Muirfield greenkeeper Muir set for island life

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GREENKEEPER Dean Muir is swapping Muirfield, where he was involved in preparing the course for two Opens, for Machrie on the island of Islay.

Originally from Dunbar, where he shot a course-record 62 eight years ago, but now living in Bonnyrigg, Muir is excited about his switch from one side of the country to the other.

He has worked at Muirfield for 17 years, the last nine of which have been as deputy course manager to Colin Irvine, but it was time to become his own man as a head greenkeeper.

Though it might not involve the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy testing out his fairways and greens, Muir is relishing the chance to play a part in breathing new life into historic Machrie.

Its new owners, the multi-millionaire and past BBC chairman Gavyn Davies and his wife Baroness Nye, have exciting plans for the iconic venue.

They have engaged East Lothian-based DJ Russell, who designed both courses at Archerfield Links, to make changes to the course and, as from Monday week, Muir will be tasked with its upkeep and conditioning.

“It is something different to what I’m doing just now so I am looking forward to it,” he said. “DJ Russell is involved in making some subtle changes to the course to bring it into the 21st century.

“I appreciate there is a lot of history at Machrie but it is needing updated and it’s going to be a very exciting project to be involved in.

“I’ve been at Muirfield for 17 years, the last nine as deputy course manager, but it is time to move on.

“To be honest, there’s not a lot of jobs that come up that have really interested me, but this is one that certainly whetted my appetite.

“I’ve had a couple of opportunities in the past but, for one reason or another, didn’t feel they were right. It might have been location, family reasons or whatever, but this one certainly ticks all the boxes.

“It will be a different way of life living on an island but I’m looking forward to that as well.

“The owners have some very exciting plans for the course while they are also refurbishing the hotel and adding more facilities.

“They are hoping to make it a prestigious Scottish links venue that offers the complete package to visitors.”

Muir was relatively new at Muirfield when Ernie Els claimed the Claret Jug in 2002 before finding himself in the front line when Mickelson won his Open there just over a year ago.

“I was involved in two Opens at Muirfield and that was fantastic,” he admitted. “Last year in particular was a great experience as deputy as I had a lot of responsibility.

“It was amazing how busy Colin was doing other things in the build-up to the event, so it was great having the responsibility to set up the course and get it ready for The Open.”

Muir, who is being joined on Islay by his partner, Susan, and her son, shot his course record at Dunbar despite going out of bounds at the par-3 16th.

“I don’t play competitively these days,” he said. “I’m not a member of a club any more and just play socially now and again in the summer months.

“I probably will join the golf club over on Islay and hopefully play a bit more there.

“I start on August 11 and exciting times definitely lie ahead.”