They’re golf’s answer to football linemen — players who are taken for granted until something goes amiss.
The quarterback gets sacked or the running back thrown for a loss and fingers are pointed at the guys with jersey numbers in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Forgotten are the times massive holes opened or the passer enjoyed oodles of time to find a target.
And so it is on the golf course.
Discover a bad spot on a green or weeds in the fairway and the reaction is quick and unvarying — that darn superintendent can’t grow grass. Smooth-as-silk putting surfaces mostly go unappreciated.
This comes to mind thanks to a press release reminding that International “Thank a Golf Course Superintendent Day” would be celebrated Sept. 14.
If the “day” slipped by you unnoticed, you’re not alone. A random sample of superintendents revealed the “day” was news to them, too.
But what better time to celebrate the personnel who maintain golf courses at a high level? Indeed, during the coronavirus outbreak, they have done more with less.
“Golf course superintendents and their teams ... found ways to squeeze maintenance practices around packed tee sheets and at the same time they modified operations and kept employees safe,” said Tim Kreger, executive director of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association. “That’s no small feat.”
Golf is one industry to receive a boost during the pandemic. An outside activity with limited contact brought people to courses in record numbers. On the downside, clubs cut personnel, and maintenance staffs felt the brunt of downsizing.
Management “goes to the superintendent to make cuts because he will find ways to make it work with what he has,” said Chuck Green, director of operations at the Quixote Club in Sumter. “Of course, we have openings now and can’t find people who want to work.”
Technology can take care of some of the maintenance — operating the irrigation system, for example.
“But you have to have people to mow greens and fairways, and many clubs are operating with fewer people on the maintenance staff,” said Jeff Connell, superintendent at Fort Jackson Golf Club and former president of the superintendents’ association. “I have been traveling to junior golf tournaments, and courses are in great shape. People are doing great jobs with less.”
With limited personnel, Connell notes that he and most of his colleagues use a “center out” philosophy — focusing first on greens, tees and fairways.
“The bunkers might not get raked or edged like we would prefer,” he said. “If they’re not, we just don’t have the time or personnel.”
Early in the pandemic, courses removed bunker rakes to eliminate “touch points” that might transmit the virus and Kreger wonders, “Do we need rakes?”
He pointed out bunkers are called hazards for a reason and shared a story to illustrate his point.
“My ball landed in a horse’s hoof print in a bunker once, and the guy I was playing with said, ‘Play it as it lies, mate,’ ” Kreger recalled. “So, you might have some rough spots, but by and large, the superintendents and their staffs are doing a terrific job.”
Especially on “Thank a Golf Course Superintendent Day,” did anyone express appreciation?
“My phone didn’t light up,” Green said and laughed.
But his and those of his colleagues should have. They deserve a standing ovation.
Chip shots. Highly touted freshman Hannah Darling opened her college career with a second-pace finish individually, leading the University of South Carolina’s women’s team to a seven-stroke victory over an elite field in the Annika Invitational in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. No. 12 in Golfweek’s pre-season poll, the Gamecocks dominated in the tournament that included six teams ranked in the top 10. ... Sam Jackson (West Columbia) and Zach Herold (Lexington) joined forces to win the SCGA’s Players Four-Ball at Columbia CC. ... In the first tournament under new head coach Jordan Byrd, Clemson’s men shattered multiple school records in finishing second in the Maui Jim Invitational in Scottsdale, Arizona. ... Playing on his home course, Rich Weston (Pawleys Island) surged from behind to win the CGA’s Carolinas Senior Amateur at the Reserve Club. ... In the Orange Jacket Classic at Pendleton, age-group winners included Caroline Hawkins (Columbia, girls’ 13-18), Kinley Brazell (Blythewood, girls’ 12 and under), Hunter Hylton (Hilton Head Island, boys’ 12 and under) and Dallas Johnson (Mt. Pleasant, boys’ 13-18). ... In the Cougar Classic at Yeamans Hall Club in Hanahan, Clemson’s women finished eighth, Furman 10th and College of Charleston 17th.