Castle Stuart’s Darren will pitch in to help at Sawgrass

The opportunity of a lifetime awaits Darren Skinner as he lines up to be involved in one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world.

Darren, 33, a greenkeeper at the internationally-renowned Castle Stuart Golf Links, has been selected to take part in a volunteer programme at next year’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, considered by many to be golf’s fifth Major.

He is one of only six representatives from BIGGA (the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association) - and the only one from Scotland - invited by manufacturers John Deere to join the course maintenance team for the tournament from 14-17 March 2019.

Each had to undergo a rigorous application process, consisting of an online application, submission of a short video and an interview with BIGGA and John Deere representatives.

The BIGGA members will receive travel, accommodation, food and uniform as they join the team at the legendary venue for the entire duration of the tournament.

As a bonus, following the final day’s play, the greenkeepers will get the opportunity to hit to the 17th hole’s famous island green.

Darren said: “I'm very much looking forward to the experience and challenges of such a prestigious event with the biggest names in golf.

“The 17th at Sawgrass is one of the most famous holes in the world and we are being given the chance to play it, which adds fun to the trip and is every golfer’s dream.”

The Players Championship is made possible due to the help of a volunteer course preparation force made up of more than 90 people from 14 countries, who join the home greenkeeping team to get the course in shape for the event.

Darren has been part of the greenkeeping team at Castle Stuart for ten years and in that time has helped prepare the course for four Scottish Opens.

He is also a talented photographer and in 2015 he won the annual photography award presented by BIGGA with a spectacular sunrise of the Northern Lights over the clubhouse at Castle Stuart. The winning snap was chosen from thousands submitted to BIGGA from across the country.

Stuart McColm, Castle Stuart’s general manager, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Darren to work at one of the biggest golf events in the world. The experience can only help him in his career, and the knowledge and skills he will bring back will also benefit the team at Castle Stuart.”

Castle Stuart greenkeeping staff have an international reputation and regularly visit other courses around the world to exchange best practices.

In 2015, the then course manager, Chris Haspell, joined the staff at the US Open in Chambers Bay in Washington State, due to his specialist expertise in fine fescue management.