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Birdie’s-Eye View

Benjamin Peeler handwaters the 18th green at Pinehurst No. 2

When Benjamin Peeler watches the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 — in between the bustle of interning at one of the nation’s premier golf courses — he’ll connect his work on the grounds crew to tournament play June 13-16. 

Peeler, a student at NC State University’s Agricultural Institute, will give a knowing glance when players struggle to hit out of the rough. He helped plant some of the 50,000 native wiregrass plants added to toughen up the course for the pros. 

Those domed greens that penalize an errant putt? He was on one of the mowing crews that kept them in pristine condition, starting work at 6 a.m. daily over spring break and this summer.

As players approach the 18th hole, Peeler will glance at the green and surrounding collar he hand watered, to see how the course is holding up near the clubhouse and the statue commemorating Payne Stewart’s 1999 U.S. Open victory at No. 2. 

wiregrass with golfers in background
Benjamin Peeler, a student at NC State University’s Agricultural Institute, helped plant 50,000 wiregrass plants recently at Pinehurst No. 2.
Golfers on Pinehurst No. 2 with wiregrass in the foreground
Native plants like wiregrass add to Pinehurst No. 2’s distinctive beauty and make the course more challenging.

From Baseball to the Business of Golf

The Pinehurst internship is a heady experience at 20, particularly for a golf lover and athlete. 

Last fall, Peeler enrolled at AGI as an agribusiness management major. He’s a  lifelong fan of the Wolfpack, a passion he shares with his dad Tim, a longtime sports and university news writer. 

“I knew State had a great ag program, so I wanted to come here to do ag, but I also wanted to play baseball in college,” Benjamin Peeler explains. “I took a different route and played one year at a different college, but I didn’t enjoy that as much, so I came to State in the two-year program to do ag business, and I’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

Last fall he was able to land a job at NC State’s Lonnie Poole Golf Course, the only collegiate course designed by Arnold Palmer and his company. Peeler was excited to try a different kind of landscape work after being on a pruning crew over the summer. Working at Poole helped pave the way for the internship at Pinehurst, which was selected as the first anchor course for the U.S. Open. 

“It’s surprised me to be here,” Peeler says, noting that a round of golf at No. 2 costs around $400. “I felt underqualified, just because of my age and having less experience, but I get out there and I do the work.

“It definitely helps to just know that if I’m trusted around such a historic and classy place, then I can do anything else that I’m asked to.”

Benjamin Peeler works on a road at Pinehurst No. 2 golf course
Benjamin Peeler is learning about all aspects of preparing a course for the U.S. Open as part of his internship at Pinehurst No. 2.

Experience-Based Learning

The internship and AGI program fit the way Peeler likes to learn — outdoors and hands-on — as well as his future plans.  

“I came in expecting to do landscape work, trying to start my own business, and I thought ag business would be the best to help me with that path,” says Peeler, who consulted academic advisor Jonathan Phillips. “I figured that I should start off with the business, and then the plants you learn more about when you’re working with them, and it’s easier to pick up outside than in a classroom.”

Next year, Peeler plans to complete his ag business coursework and begin classes in horticultural science management, one of six majors offered through AGI.  

During the U.S. Open, Peeler will carry on a family tradition while learning about all aspects of the event. 

“My dad has worked at Pinehurst U.S. Opens as a sports writer. My mom worked in hospitality at one of the U.S. Opens and then my grandpa was an usher for the U.S. Open in Georgia one year.”

He sees one advantage to working behind the scenes of a major. 

“You don’t have any of the stress of hitting your golf ball out of bounds.”

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.