. Of course, I looked up photos of the famed Akron, Ohio, club and did my research, but nothing compares to seeing it in real life, especially on a cloudless summer day.
I snapped a picture of the Rolex clock on the first hole to post on social media, making all of my friends and family who actually play golf insanely jealous and then headed to meet some of the maintenance team.
Director of golf course operations Larry Napora and his wife, Bonnie, and South Course superintendent Tim Gruber provided a warm welcome. Hearing I had an interest in fashion, Larry joked about his team’s uniform color options: blue or blue. It is a nice shade of blue I might add.
We walked around the maintenance grounds mentally calculating just how much it truly costs to keep a 63-hole facility like Firestone looking and playing the way it does every single day.
I learned a lot. I learned that striping the fairways takes an immense amount of labor and time, something I decided was worth it in Firestone’s case because of how clean it looked. I also learned that they double cut the greens twice per day during tournament week, bunkers have a “drainage” system and the more shade on a golf course, the harder it is to maintain the grass.
You may think I should have already known all these things. Well, I’m trying, OK! I’m learning more about the industry every day, reading about it, listening to podcasts, calling my grandpa (I did this before anyways, don’t worry) so I assure you I am coming to understand why the industry and golf, in general, is so popular.
After lunch, we began walking the 18 holes and I found a calmness settling over me. The chaos of the world and my life felt mundane for a moment in time. I wondered if this was the feeling all golfers experienced on a course. I loved the ability to look out onto a hole, see the trees lining it, the hills and bunkers adding depth and contrast, the stripes (I loved those stripes) perfectly parallel to one another.
From a golf perspective, I recognized one person playing in the tournament, but I think if I told my bosses I didn’t know who John Daly was, they would have reconsidered why they even hired me in the first place. Despite that, I found myself getting into the game, standing on my tippy toes to see the hole or squinting when a putt just misses.
Turns out, the overthinking I did beforehand – “What if I wore the wrong thing?” or “What if I accidentally talk when someone is hitting the ball and then I get banned from any PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament for the rest of my life?!” – was all for nothing. I partially have my co-workers to thank for that second one. My worries slowly dissipated after each hole as I became more fascinated with the turf and the game being played.
Overall, Firestone Country Club wasn’t the most subtle introduction into the tournament golf world but, then again, no one ever described me as such either. Now, given the option between a fashion show and a golf tournament? What if the fashion show was on a golf course? Problem solved!
Cassidy Gladieux is a Kent State University senior participating in Golf Course Industry’s summer internship program.