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The ruff life: How Millie the maintenance dog helps keep TPC Southwind spotless for the FedEx St. Jude Championship

The nine-year-old border collie works alongside the TPC Southwind maintenance crew, the unsung heroes of tournament week in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — By the time the sun rises over TPC Southwind, the maintenance crew has already been hard at work for hours.

"The alarm clock goes off at 3:45 a.m. this week," said course superintendent Nick Bisanz.

Crews from all over the Mid-South form a small army of mowers, rollers and blowers so the course shines on its biggest week of the year.

"They're coming here in the morning," Bisanz said. "They're going to work at their golf course, then they're coming back here in the afternoon. Everybody chips in."

That includes Millie, Bisanz's nine-year-old border collie.

"I got her at 9 weeks and she spent her first day with me on the golf course," he said with a smile. "Just goes to work with me everyday. She puts me at ease."

While talking to Bisanz just off of the No. 17 tee box, Millie chews on pinecones, occasionally dropping them at our feet in hopes of playing fetch. Before teeing off for a practice round, Scottish golfer Martin Laird pets her and scratches behind her ears.

"People enjoy seeing her. It's a highlight of their day. Seems to be at least," Bisanz said. "It's a highlight of mine."

But Millie isn't just here for show.

 "She does have a job," he said. "She's trained to chase geese. And humanely discourage geese from being on the golf course. She also picks up trash."

Bisanz spots a plastic shopping bag on the edge of the pod near the No. 9 fairway. He stops his cart, points to the bag roughly 300 feet away and tells Millie "go get the trash." 

She proceeds to race to the far side of the pond, pluck it out of the water and deliver back to Bisanz in 50 seconds flat.

Millie takes golf etiquette so seriously that she even knows what surfaces to keep her paws off of.

"She will not go on the green. I can't call her out on it," he said with a laugh. "It kind of blows everyone's mind that she won't. It's almost like an invisible fence around every green. But she is smart enough to pick up on it and do it on her own."

Doing her part alongside the maintenance crew, the unsung heroes of tournament week, who tirelessly tend to the course's 240-acres.

"This doesn't just happen," Bisanz says motioning to the fairways. "The planning for next year's event happens on Sunday. Actually, it's already started for next year. So it's definitely an accomplishment for the group and a win for everybody."

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