BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Childhood friends who grew up in Waterford, Ireland, David Baker and Sean Power are now growing grass together at Saucon Valley Country Club.
The 20-year-olds are among eight interns the club hired for the summer as part of a cooperative with several U.S. universities that offer golf course maintenance or agronomy programs. Baker and Power, who attend Kildalton College, an agricultural school at home in Waterford, are affiliated with Ohio State’s program in Columbus, Ohio. They spent two days in seminars in Columbus and then were assigned to Saucon Valley, which this week is hosting the 34th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Baker is primarily responsible this week for cutting the holes on the inward nine on the Old Course, one of the club’s three 18-hole layouts and the match-play venue for the competition. Power helps with chemical applications on the greens. Both are learning a myriad of jobs during their stay in Lehigh Valley.
It can be a long week for a maintenance crew when a national championship visits, but the Irish youngsters are loving every minute of it.
I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here, said Power, who returns to Waterford on Sept. 16.
Baker might be learning how to take care of golf courses, but he knows a thing or two about scoring on them, too. In 2012, he won the Irish Southeast, an amateur event played at Fota Island, in Cork, the site of the 2014 Irish Open. He shot 5-over 149, and his victory enabled him to practice for two days on the Carton House course during last year’s Irish Open.
That was amazing, playing such a good course and being around some great players, said Baker, who has played a few rounds at Saucon Valley.
The experience might have been special, but it didn’t push Baker into pursuing a career in competitive golf.
I want to be a superintendent. I don’t think I’m good enough to be a pro golfer, Baker said. I started in golf when I was 10. My dad introduced me. I like playing a lot back home, but I think this would be more fun. I can be in the game this way at least.
According to Tony Johnson, course superintendent of Saucon Valley’s Old Course, Baker and Power are in the right place to learn on the job.
We have three different courses … three different environments, and from a learning standpoint, that’s what’s great about Saucon Valley, Johnson said. Interns see a wide variety of challenges, micro climates, turf diseases. We get everything. They’ve been thrown into a great laboratory.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.