RBC Heritage

Interns getting big-time experience this week at Harbour Town

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comApril 16, 2014 

Jose Lobao, 33, of Portugal, an intern with Harbour Town Golf Links, affiliated with The Ohio Program, an International Exchange Program of The Ohio State University, reacts after almost chipping the golf ball in to a garbage can while killing time with fellow interns in the maintenance garage at Harbour Town Golf Links on April 15, 2014.

THEOPHIL SYSLO — Staff photo Buy Photo

Jose Lobao speaks with his wife and 4-year-old son whenever he can, often on Skype, the online video service.

This week has been hard. He is working 18-hour days.

Lobao is 33-years-old and a turf intern at Harbour Town Golf Links through the Ohio Program, an international exchange program through Ohio State University. Eleven program interns -- from the likes of England, Scotland, South Africa, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Portugal -- are working under Harbour Town superintendent Jonathan Wright this week.

The program can last 12 to 18 months. Lobao started last June. Two more months of calls home to his family in Portugal.

"That part has been pretty tough, I must admit," Lobao said. "I discussed this with my wife when I came. We both agreed this would be a very good opportunity."

Lobao studied agronomy in a five-year program in Lisbon, Portugal, and worked three years on a golf course before being referred to the Ohio Program. He sent his resume to program director Michael O'Keeffe and was placed at Harbour Town.

Some of the interns work at Sea Pines' nearby Ocean and Heron Point courses. All are together this week to prepare the course for the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing.

In addition to the interns, there is an influx of volunteers from area courses. Lobao is suddenly a veteran.

"It's a lot of pressure, but also it's a really nice feeling to see the whole team working together," he said.

The interns spent some coveted downtime during Tuesday's rain napping or chipping golf balls from artificial turf mats.

They learn all aspects of managing the golf course's grass, including course set-up, mowing, fertilizing and irrigation. Harbour Town grows warm-season grasses most of the year but overseeds with cool-season grasses during the fall and winter.

"They get the best of both worlds," Wright said. "It opens some doors for them, I believe."

Lobao hopes to work as a superintendent in a Portuguese-speaking area when he finishes the program, either in his native Portugal or somewhere he sees golf is growing -- like Brazil or parts of India and China.

Interns come from varying backgrounds. There are two women in the program, one from Czech Republic and the other from Slovenia.

A student from South Africa was able to join the program through donations from his town.

"This is such a great area as far as the different things the town offers, with all the different festivals we have in the spring and the fall and different cultural experiences they might gain as well," Wright said. "Kind of like the American way of life."

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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