Early morning green

Pamela Crimbchin

It’s not a normal campus job, but someone has to cut the Ryegrass

Megan Billy, sophomore fine arts major, takes a break from her maintenance work at the Kent State Golf Course on Sept. 6. Billy wakes up at 4:45 a.m. to cut the grass at the course. “The initial wake up is horrible, but once I’m here and walking around, i

Credit: DKS Editors

While many Kent State students are out at parties on Friday night, the Kent State Golf Course maintenance crew is home, awaiting a 4:45 a.m. alarm to cut the grass.

Sepember 6 was day 12 of a 12-day work marathon for Megan Billy, sophomore fine arts major.

Billy is exhausted, but once the smell of freshly cut grass reaches her nostrils, she will be wide awake.

“The initial wake up is horrible, but once I’m here and walking around, it’s not bad,” Billy said.

It’s a particularly dark Saturday morning, with rain clouds and cool weather reminding Billy how lucky she’s been to see the sun rise the past few days.

“It’s all misty and sunny,” Billy said. “And the sun rises in the back so it’s all like pretty. I have pictures of it on my phone, but they are understatements.”

Assistant supervisor Jim Molnar said the Kent State Golf Course has 12 students working on groundskeeping in the summer and about eight in the fall.

Rachel Miller, sophomore psychology major, started working at the golf course this summer and enjoys it.

“It’s a really laid-back atmosphere,” Miller said. “It runs really great, so it’s a nice place to work.”

Billy loads her golf cart with a much-needed bottle of water, iPod, headphones and a sweatshirt, not even glancing at the giant yellow ponchos hanging on the wall. She then hooks her golf cart to the wooden cart that will hold her orange Toro Walk Behind Greens mower. A small smile, a rev of the engine and she’s off.

The golf cart zips along the roadway, around sand dunes, ponds and large bumps. The cart is one of the most entertaining parts of the job.

The golf course is empty now, but not for long. Golfers start to arrive at 7:40 a.m.

“You’re supposed to fly through these,” Billy said pointing at a green. “The golfers get here and like chase you. You will still be cutting and they just stand there and watch you, waiting to start.”

She looks at the directions on a small piece of paper. One wouldn’t think people needed directions to cut grass, but on a golf course, cutting grass is an art form.

Todd Schelat, who also works at the course, said there are many different types of grass on a golf course. Today, Billy is mowing Paragon Perennial Ryegrass, which is planted on the greens.

The engine starts and Billy takes off. She goes a couple feet and suddenly the engine stops.

“Ah crap,” she said.

Billy restarts the lawn mower and is off again. The mower is self-propelled, meaning Billy has to walk behind it and direct it, but not actually push it. She has to make sure she doesn’t touch any of the other grasses and that she makes perfectly straight lines.

“The hardest part of mowing grass is keeping the lines straight,” Molnar said.

Billy walks swiftly from one end to the other, leans on the mower to tilt the blade off the ground and spins around as fast as she possibly can, trying to land perfectly beside her last cut.

She continues for over an hour, back and forth, lifting and placing. All the while the rain falls steadily as the sun starts to make its presence known.

She cuts the edge, biting her lip as she tries to cut only the Paragon Perennial Ryegrass and stops. Billy empties the contents of the mower in a place where guests won’t see it and comes back to the cart.

Taking off her sweatshirt and panting slightly, Billy explained she is used to the rain.

“We work through all weather,” she said. “We work until we can’t get to the course, like when it snows. So it could be November or even December before we stop.”

The day moves on and Billy mows two more greens. She uses the same technique, but this time she dances slightly with her mowing. With her headphones on, she is in a different zone.

Once all the greens are done, Billy takes a moment to rest and show some battle scars. She wears gloves while she works but still has large blisters.

“It’s exhausting, like the first two days I couldn’t move,” Billy said.

Billy returns to the garage, hoses off the mower and cart and parks inside. She enters the lounge area where her three co-workers are sitting. It’s a little after 10 a.m. and they all look pleadingly at Molnar.

He pauses and said, “Yeah, we’re done, let’s get out of here.”

There is a dash to find car keys and they are gone before Molnar has the chance to change his mind.

Billy gets into her silver Honda Civic, chooses her favorite driving tune and drives away. When she returns to her apartment she changes into dry clothing. Falling onto her Mickey Mouse comforter, she picks up her alarm clock and sets it for noon.

Billy has been to work and back before most students are awake, but she doesn’t mind.

“It’s better than being indoors,” Billy said. “And hey, now I don’t have to go to the Rec.”

Contact features correspondent Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected].