Heading Home After An Unforgettable Experience – And Seeing An Albatross

This year, Sean Gunn has temporarily left his operations job at Castle Stuart Golf Links to take up an internship at the renowned Bandon Dunes golf resort in Oregon as part of his career development.

Sean Gunn with Rory McIIroy

In the last of a series of blogs on his new role, he describes swapping the Moray Firth for the Pacific coast.

An amazing highlight of my time here was taking part in the Bandon Dunes Pro-Am. It was played over three courses - Old Macdonald, Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails – and as I am currently working on the resort as an assistant professional I was asked to join the team of Brandon Carter (head professional at Bandon Dunes, Marcus Lakey (assistant superintendent) and Marie Simonds (an ex-college star in the golfing ranks).

The first round at Old Macdonald was quite possibly the toughest round of golf I have played in my life. The rain was relentless all day and, alongside a 3-club wind, it made playing golf close to impossible. However, I still managed to contribute two gross birdies and three net birdies, as well as winning a closest to the pin contest on the hardest Par 3 on the course by hitting my tee shot to less than two feet.

The second round was thankfully dry, but the wind was stronger which still made scoring very difficult. My game deteriorated as the wind speed increased, but a strong finish saw me finish with birdies on 16 and 18, and narrowly missing out for another on 17, to keep the spirits high for the next day.

The final round was the best day of the week, although scoring was still tough. However, I witnessed one of the most amazing things I have ever seen on a golf course. - Marcus scoring an albatross on the Par 5 9th hole when his second shot from 265 yards found the hole!

Although we tied second on the day, we finished outside the overall team prizes. However, it was a great experience to be able to play in such an event, to spend it with the people I did, and witness something truly awesome. It’s not something I will forget in a hurry.

Another fantastic memory of my time in the US was a trip to Chambers Bay golf club in Washington (which hosted the 2015 US Open). It was an incredible experience, and possibly one of the coolest golf courses I have ever played. It looks so dramatic with the sharp changes in elevation. I also played really well, shooting 82 in 30mph winds.

By coincidence, I was part of a fourball with a player who I had checked in to play Pacific Dunes (part of the Bandon Dunes resort) only a matter of days before. Small world.

Knowing that I’ll be heading home soon and my time here in Bandon is coming to an end is quite an odd feeling. It feels like I have been here for 20 minutes. Nonetheless, I am really excited about sharing my experience with friends and colleagues and flying the flag for Bandon Dunes back in Scotland.

I’m also looking forward to getting back to Castle Stuart and applying the skills that I have learned here during what promises to be a very busy season in Scotland.

So, what have I learned? I feel I am more confident in dealing with customers, and handling potentially difficult situations; I have a better idea of how I can help improve some displays within the shop and I am coming home with more knowledge on a wider range of brands, some of which are not currently stocked at Castle Stuart. With American tourists covering nearly half of our peak season play on the course, I feel I have a better idea what they might shop for, which can ultimately help increase revenue in the golf shop.

Another thing I’ve picked up on out here is how we can improve the experience for our guests, and in particular our corporate members, who regularly hold golf days during the year. I have ideas for different formats for tournaments, as well as pre and post-tournament games, to make the corporate days even more memorable for the players.

Being lucky enough to have worked at a resort such as Bandon Dunes, can only help my future prospects within the golf industry. Working alongside industry experts has helped enhance the skills and knowledge I had and taught me new skills and given me new ideas on how I can do things my way within golf. This is something for which I will always be grateful.

It has allowed me to broaden my network of industry colleagues and learn from their personal stories and advice which will also be extremely valuable to my future career development. My Bandon colleagues are now close friends and I look forward to coming back to the states to visit, and to hosting them when they come to Scotland, to try to give them the kind of experience I enjoyed.

Since I was at university, golf is the industry I knew that I wanted to pursue, although I was unsure which area to specialise in. I believe that my time in Bandon has helped me in my pursuit of a full-time career within the golf industry.

For example, I never thought I would be good enough to pursue a career as a golf professional, but working here in Bandon, and being considered as a professional rather than just an intern, was really quite flattering. So, I feel it is opening more and more doors for potential future avenues within the industry. However, initially, I would like to continue to expand my knowledge of all aspects of the industry to further increase my skill set.

Keeping a blog of my time here in Bandon is something I feel has been an extremely worthwhile experience. Being able to share my experience in this way has been fun and putting together these posts has been an interesting thing to do as the social media side of the industry is something that I have always been really interested in. Putting it all in writing has helped me assess the benefits of the experience and has given me something to look back on.

But before I head home, there is one more trip to make - a weekend of golf and exploring San Francisco with a tee time at the Olympic Club, home of the 2012 US Open and other courses to be confirmed.

This trip promises to cap what has truly been an unforgettable part of my life.