The Learning Experience of a Lifetime--University of Tennessee turfgrass intern Ryan Hammitt with Wimbledon deputy head groundsman Grant Cantin.
Stellar Hands-on Learning for Our Students-- UT Turfgrass Student a Part of Wimbledon History

As competitors hit the last serves in the 2016 Wimbledon Championships, Ryan Hammitt, a sophomore and honors student in the University of Tennessee College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, served himself some strawberries and cream. The turfgrass science and management major gazed over Centre Court watching the mixed doubles match and marveled at being a part of tennis history.

“I’ve been here three months preparing the courts for play and finally getting to see them in action is just incredible,” Ryan said. “These grass courts receive more amount of play than any other tournament in the entire world and the practical knowledge I’ve received here is just invaluable."

Ryan has been in London working as a temporary member of the Wimbledon grounds staff learning how the forty-one courts that make up Wimbledon are produced and maintained. The crew is responsible for getting these famed courts ready for the prestigious tournament. In addition, the crew must be on standby at all times to cover Centre Court in the event of rain, which marked the first week of the tournament and kept the crew very busy.

“I work with a team of thirty grounds staff, and I’m the only American so it’s been nice to represent America, but also Knoxville and the University of Tennessee,” Ryan said.

While it is the star of the show, Centre Court was not the only venue to see action. The additional championship courts, one through nineteen, hosted many matches each day to keep the tournament on schedule. Ryan had specific responsibility for mowing courts seven and eleven where the turf must be kept at an 8mm height for play.

This year’s tournament was made even more special, as the men’s champion, British-born Andy Murray, ultimately won the title. Murray took time the day after to visit with the staff and show appreciation for the work they do. Ryan was also invited to stand on Centre Court with other temporary grounds staff members as Serena Williams received her trophy and claimed her 22nd record-tying Grand Slam event.

“This entire experience has been surreal,” said Ryan. “To meet players in person whom I’ve only seen on television has been simply amazing."

Ryan will be at Wimbledon for another three months as the team now works on renovating the championship courts post-tournament. This will include removing all existing turf and reestablishing the courts. Ryan is the son of Norman and Lisa Stearns Hammitt of Knoxville. Lisa is vice chancellor of marketing and communications at UTIA.

Ryan is just one of three students in the turfgrass science and management program interning in Europe this summer. John Thomas is working at Tottenham Hotspur Football Training Centre in London. Sam Douglas is with the golf course at the Finca Cortesin resort in Spain. Their summer experiences are just a few examples of the stellar internships our turfgrass students have access to across the United States and world, which is a hallmark of the UT program.