July 25, 2018 Article from GOBLUERAIDERS.COM

Unique internship provides lasting memories for Long

Blue Raider senior went inside the ropes at the U.S. Open

photo of Hanley LongMURFREESBORO - Golf fans were treated to a marvelous U.S. Open Championship in June, as the world's best golfers were tested in ways rarely seen on the PGA Tour.

As winner Brooks Koepka, runner-up Tommy Fleetwood and golf's other best players circled Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Long Island, New York, what viewers didn't see on television were workers making sure the tournament ran smoothly.

One of those workers was Middle Tennessee rising senior golfer Hanley Long.

Long, a Clarksville native and three-time All-Conference USA honoree, had an opportunity of a lifetime for a golfer. As an operations management intern, she was part of the behind-the-scenes team at the U.S. Open, working tediously before, during and after the tournament to make sure guests and golfers alike were accommodated and the course pristine.

Best of all: It was a paid internship.

Leading up to the tournament, Long and her team worked for over a month to get the course ready for America's national championship.

They had to do anything and everything to make the grounds that much more accommodating, down to finding a way to make the port-a-potty doors close quieter, so as to limit noise for golfers.

"There were a lot of tedious things you wouldn't think of," Long said. "Every morning we had to be up by 7, sometimes 6 a.m., and be at the golf course. We did a lot of the hands-on labor … basically in a golf tournament, everything the spectators and fans deal with that you don't see on TV, that's what we did.

"I really didn't realize how much went into a U.S. Open. It's quite a production."

The interns stayed at Stony Brook College but basically lived at the course, spending upwards of 125 hours working per week leading up to the tournament.

But, when the golfers finally hit the course, it was time to sit back and be a fan, and Long and her coworkers were granted with a moment few fans ever get.

"The week of the Open, it was basically nap and golf-watching time," she said. "On Sunday, we got to go inside the ropes, so when Brooks Koepka was finishing up, we got to be inside the ropes and got to drop off the flowers for the ceremony.

"To be on the 18th green at the end of the U.S. Open, as a golfer, was an unbelievable experience. That made all the work worth it."

Long now has memories she'll remember for a lifetime. It was the first time she'd ever attended a major, and she was granted with a great finish that saw Koepka hoist his second U.S. Open trophy in a row.

She also got a chance to practice her team-bonding and leadership skills, which she hopes carries into her senior season.

"There were a lot of problems that we had to come up with solutions for on the fly," she said. "We were only with these people for a few weeks, so we had to become a team and get to know them quickly."

Like the unforgettable internship Long had this summer, she's hoping her senior year will be equally memorable. She and her senior teammates, Jenna Burris and graduate transfer Kailey Collier, have already given the season a name.

"We're calling it the 'Super Senior Year,'" Long said. "We're super ready for the season … it will be emotional, but I think our emotions will drive us."

Before their Super Senior Year begins, Long and Burris will take part in the Tennessee Women's Open Golf Championship from July 26-28 at Stonehenge Golf Course in Crossville.

As Long circles the course, she'll do so with a better appreciation for those working to make the tournament run smoothly. If she learned anything during her U.S. Open experience, it's that the work is hard, yet rewarding in the end.

"I think it makes you appreciate when you're playing that you're not the one having to do everything to make the tournament happen," she said. "I learned I don't want to work in operations … but to see all of our hard work come full circle in the end, that was a gratifying experience."

Josh Vardaman is the staff writer for goblueraiders.com. Follow him on Twitter @J_Vardaman and also follow @MTAthletics for more on the Blue Raiders.