UW-Stout News Story

Golf enterprise students working long hours at Ryder Cup

September 25, 2012

Four UW-Stout golf enterprise management students are in the middle of the action this week at one of professional golf’s — and sports’ — biggest events.

They are working at the Ryder Cup, the biennial match play competition between teams from the United States and Europe. The matches will be held Friday through Sunday at historic Medinah Country Club near Chicago. Opening ceremonies are Thursday.

Dan NelsonThe students are Mike Hartviksen, of Thunder Bay, Ontario; Bob Murphy, of Palos Heights, Ill.; Dan Nelson, of Menomonie; and Joel Schaberg, of Lake Elmo, Minn. Murphy is working in the merchandise tent on the grounds while the others work for tournament officials in operations and logistics. Recent graduate Steve Toftum of Amherst is working at the tournament as well.

Befitting the classic role of student support staff — officially they’re called operations assistants and unofficially “swampers” — they are doing anything and everything asked of them. They have been working up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week recently as the tournament approaches. They began working July 30 and finish Oct. 14.

“We are learning a lot about tournament operations on the biggest stage,” said Nelson.

One of their main duties is to work with the dozens of vendors who support all aspects of the tournament, from food to fencing to facilities.

“Lately we have been busy distributing furniture and plants to the buildings around the facility. There are over 100 buildings or trailers that need furniture and-or plants, all spread out over the course, so this turns into a long process,” Nelson said.

“Our job is not glamorous, but it is a good starting point and we naturally have a lot of respect from our superiors in the Ryder Cup offices. Most of them started as ‘swampers’ and know you have to start here and work your way up,” Nelson said.

The matches are sponsored by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America. UW-Stout’s golf enterprise management program has a working relationship with the PGA and in previous years has provided students for the PGA Championship, one of golf’s four majors.

“These are tremendous opportunities for the students, and we hope to continue this relationship with the PGA,” said Howie Samb, who teaches in the golf enterprise program and is the UW-Stout women’s golf coach.

The four UW-Stout students are in the university’s Cooperative Education program through Career Services. They work with a faculty adviser and will receive academic credit for their experiences. A record total of 876 UW-Stout students were in the program last year through 500 employers.

Nelson has been to pro golf events as a spectator but is getting his first taste of what it’s like behind the scenes. “I never imagined how much really went into it and how fast it all happened,” he said. “It has been enjoyable to come to work at a place as famous and classy as Medinah Country Club, and the excitement has increased each day leading up to the tournament.”

For more information on the GEM program, go here. For more on the co-op program, go to Career Services.

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