Adult fantasy camps run the gamut of genres. There are space camps, theater camps and baseball camps. There’s even a zombie survival camp where you can learn how to throw a knife effectively, use a crossbow, practice first aid, and use Zombitsu to defeat evil. Don’t ask me what Zombitsu is. If that’s your thing, they’ve got it for you.

My thing is everything related to golf course management and turf. Everyone who knows me knows how enthusiastic and dedicated I am to perfecting my craft and developing my agronomic skills.

That’s why I decided the next logical step in my career as a turf manager was to volunteer at a PGA Tour event. I was fortunate enough to be selected to volunteer at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play 2022 at the Austin (Texas) Country Club.

When you arrive at a fantasy camp, I have to assume you’re in awe of what’s to come. My experience at Austin Country Club was no different. Championship-level golf is completely different from setting up your everyday golf course. Superintendent Bobby Stringer and his crew had Austin Country Club at a level of perfection I have never experienced. To say I was in awe would be an understatement.

There was no Zombitsu played in my fantasy camp. The days were filled with cleaning the greens and tee boxes, blowing the leaves and hand watering the greens and fairways. It might not sound fun to everyone, but I loved every minute of it. Working alongside a well-oiled machine, like that of the Agronomy Department at the Austin Country Club, was a privilege and an honor.

I could have carried out these works and been completely satisfied. But I had the opportunity to “get on the ropes” on several occasions. I like to think that in any situation, the more you apply yourself, the more you will get out of it. I try to live this philosophy every day, and it always seems to pay off. This time it paid off in spades.

I participated in the PGA Tour Competition Agronomy data collection team led by Thomas Basti. We took measurements twice a day, looking at firmness, moisture levels, and Stimpmeter readings. These metrics are used to keep the greens consistent and at tournament quality. Having the ability to ask questions and witness how the data is collected for these events had a profound and instant effect on my turf philosophy.

I also had the opportunity to help prepare the cups for final pairing. What a thrill it was to know that the winner of this week’s tournament, who happened to be the eventual Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, would put in a cup that I help to put. I was also asked to help keep the greens clear of the live oak leaves that fall in Texas this time of year.

One day another volunteer and I were stationed inside the ropes directly behind the 18th green. Depending on a player’s approach shot, we were sometimes a few yards away from the action. We were asked to blow the leaves of the green between the groups. Have you ever been cheered for blowing leaves? I have. It still gives me goose bumps thinking about it.

Your experience is only as good as that of those around you, and the Austin Country Club agronomy team provided a top-notch atmosphere for learning and growth. Everyone went out of their way to be friendly, and I could see and feel a real sense of family amongst the crew. To say that I was impressed not only by the course but also by the staff and their willingness to go the extra mile would be an understatement.

If you are a turfhead, this fantastic camp has exactly what you are looking for. The relationships and connections made in a short time were the best part of the experience. I connected with turf professionals on an unprecedented level. I collaborated with them in the heat of the moment. There is no better learning experience.

The ties go well beyond professional life. I met several people on a personal level. That’s what it’s about. First and foremost, we are in the business of people. Having these relationships to talk to, not just about territory, but about things outside of territory, is really a game-changer for me.

I’ve had a lot of “firsts” this year. I published my first article, attended the first Green Start Academy held at Pinehurst Resort, got my first dog, and volunteered at my first PGA Tour event. Turning fantasy into reality… that’s the dream. I live it every day.

Chad Allen is assistant superintendent at the Chatham Hills Club in Westfield, Indiana, and a frequent contributor to the golf course industry.