IAA Alumni Prep for PGA Tournament

April 25, 2022 Heather McHale

In a few short weeks, the best golfers in the world—watched by thousands of spectators—will play in the Wells Fargo Championship (May 5-8, 2022) at the TPC Potomac golf course in Potomac, Maryland. IAA alumni Marvin Martinez (2015) and Tad Dinan (2017), both assistant superintendents at TPC Potomac, are hard at work getting ready. 

“This tournament is a pretty big deal,” says Dinan, gesturing to the structures and tents that are already set up along the eighteenth green, ready to hold spectators and concessions on the big weekend. “The TV cages have been going up for the last couple of weeks.” A field of 156 golfers are slated to compete for their share of a $9 million purse.

TPC Potomac buzzes with energetic preparations for the big event. Getting ready to host a PGA tournament does place some demands on the club’s members, say Dinan and Martinez. Rounds are limited and no guests are allowed to play; golf carts have to stay on paved pathways at all times. “That can be tough for the members,” says Dinan. Martinez agrees—he says he’s grateful for their support and cooperation. 

Martinez and Dinan report that the weather, always iffy this early in the year, is the wild card in preparing the course. “We were watching it pretty closely up to a week ago!” says Martinez. “It’s really only this past week that we started getting weather warm enough to get the grass awake and growing.” The prospects look good now, though, as warmer weather has finally arrived. 

Ordinarily, Martinez and Dinan’s daily routine revolves around maintaining the course for the club’s members and guests. When asked what he does on an average day on the job, Dinan laughs. “Oh, everything,” he says. “Might be replacing cups, planning for mowing or spraying.” Between the regular business of keeping the course in top shape and troubleshooting any problems that arise, no two days are the same for a golf course assistant superintendent.

Martinez says that his IAA courses gave him essential leadership skills. For example, his Oral Communication course, taught by Glori Hyman, prepared him for the communication tasks he undertakes in his job. “I was very timid about speaking in front of people when I started that class,” he reflects. “Now I’m comfortable addressing anybody, even if it’s a hundred people. I speak to groups every single day—Glori’s class is one of the reasons I’m able to run my morning meetings the way that I do.” He plans out the next day’s tasks every day so that his crew of 26 can hit the ground running in the morning.

Martinez stumbled into the world of golf by accident. After he graduated high school, he took a summer job at Congressional Country Club—just because his uncle worked there. “I had never even played golf!” he says. “I had no idea what the game was about.” Looking back on that summer, he marvels at his own luck. “That was a top-50 golf course,” he says. “It was competitive, getting a job there. But I didn’t even know that at the time!” 

While he started out mowing greens, Martinez also started working PGA tours. He remembers the second PGA tour he worked on, as part of the setup crew. “That’s the summer I fell in love with golf,” he says. “And I saw this little flyer stuck to the fridge in the break room. It said ‘Start your career with the IAA!’ I kept seeing it every day. And I was around interns all the time, and Kevin Mathias was here a lot, just talking to me all the time. One day I asked my supervisor about that flyer, and he said, ‘Yeah! You can go to the University of Maryland and study turfgrass!’” Martinez laughs. “I said, ‘What? You can study grass?’” He came to an IAA open house, and then he knew, he says, that the IAA was the right place for him. 

When he looks back on the time he spent at the IAA, Martinez reflects on the relationships he formed with his classmates, both in his classes and through competing in the Turf Bowl. He also remembers admitting to the rest of his cohort that he had never actually played golf. “They couldn’t believe it,” he says, laughing. They started playing three days a week, and Martinez learned to play the game he already loved. “It was like destiny for me,” he says. “I can never thank Doc, Ken, Glori, and the IAA enough for setting me up for success.”

Dinan, who interned at two different clubs before becoming an assistant superintendent at Overbrook Golf Club in Villanova, PA, says that he learned a lot from each of his work experiences. He started his current job at TPC Potomac in January 2020. “I had two normal months,” he says ruefully, “and then the pandemic hit.” Things are largely back to normal at the club, though, as evidenced by the upcoming public event. Dinan says that he is using the budgeting skills and knowledge of chemicals he gained at the IAA. 

In addition to maintaining the golf course itself, says Dinan, the staff at TPC Potomac care for the club’s grounds. The championship golf course winds through wetlands and wooded terrain. TPC Potomac is an Audubon-certified course, which means that the club protects valuable natural spaces and wildlife habitats, as well as following best practices for minimizing the possible environmental impacts of golf course operations. Dinan points out the native grasses planted next to the course. He values the natural beauty at the club; spectators at the tournament will be treated to gorgeous views of the rolling terrain and the surrounding springtime woods.

Want to see the results of all of their hard work? Tickets are still on sale to attend the tournament in person, or you can watch it on CBS and the GOLF channel.

Sunrise at the TPC Potomac
Sunrise over TPC Potomac by Tad Dinan.