by Tom Schellenberg – Assistant to the General Manager at Muirfield Village Golf Club and 2013 Alumni – Bachelor of Business, Golf Management
I arrived at Muirfield Village Golf Club with only three weeks until Jack Nicklaus’s PGA tournament, the Memorial. The club still looked like a construction yard due to the large-scale renovations that were underway to redevelop the clubhouse and the new fitness facility. All of the staff were counting down the days until the tournament and doubting that we would ever be finished the renovations in time. The property was littered with employees, construction workers, and trucks, as we all tried to get done before the tournament week started on Monday May 27th.
The week before the Memorial Tournament is known as advance week. This is the time that the place starts to really look like a tournament venue. The grand stands and fences are all being set up, the Lexus courtesy cars for the players are all brought onto the property and fill up our parking lots, mail for the PGA players and reps start arriving by the truckload and our job is to keep things running smoothly. The course only closes the Sunday before tournament week so this makes for very long days of working to finish the renovations while keeping everything in the club open and running for members; on top of preparing for the biggest week of the year. Perhaps it is the second biggest week this year considering the upcoming President’s Cup in October. We were ready for the tournament with no more than a couple hours to spare.
The Sunday before the tournament we clean out all of the upstairs lockers that are designated for the pros and make sure everything is in place. At this time we make sure everything the pros could want is in their assigned lockers and we are there to get them anything else that they may need. Here is the fully stocked snack and beverage bar that goes in the locker room for the players. Everything for them is free and if we don’t have it we will send a runner out to get it. There is no such thing as ‘no’ during the tournament. We provide the ultimate experence of customer service and the players don’t hesitate to let us know how much they enjoy the Memorial Tournament. Guan Tianlang said that his experience at the Memorial easily compared to his experience at the Masters.
On the morning of Monday, May 27th the tournament had officially begun and things started to surprisingly feel calmer. We were just waiting for the players to arrive on this particularly cool and damp day. However players like Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, and Rory McIlroy have all checked in to practice for the tournament. The players are picked up at the airport by our shuttles and then brought to the Player’s Entrance (the entrance to the Men’s locker room). We then take out all of their luggage and bring them a Lexus courtesy car that is theirs for the week. We load their new cars back up and then they often go check into their hotels. This continues for Tuesday as well as the players continue to arrive, register, and prepare for Thursday’s first round. The players are all really relaxed, fun guys that like to have fun with each other whenever they get the chance.
The busiest day of the week is the Pro-Am on Wednesday because all of the pros have now arrived and we have all of the amateurs coming in to play with them. The opening tournament celebrations and a clinic with Jack Nicklaus are also included to make this an eventful day. I ran clubs back and forth to Ben Curtis while he was on the golf course to get them exactly to the specifications that he wanted.
Round 1 went extremely smooth from an operational stand point. The first tee times start at 7:20am and players go off tees 1 and 10 so that everyone can get their rounds in. Everything feels a little more serious now that the players have stopped joking around with each other and they are all focused on the tournament. As the players come in there are many mixed emotions, some are noticeably very angry and others just seem very calm and collected. After the second round it is tough to ask players how they played because the field now gets cut in half and you don’t want to ask the wrong player who missed the cut. Round 2 is run very similar to round 1and the day started off very well with a nice sunny day. As the day progressed the winds steadily picked up until severe wind warnings were notified for the area and a very large storm started to set it. The atmosphere got very serious as we had 18 shuttles staged to go and pick all of the players up off of the holes. The Tour was worried about the grandstands with the force of the wind as it was nearing the threshold of what the grandstands were made to withstand. The vans all rushed into the Player’s Entrance where we unloaded all of the player’s and their clubs as quickly as possible to make way for the next vans. This was the course evacuation plan that had been well planned prior to the tournament and it was executed very efficiently. However, with the storm cutting play short for the day, it would make for a long Saturday of golf.
“Moving Day” at the Memorial had players arrive really early because of the storms that ended their second rounds early. All players were shuttled back out to their holes so that they could complete their second round before starting round three. There were five holes left to play on each side. Players finished their five holes and then a lot of them left to relax for an hour or so before returning to get ready for the third round. There were still a lot of the players here that missed the cut because they were practicing for the US Open qualifier which was down the street at Brookside Country Club. Today players teed off of holes 1 and 10 again to try and avoid the storm that was supposed to hit us in the afternoon. The player managers and fitness trainers just hung out and talked with us while the players were on the course which made for some cool stories. Rory had struggled here at the Memorial the past two years and today I watched as Jack Nicklaus gave Rory some advice. They talked intensely for about five minutes about the game and Rory’s swing; it was the father of golf instilling confidence in the younger generation.
Sunday morning felt like everything was a little quieter as players were focused in their morning routines. The sun started to peer out and soak up the dew covered fairways and the smell of golf was all around us. The players tee times were moved to a 10:40am start off holes 1 and 10. We had to do this because of an overnight storm that lingered into the morning. The weather held off perfectly however, making for a great Sunday finish of golf. The crowds start multiplying out on the 18th hole as the first groups reached the green. As the afternoon progressed, I could hear the roars of the crowd from my position at the front of the clubhouse, especially as the final group of Kevin Chappell and Matt Kuchar came up 18. Kevin hit his approach only four feet from the pin. This put the pressure on Matt Kuchar to make par and he drained the 25 foot putt for birdie instead. Matt Kuchar was a class act all week and was very respectful to me and all of the staff. I was happy to see him win.
Overall, I absolutely loved getting a chance to build a relationship with the PGA players and their teams. It was a week of over 110 hours of work but a great experience in the end.
More on Tom…
Tom Schellenberg is the Assistant to the General Manager at Muirfield Village Golf Club and a 2013 graduate from the Bachelor of Business- Golf Management program at Georgian College.
Tom is a young man filled with tremendous ambition for the life and career that lay before him. His focus in the golf industry and dedicated work ethic have lead him to experience some of the top golf clubs in the world. Tom’s burning passion for traveling the world with a purpose will undoubtedly drive him to a life full of fulfillment, success, and happiness.