Located on Moray Firth in Scotland, we are taking a look at an IGFH experience between international greenkeeper Yon Yoeun (pictured left) and hiring manager James Swanson (pictured right), and their time together at Cullen Links. Our Danish friends at Roskilde Technical VET College reached out looking for work experience for one of their Greenkeeping Students, so we put Yon in contact with James at Cullen Links.
James describes Cullen Links as, “Original 9 holes designed by Old Tom Morris and extended to 18 holes by local architect Charlie Neaves. The same turf and soil of the classic links courses of Northeast Scotland. One of only 246 true links golf courses in the world. Cullen has the status as the shortest of all these. Nothing short about the holes themselves. A course that has more par threes than fours but every hole the challenge and quality of the nearby championship links. Three hours of golfing history complemented by stunning views of the Moray Firth.”
James has been Head Greenkeeper at Cullen for 3 years and has been introducing modernization of the greenkeeping philosophies carried out on the property and breathing new life into the links. Moving forward with a comprehensive 7-year plan, part of his process has been to engage with greenkeepers who love and care for their place of work.
While building his team and surrounding himself with positive employees, one morning while cutting greens, James found himself watching the sun rise bringing new light and opportunity to the day. “I took the opportunity to stop to get a photo of the sunrise and I had a notification on my phone from IGFH, and they were looking for a club who would be interested in taking a student from Denmark for a month.”
James jumped at the chance to be a host club of an international greenkeeper and was proud to give a fellow greenkeeper the chance to build their career working out of their home country. The student and school worked to iron out the details, and the rest as they say, is history for a new international greenkeeper who James remembers by saying, “Wow, what an exceptional young man who will go very far in our fantastic industry.” That IGFH international greenkeeper is Denmark’s Yon Yoeun.
When asked what made him take the leap to travel abroad and work in Scotland, Yon says, “I´ve always been fond of travelling around the world, I mean who isn’t! And what could be more perfect than having your dream job overseas?” Yon describes his time with James Swanson saying, “I had the best time in Cullen links golf course with James. He was literally the best boss and afterwards as good a friend as you can wish for. He is a fantastic instructor and at the same time, trusting of me to do all the different assignments and allowed me to be independent. We had great mutual understanding.”
Travelling came easily to Yon, and he did not find too many hurdles along the way to Scotland for his experience. He wants to inspire others to take the leap as well to embrace the opportunity to travel and experience greenkeeping abroad. Yon’s advice to prospective international greenkeepers is, “Go explore the world, and meet other exciting peoples, and see if it really is true that the grass is always greener on the other side.”
Head Greenkeeper James Swanson says of hiring an international greenkeeper, “For anyone else interested in taking an international student, do not hesitate. It’s a brilliant opportunity for both parties to learn so much in how we all work for the same goals. I would certainly put Cullen Links forward to do this again at any time.” He goes on to advise potential travelling International Greenkeepers, “If you are a student and are reading this, get in contact with the person you will be with for the time of your employment as soon as possible and as much as you can. This helps to start to build the relationship and makes it all the much easier for both parties, and most of all, enjoy and learn as much as you can. Never be afraid to ask questions, as it will make you a better greenkeeper, as we all learn from each other all the time.”
James is very happy to have had the opportunity to meet with, and work with, Yon. He is thankful for making such a fantastic friendship and is excited for Yon’s future. Yon hopes to continue to work on different golf courses around the world, and wants to find his next international greenkeeping experience in Hawaii.
Yon produced a video about his experience in Scotland, click here to watch!
Best of luck to you Yon!
Kyle Cwynar – IGFH