Bay Hill is no stranger to big-time competitions. Arnold Palmer’s course in Orlando, Fla. has hosted 33 previous PGA TOUR events alone.
Superintendent Matt Beaver, who has called Bay Hill home for the past decade, has been around for nearly a third of those. Beaver, who says the course is “ready to go,” leads a crew of 40, including two assistants, Craig Shelton and Wayne Flannagan.
Overseeing a course owned by a legend of the game adds a bit of pressure, but Beaver thrives on this added stress. Palmer lives at Bay Hill most of the winter and regularly gives the grounds crew credit. Most of Beaver’s employees are also veterans of tournament preparation.
“When the temperature warms up, the overseed is trying to transition from a cool season grass to a warm season grass, so we must keep it alive and looking good,” Beaver explained.
Preparing Bay Hill for the annual TOUR event takes an incredible amount of labor due to all the little details such as maintaining the 80 on-site bunkers. “They take time,” Beaver said. “We will blow all of them out every single day with the blower. We will also smooth them out and pick up any debris such as stones or ryegrass. We will then rake, fly mow and edge every bunker.”
Since the major renovations done by Palmer back in 2009, there have not been many changes to Bay Hill. With 150 acres of rough that will top out at 3-1/2 inches this week, this thick turf remains the course’s biggest weapon. “You hit the ball in the rough and it makes it pretty tough,” Beaver said.
Whether it’s preparing for a major tournament, or just maintaining the 27 holes on the property for day-to-day member and guest play, Beaver said he could never succeed if it wasn’t for his crew.
“I’m fortunate I have many guys that have worked here for a lot of tournaments,” he said. “They know what it takes and what to do to get the job done. It makes it easier on me. There is always a little bit of turnover, but my core staff have been around for between five and 10 tournaments.
“You can be a great superintendent, but if you don’t have a decent crew you are in deep trouble. For the tournament, motivation isn’t that hard as everybody likes it when you can see your work on national TV … they take a lot of pride in that.”
MORE ON BAY HILL: Inside the Course | Hole by hole