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From Wicklow to California: An Irish greenkeeper’s journey

California Golf Club uses fine fescue grass and is unique in Northern California for its fast and firm playing conditions. Photo: California Golf Club.
California Golf Club uses fine fescue grass and is unique in Northern California for its fast and firm playing conditions. Photo: California Golf Club.

Nine years at Wicklow Golf Club provided Daragh O'Sullivan with the skills to succeed at one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the World. Combined with his dedication and ambition, O'Sullivan is now the first-assistant superintendent of California Golf Club.

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24 May 2018 | 0

Daragh O’Sullivan began working at Wicklow Golf Club during his summer holidays from school as a teenager. Fast-forward to 2018 and O’Sullivan is currently first-assistant superintendent at California Golf Club – one of the Top 100 Golf Courses of the world.

We caught up with O’Sullivan to discuss his journey from Wicklow to California, and how the skills he learned here in Ireland, set him up for success in California.

Wicklow Golf Club

“I started out working at Wicklow Golf Club as a teenager during the school summer holidays and I loved it. I had an opportunity to start there full time in May 2007.

“Casey O’Brien is the Superintendent there and also a very good friend of mine, so I jumped at the chance to work under his stewardship. I spent just over nine years there before I moved to San Francisco.

“I had some great times working there and a lot of laughs, if I told you half the stories you wouldn’t believe me. Casey was a great man to learn from and always willing to help you out in any way he could.

“With only four full time staff and one seasonal worker, the course is in unbelievable shape and is a credit to the guys and the hard work they put in.”

Time for change

“While I loved my time at Wicklow Golf Club I felt it was time to move on and give myself a new challenge. I volunteered for the Irish Open at the K-Club in 2016 and had spoke to a few guys there who had interned in the US.

“It was something that I had always wanted to do but never knew it was possible to do. I managed to get in contact with Donal Kearney at Irish Institute of Sports Surfaces (IISS) who organises placements for greenkeepers looking to work in the US.”

Intern

“It was purely by chance that I ended up at California Golf Club, although I was always a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

“I came out as an intern, but I came with a lot of experience, so I was thrown into a lot of projects right away. We have a full fleet of RG3 robotic mowers here now so I was heavily involved in the installation process for those machines and several projects such as Tee and Green renovations.

“My role as an intern changed after about six months. I was lucky enough to secure a visa that would allow me to stay and work in the US. Thomas Bastis who was the Superintendent here at the time took up a role with the PGA Tour as an agronomist, so his assistant Javier Campos stepped into the superintendent roll, and I stepped into the roll of second-assistant/spray technician during that time.

“Definitely my time at Wicklow Golf club prepared me well for the transition to Cal Club; working within a small crew meant that you had to be versatile and literally be able to operate every piece of machinery needed on a golf course.

“As of May 1 I moved into the roll of first-assistant, my main duties are preparing the daily schedule for our team of 24 guys and making sure they are carrying out their daily tasks in a timely and efficient manner. While my role now is a little less hands on than before, working and managing a crew, and seeing the results of my guidance and their hard work, is very satisfying.

Looking to the future

“You never know what the future holds but right now I’m very happy to be where I am and also very excited to be working at a Top 100 Golf Course that has aspirations to get better all the time.

“Lastly I would say to anyone who is interested in coming to the US that it is a great opportunity to learn, gain experience, and create opportunities that sometimes just aren’t possible to get back home. I came out here at 30 years of age, so just remember, it’s never too late.”

California Golf Club currently ranks 74 in the Top 100 golf courses of the world list. You can learn more about California Golf Club here.

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