Last year, Stacie Zinn Roberts with Golfdom magazine interviewed Neil Cleverly, the golf course superintendent growing in the Zeon Zoysia on the golf course under construction for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. In the interview, Cleverly updates listeners on the course’s construction, which grasses were selected for the various playing surfaces and how it feels to be superintendent for what will undoubtedly become one of the most famous golf courses in the world.
To watch the interview, click here.
Below is a transcript of the interview.
Stacie — Hi, I’m Stacie Zinn Roberts, and I’m here with Neil Cleverly, and he is the golf course superintendent at Rio, [the site of] the Olympics 2016. Hi, Neil. Thank you so much for being here. So, part of the grass selection for the golf course that’s being built for the Olympics in Rio was about sustainability, isn’t that true?
Neil — I think the entire golfing world right now is running this flag of sustainability, so it’s not just unique to Brazil, even though Brazil has a history with the Amazon jungle and the raping of that jungle, that particular area of the world. But generally, yeah, it’s built on the premise of sustainability, or a sustainable golf course or a sustainable project, based on the adaptation of certain products that are available in Brazil.
Stacie — Tell me about the grasses that were chosen. They are all warm-season, you have…
Neil — We have SeaDwarf seashore paspalum on the greens and Zoysia Zeon on fairways and tees.
Stacie — Zeon Zoysia on fairways and tees, and SeaDwarf seashore paspalum on the greens. So where are you now in construction of the golf course?
Neil — We have 17 holes constructed now. We are currently constructing number 13; the issue we have right now is with the preservation of mature trees. The vegetation in that area was always going to be problematic, but we are dealing with it, and we are moving many, many trees to on-site areas that will save both particular specimens.
Stacie — What does it mean to you to build what may be the most famous golf course in the world? It’s the first time that golf has been in the Olympics in 100 years.
Neil — Well, obviously, it’s a privilege for me to be in the position that I am. Is it any different from building another golf course and growing in the grass? Absolutely not. Grass is grass, soil is soil. At the end of the day, the aura of the Olympics rings, the length of time that golf has been out of the Olympic games, is obviously unique. I probably have the most unique business card in golf right now, and I’m happy about that.
Stacie — The grass itself is being grown in Brazil.
Neil — The grass is currently being grown in Brazil at various different locations, just outside of Rio, for us to harvest and to sprig or sod, depending on how further down the road we go, ready for growing in.
Stacie — And it’s coming from, I believe, Green Grass Sod Farm?
Neil — Yes, it is Green Grass Sod Farm, and Marcelo [Matte] is the proprietor of that particular company, and he is a very well-informed man.
Stacie — Neil, working on this project is quite a legacy, and I am so thrilled that you took the time today. Thank you very much.