By Aaron Crouse, West Course Superintendent at Westchester Country Club
Preparing for any tournament requires extensive planning. At Westchester Country Club, the process began almost a year ago when it was decided that the club would host the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. After numerous site visits with the PGA, LPGA, KPMG, NBC, and vendors to determine their needs and goals for the event, it was up to Westchester’s Golf and Grounds department to develop an agronomic and operational plan to make sure the course was ready for a major championship with as little disruption to the members as possible. Conversations between the management team turned to brainstorming and brainstorming gave life to goal setting. During these early stages of planning, roles and goals for each member of the management team began to take shape.
David Dudones, Director of Golf and Grounds, worked alongside PGA, LPGA, and KPMG senior staff and was a member of the Executive Committee. He kept the rest of the management team informed of any changes or updates in the plan and developed on- course guidelines and codes of conduct for all outside associations, vendors and construction companies, keeping the member experience a top priority during the build out for the event. Joe Gikis, the Assistant Director, worked closely with the PGA’s construction team. He surveyed the appointed areas where TV towers, tents, and fence posts were going to be placed, making sure no irrigation or electric lines were in the area. Aaron Crouse, the West Course Superintendent, was in charge of scheduling staffing needs for the tournament and making sure all goals were met prior to that time. Aaron was also the point man for securing more than 30 volunteers for the week, consisting of superintendents, assistants and interns from area clubs. Lastly, Andrew White, the Superintendent of the South Course, filled in the gaps by offering his staff and crew whenever needed to help prepare in the weeks prior to the tournament. With the South Course closed for the entire week of the championship, it allowed both Aaron’s and Drew’s staff to blend together with the volunteers forming a staff of 90 for the week.
Of course these are very general job descriptions. Words can’t measure the amount of time, dedication, double checking, triple checking and pressure went into each individual’s job. Teamwork also played a huge role in that without the communication and camaraderie that existed among the various groups involved, our success would have been limited.
The preparation process included more than just a paper schedule for the week of the championship. Management had to make sure everything was in great shape at the beginning of spring and stayed that way so that thing were in peak condition during tournament week. The brainstorming sessions led to flagging tall grass borders to protect them from carts and unnecessary traffic, painting tee edges to keep them straight, defining green and collar edges to maintain proper width, measuring bunker depths weekly to keep them consistent, and re-contouring fairway expansions and dew paths for camera towers. These are just a few of the little things that make a difference that you can’t fix a week before the tournament.
In the turf business, timing is everything, which makes it more of a challenge trying to work around tournament week. Cultural practices and plant health applications were timed precisely with early June in mind. Knowing time was very valuable prior to tournament week, any topdressing, grooming, seeding, sodding etc., had to be applied appropriately to allow for proper conditions leading up to the tournament.
Planning can be tricky and very crucial for a successful major event. You may be able to schedule certain things months ahead or weeks ahead, but for the most part, your schedule will come day by day and change based on weather, play, expectations, and many other factors. The success of a good plan is being able to adapt when needed and to effectively communicate the changes so that everyone is on the same page. Then again, there is always tomorrow where a new day can bring a new set of plans!