THE OPEN | ST ANDREWS
For greenkeepers at St Andrews, sleep isn’t something that’s coming in huge amounts this week.
Just ask Elliot Wilson, a student greenie, who is one of a number of staff at the Home of Golf’s three courses who have set up their tents at a makeshift campsite as golf’s oldest major rolls into the ‘auld grey toon’.
“I’ve been getting between four and five hours a night so far,” said Elliot, whose routine for the week includes 4am starts preparing the green on the practice range. “It is tiring but it hasn’t affected me too much so far, but I guess we’ll see how I’m feeling come Sunday!”
Elliot’s morning duties on the practice range take roughly an hour, before he heads on to work on the New and Jubilee courses until around 8.30am. Then it’s a question of to sleep or not to sleep, as he has to head back down to the practice range again at 7pm once the players have vacated, where he works until dusk.
"When I heard about the seasonal position it was too good not to apply for" - Elliot Wilson
But the 22-year-old, who is studying Sports Turf Science & Management at Myerscough College near Preston, certainly isn’t complaining and is still pinching himself at the fact he’s working at an Open Championship.
“Not many people get the chance to work at an Open Championship so when I heard about the seasonal position it was too good not to apply for,” he explained. “I wasn’t expecting to get the placement but I did and to say now that I’ve worked at St Andrews on my CV – let alone during the Open – is something that could prove to be incredibly valuable in the future.”
As a scratch golfer – his handicap is +1.6 – it is no surprise that Elliot, like many young golfers, once harboured aspirations of playing at the Open, not working.
He reached the quarter-finals of the Scottish Amateur Championship in 2012 and played alongside the likes of Bradley Neil and Jack McDonald, but soon faced up to the fact that he wasn’t going to make it in the professional ranks.
“I took two years out after finishing my A-levels to try and be a professional golfer but realised in that time that I just wasn’t good enough. It was expensive in terms of travelling and entry fees to tournaments, it was very time-consuming and in the end, I just got fed up of playing.
“I still had a huge passion for the sport though so that’s when I turned my attentions to greenkeeping – and here I am just over two years later working at the Open Championship at the Home of Golf.”
"People just think that you’re out there cutting grass all day" - Elliot Wilson
And in changing his focus to pursue a career in greenkeeping, Elliot found renewed respect for people in the industry – something that he never really considered when aiming to make it as a player.
“A common and frustrating misconception people have is they just think that you’re out there cutting grass all day but there’s so much more to it than that. Even when I played, I had no idea how much time and effort goes in to preparing a golf course.
"It’s all about nutritional programmes, disease prevention, management programmes, and that’s not even the half of it. When I started to learn more about all that at college, I started to gain so much more respect for people in the industry.”