When the biennial Ryder Cup — one of the sporting world’s biggest spectacles — began last week in Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin-Stout and its golf management program was well represented. One of the workers was Amery’s very own Parker Griffin.
An alumnus who is an assistant pro at host course Whistling Straits, Griffin and Adam Lazaroff, of Minocqua helped support the international event on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, near Sheboygan.
A team of the best professional golfers from Europe took on a United States team in match play competition Friday through Sunday, Sept. 24-26, with the winning team securing bragging rights and the coveted trophy for two years.
Planning for the event, “It’s going to be amazing,” said Whistling Straits second Assistant Pro David Bach, a December 2017 UW-Stout graduate from the golf enterprise management program. “The entire golf world will have their eyes on us. We’re all set and ready to go.”
From UW-Stout to ‘one of world’s top facilities’
Bach, a native of Brown Deer north of Milwaukee, began working at Whistling Straits in 2018, less than a year after graduating. His regular duties comprise overseeing outside operations and as a lead instructor with the Kohler Golf Academy youth program.
For the Ryder Cup, he was chair of evacuations, making sure players get safely and quickly off the course when their matches end and in the case of a weather or other emergency.
Last week was all hands-on deck to prepare for the competition, 40,000 fans a day, several thousand more volunteers, vendors and officials and the worldwide broadcast.
The grandstands, including a first-tee U-shaped stadium, merchandise tent, concession stands, sponsor tents and more will be the largest on-course construction in the history of golf. “It’s pretty cool to see,” Bach said.
His familiarity with Whistling Straits goes back to his days at UW-Stout, when he interned at the course in 2015 during another of golf’s major events, the PGA Championship. The PGA — Professional Golfers Association — also runs the Ryder Cup.
His experience in UW-Stout’s Cooperative Education and Internship Program gave him an advantage when he applied for a full-time job after graduating.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot early on in my career at one of the world’s top facilities,” Bach said. “I fell in love with everything UW-Stout’s GEM program had to offer. I had so many great opportunities and saw a lot of avenues of what golf has to offer.”
Bach also had a UW-Stout co-op in 2014 at Erin Hills, the course west of Milwaukee that held the 2017 men’s U.S. Open. In addition, as a junior and senior at UW-Stout he worked as a professional at the Wild Ridge and Mill Run courses in Eau Claire.
Along with his career as a PGA professional and recently passing his Class A pro certification, he is a top player, being named player of the year this year for the second time in three years among Wisconsin assistant pros.
Furthermore, his brother Jason, a senior, has followed in his footsteps and is a GEM major at UW-Stout. Jason also has worked at Whistling Straits, although not during the Ryder Cup, and recently interned with Titleist, a top golf manufacturer.
High-level student experience
Griffin and Lazaroff are on similar educational and career paths as Bach.
Griffin, a junior, is on a co-op with the PGA of America while Lazaroff, a sophomore, is on a co-op with Kohler. The Wisconsin manufacturer owns Whistling Straits, the adjacent Irish Course and two nearby Blackwolf Run courses.
Parker Griffin, a UW-Stout golf enterprise management major, is on a co-op with the PGA of America for the Ryder Cup golf matches at Whistling Straits.
He has been working seven days a week, nine hours a day and expected to work 12 to 14 hours a day last week.
“It’s amazing how much has gotten done. I have learned all sorts of things, but the main thing is how to essentially put together a shop for a major event. Seeing all the work that must be put in is ridiculous,” he said.
He learned about the opportunity through UW-Stout, which previously has had PGA and Ryder Cup interns. He also has worked as an assistant pro and is thankful for this opportunity to help him decide what aspect of the industry he’d like to pursue upon graduation.
“It has been exciting realizing I am at the Ryder Cup. The chance to work at it is truly something awesome,” Griffin said.
Professor Kris Schoonover, golf management program director, is pleased to see more students take advantage of the high level opportunities.
“Wisconsin is the mecca of golf in the U.S. once again. Our students are located within miles of some of the world's best golf courses and events in the country. They have and are creating career paths not just in golf operations at green grass golf facilities, like Kohler, but also are learning about golf administration of a large-scale sporting event like the Ryder Cup,” Schoonover said.
“In addition, they are networking and experiencing the agencies, individuals and businesses involved in hosting the Ryder Cup. What a fantastic opportunity for hands-on learning through our internships, leading to permanent positions in the golf industry.”
The golf management program is part of UW-Stout’s School of Hospitality Leadership, which is ranked among the best in the world.