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Preparations for the Ryder Cup in Paris can’t start too early

Posted on May 08, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Alejandro Reyes is a Spaniard who moved to Golf National in Paris 15 months ago in early 2013, after 6 years working for Polaris World in Murcia, Spain.

“I am living in Paris now and it’s an amazing place. I love it.”

Alejandro’s French is, he says, better than his English, which sounds perfect, with a soft Spanish roll. He spoke no more than the most basic French before moving to Paris, “Working with the team, reading with the help of a dictionary, watching French TV, it is not difficult for a Spaniard to learn French.” This clearly demonstrates the kind of driven and determined man that Alejandro is.

 

The Ryder Cup is four years away so we wondered what extra preparations Alejandro might be preparing to make in the lead-up.

“Day one of the job I started to work for the Ryder Cup. The French Golf Federation hired me to prepare for it, and of course we have the French Open here every year too, so there’s always plenty going on.

We have 3 courses here and it is the centre course, Albatros where we play the French Open and the Ryder Cup in 2018.

At least four years before the event we have planned all the work that we are going to do to renovate Albatros. It will be closed after the French Open 2015 for some pretty major works. We are putting in new drainage, new irrigation, working on bunkers, edges and paths and re-levelling the tee platforms. The design won’t change so it will look the same, but the golf course structure will play differently, mostly in adverse weather conditions.

The Ryder cup is at the end of the summer so we need a really good irrigation system to be able to produce a top quality golf course if we get a long, dry summer. Equally Paris can be quite wet at the end of the summer, so a good drainage system is essential to keep the course in tip top condition.

We expect the work to be finished and the course re-opened two months before the 2016 French Open in May.

This is the first time France will host the biennial Europe v United States tournament and only the 2nd time it will be played in mainland Europe. We expect there to be anything between 70,000 and 80,000 spectators here each day throughout the Ryder Cup so we have a lot of work to do to the landscape, the car park and lake edges, plus we need to construct 30,000 sq m of platform in order to install all the stands.

The main playable areas already look fantastic and are in really good condition but we need to improve the overall look with some heavy manicuring during the renovation. We have to consider everything from the work I mentioned before to construction access, grey water, drinking water, fibre optics and power – hence the 4 years lead-in.”

 

You are clearly excited about the Ryder Cup. Is the time going quickly and do you feel under pressure?

“Oh my goodness yes. It’s already flying by. The best thing is that every day I wake up really excited to come to work and I know we are one day closer. I love to work with pressure. It keeps me motivated. I put the pressure on my team too and they respond really well. I am lucky to have such excellent support of 23 full-time greenkeepers across the three courses, of which 15 work on Albatros.

During the French open we will take on another 25 volunteers. We have many people interested and have had applications already from France, Switzerland, Spain, Holland, England and Scotland and they are all really good greenkeepers. For the Ryder Cup, well it’s a bit too soon but I think we will need around 80 people in total. I’d like to bring back the volunteers who have worked at any one of the past Open’s as they already know the place and how we like to work.

This is the first Ryder cup I have been involved with. It is something you do once in your career and I know that I am a very lucky man. I will be 35 in 2018 and it’s a huge pleasure for me to be doing such a prestigious tournament.

We have a lot of players, French pros and others coming from overseas to play here before the tournament and each of them expect to find Ryder Cup Golf Course standards and that is a huge challenge to the team. We try to present the very best possible conditions for everyone.

It was the first French course to be built to the TPC model, but also has a links course feel about it. It’s an amazing and challenging course, there’s a lot of water and it is difficult to play but it looks incredible.”

 

Keeping the equipment in tip top condition

“Bernhard have provided a tournament support technician to help with mower preparation for the Open de France Tournaments and will continue this support for the Ryder Cup, as well as loaning us grinders for the duration of the Tournament. I am very happy to have that support and I feel very safe when your team is here to work with us. For me it is like life insurance, peace of mind.

If the grinding and set up of cutting units goes well then everything goes well. Good mechanics are the key.”

 

What sort of life do you have outside your work?

“Outside my work I am sporty, I like to run, play tennis, I try to play some golf when I can, a little bit of lots of sports, and at the end of day I spend time getting to know Paris and its life and culture. It’s impossible to get bored here.

I love French food, almost more than Spanish. It’s healthy, good quality and probably the best food in world. Of course I miss my family and friends, oh and the sun.”

Alejandro grew up in Almeria, on the Andalucian coast so until the age of 22 he enjoyed the picturesque scene of the Mediterranean coast. He studied Agronomical Engineering at the University of Almeria, and moved to the UK to study at The Cranfield University gaining an MSc. “My Masters contained a high level of theoretical subjects, with a focus on all the natural and artificial sports surfaces used for tennis, golf, rugby, so an excellent grounding.”

 

Notes:

As well as the 18-hole courses, Albatros and Aigle (Eagle), the Paris National also has a 9-hole course called L’Oiselet (Baby Bird). Aigle is very different from Albatros, having more of a pure link style, with smaller tees and easier access to the greens.