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Issue link: http://gcmdigital.gcsaa.org/i/706647
08.16 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 39 Right-hand gal Sofía Urrets Zavalia wasted no time winning over Neil Cleverly. She is the superintendent's go-to crew member as they prepare the Olympic Golf Course for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He'll tell you so. "She is excellent. I use her as a teaching tool, really, for the others to watch her and follow what she does. She's been everything I needed as an assistant, spray tech — everything all rolled up into one," Cleverly says. Zavalia, an Argentinian, has been paying close attention to everything Cleverly says and does. "I have learned from him his dedication on main- taining the course in a professional way, in which every detail counts," says Zavalia, 28. "This is a challenging and demanding job, but unbeliev- ably rewarding. At the end of the day, it is ex- tremely satisfying to drive on the golf course and just be delighted with what you see." Before she arrived in Rio, Zavalia gained experience in the U.S., working for GCSAA Class A superintendent Jeff Johnson at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. Johnson is as emphatic about his feelings for Zavalia as Cleverly is. "We loved her. She was fantastic," Johnson says. "She's tiny — probably 4 foot 10 — but she works likes she's 6 feet. For her to drag a 100-foot hose with 110 psi pressure ... It was pretty strong coming out of that hose, but she never complained. When she aerified, the handle came up to her chest, but she ran it with ease. She is the best thing he's (Cleverly) got going." Olympic Golf Course architect Gil Hanse told Johnson that anywhere Zavalia wants to work, he'd write her a recommendation. There's no doubt Cleverly would too. "She's just one of a few you come across over a period of time," he says. — H.R. Superintendent Neil Cleverly says some parts of the Olympic Golf Course resemble naturalized areas of Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina. A 17-year GCSAA member, Cleverly has overseen golf course construction worldwide, including in Egypt and the Dominican Republic.