Officially, the 27 male and three female summer interns still in college or fairly recently graduated are called Ryder Cup operations assistants. Temporary painters, planters and weed-whackers, they are the PGA of America equivalent of carpentry’s finishers, the ones who put some final touches on a biennial production coming to Hazeltine National Golf Club next week.
But you can just call them what others do: Swampers.
It’s a name that’s printed above a door in their Hazeltine compound, but missing from T-shirts that they wear.
“Ours don’t say that, but they should,” recent Indiana University graduate Morgan Boone said as she painted a platform upon which fans soon will enter the grounds in droves. “My skills probably weren’t this good when I got here in June, but I’ve really stepped up my painting game.”
Ryder Cup championship director Jeff Hintz is not sure where the name “Swamper” came from, other than it was there when he was one, 15 years ago at the 2001 PGA Championship in Atlanta. It was an entry-level position he hoped would lead to bigger things.
“You put in the hours, work your tail off and you never know what can happen,” he said. “It was probably the best summer of my life because of the camaraderie.”
Young people from Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma and all over Minnesota and Wisconsin have come to Chaska for four months to live six in an apartment and work for minimum wage, doing such tasks as planting 14 semis full of flowers now on the way to Hazeltine.
Missouri Baptist grad Matt O’Keefe is a swamper who clears brush. He also has wrapped fences with red windscreen, the color of the American home team. He truly swamps when he helps pump out fields after one of the many rainstorms this summer.
“It’s a verb, it’s a noun, it’s whatever you want it to be,” he said about Swampers and swamping. “When it rains hard, that’s when the nickname really is earned.”