Op-Ed: Inside the ropes at the 3M Open with Mike Stenvold

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this opinionated piece are made by Mike Stenvold, who was a hole marshal at the PGA Tour 3M Open golf tournament held July 4-7 at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota. This submitted column has been slightly edited to correct grammar, conform to AP style and for clarity purposes only.

From the Pro-Am to the exciting finish with an eagle by Matthew Wolff, the experience at the inaugural 3M Open Tournament in Blaine, Minnesota, was a great one. Here are some of my observations from the event:

• The whole tournament is a production of sorts. Trailers, golf carts, TV towers, corporate tents, vendors are all erected on site. Miles of wires and communication cable is laid to connect the television cameras, on-course microphones, laser measuring devices, shot tracker cameras, top tracer cameras and computer terminals. All this data is collected and transferred to a master control trailer and relayed to various media outlets, the on-course commentators and to the multiple scoreboards around the course.The scoreboards will tell you who is on the hole, which shot the player is hitting, have far out they are, what percentage of the time they will hit the green, etc. Then, it will update the entire fields scores, tell you if someone is on a birdie run, the current FedEx standings, and then go back to where the golfers are on the green and the chances of holing that putt. Amazing information all in a split second.

• The Pro-Am is a time for the pros to relax, yet learn the course. I met Minnesota Vikings’ Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph along with Larry Fitzgerald. Great guys who interacted with the kids and signed autographs. During the Pro-Am, CBS commentators Nick Faldo and Frank Nobilo were cruising around the course taking notes and prepping for their broadcasts. True professionals.

• I was working the tee box during the Pro-Am when the caddie for Richy Werenski asked me for a favor. He had left a pop can at the tee box for Alex Cejka and asked that I let no one move it. Apparently, they have an inside joke, as Cejka asked me if the caddie had went into the trees to retrieve the can. I said, “Nah, he pulled it from his golf bag.”

• As Wednesday’s rounds were ending, a pro could be seen fishing in the pond near the 14th fairway. We watched as he pulled in a nice smallmouth bass and posed for pictures.

• During the first two days of the tournament, the pros are first trying to make the cut and second put themselves in contention to win. If, on the second day, they knew they would miss the cut they would hit some crazy shots. Such as Phil Mickelson pulling out the driver on a short par 4, hitting over the concession stand into the tall fescue. Followed by him blasting it out onto the green and putting for par. Then, sporting a big smile for the fans. After his round Phil had the kids all lined up for autographs.

• I met a guy from Winnipeg who is the coach of the Canadian Amateur Golf team and coaches two of the golfers from Canada. When I said I was from Minot he commented on the Minot State men’s hockey team winning the nationals to which I said the girls took second at nationals too. He also knew of the Minot Minotauros.

• The primary rough was about 7 inches deep and a ball would drop right to the bottom. One of the jobs of a marshal is to spot the balls that enter this rough. I had laid my pairing sheet to mark a ball, moved it when the pro and his caddie arrived and then after they had went out into the fairway to check yardage they couldn’t find it. They called me back into the rough to spot it for them. Now that’s some thick grass.

• On Saturday morning, a PGA official came out early to our hole to mark the hole placement for Sunday’s round. Placing a spray paint can on the green he rolled a ball at it from four directions, moved the can, repeat tossing the balls, stepped off distances and continuing doing this until he found the exact spot he wanted, then sprayed a dot on the green.

• As hole marshals we would rotate to different spots on the hole every third group through. The most intense spot is on the tee box where you stand to signal the direction of flight. Standing perfectly still, afraid you might sneeze, twitch or slip, while the pro is teeing off 4 feet from you. I was stationed at the box when Brooks Koepka hit an iron right down the middle and said, “now that’s a good shot.” Tony Finau, after splitting the middle, bowed to the crowd, smiled and waved as everyone cheered.

• I was working near the green on Sunday when Gary McCord came over in a cart to work in the tower for CBS. Mark Immelman, from the Golf Channel, came down from the tower and it was fun to listen to them give each other a hard time. I was able to visit with Immelman for a while as the crowd was backed up. Both are great guys.

• I was on stationed at the green when the final group of Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa were putting for birdies. Wolff just missed his while Morikawa made his to climb into a tie at 19-under. We were commenting that that was potentially a $400,000 putt.

• When the final pairing was putting on the 17th green, a huge roar went up when Bryson DeChambeau hit his second shot on the 18th to 6½ feet. Then after they had teed off and were in the fairway another roar as Bryson made his putt for an eagle and the lead. With the entire 18th fairway and all the sky boxes full of people looking on, both Wolff and Morikawa hit their shots over the water and onto the green to a big round of applause. I would estimate that there were 20,000 people on that final hole.

• After the tournament ended, I was stuck in a crowd waiting for the trophy presentation when someone yelled to look up. Directly above us was an eagle circling. Pretty appropriate for what just happened on the 18th green.